Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Percival Towelette Rides Again

Somewhere in the box marked FRAGILE!!!!! and NEVER THROW OUT!!! and KEEP ON SECOND FLOOR!!! in one of the photo albums that my mother lovingly constructed, is a picture I drew, waaay back before I could read, back when making a P and a T and an I were the highlights of my schooling.

It's a strange, squat picture, and if you squint and turn your head sideways, you can almost see the wee face in the jagged magic marker, can almost make out that what I drew, with swoopy lines and a total abandon for the usual niceties of shape and perspective and using different colours, is a small square(ish) thing with arms and legs.

It's Percival the Towelette.

Now I know that this was a story my father concocted to help lull me to sleep one summer. I know, because I can almost hear him if I close my mind to the present and think back to my yellow canopy bed and the comfort of my red-haired doll in the yellow dress, tucked in next to me. I can hear his voice, but I can't make out the words. My father read to me a lot when I was growing up.

It's the things I can't remember (and I suspect Dad doesn't either, since it's been probably 35 years since he made up bedtime stories for me) that are bothering me about this memory.

Why a towelette? Why the name Percival? And what happened in the story??

Rosey and I were going through the albums a few weeks ago - she had a school assignment to bring pictures of people in her family and I'd brought the whole box out - and she flipped to that page and stopped, fingering the paper.

I told her the story - that Mama had made a drawing of a story her Daddy had told her when she was a little girl, and then Nana had kept it - and she was delighted. Thrilled, I think, to discover that I had once been small like she was. (I keep forgetting how large I am in her eyes, how I've always been a grown-up. How she's not been around for most of my fumblings and rebellions and (in hind-sight) spectacularly bad choices.) That night she wanted to draw a picture of the book we read at night-time, and went to sleep with crayola-marker stains up her hands and wrists.

I thought that was the end of it. Tidied the books away, relegated them again to the out-of-the-way place where no harm will come to them, and forgot.

Last night she woke up, thumped downstairs where I was waiting for the news to end, and asked me to tell her a story.

To tell her the Adventures of Percival The Towelette.

Well. I'm pretty sure my Percival had a quieter existence than her Percival. R's Percival went on train rides. He flew in airplanes. He fought off angry cats and wild pairs of dirty hands (She didn't really understand that part. Come to think of it, she may not have really understood what a towelette was.) and a long unfortunate winter spent in a roadside rest stop to get back to the person he loved the most. He was bold and fearless and dashing. (In a towelette sort of way.)

Was he the kind of towelette she'll remember 30-plus years later? Who knows.

But I always will.


kootnygirl said...

This is wonderful. I love those moments, those potentially memory-producing moments, even when the memory will be mostly mine.

Mary G said...

That's lovely! My mother was the story teller for me, and how I wish I could remember more.

witchypoo said...

I love this. Thank you.

Isabelle said...

My dad made up stories every night about the Poff family: Angela, Beatrice, Clara, Dorothy, Ethel, Freddie, George, Henry, Ian and James. I could never work out how he always got the names in the same order. And then I did.

Ricki said...

What a great memory and story!

jb popplewell said...
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jb popplewell said...

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Happy New Year,

JB Popplewell