First, the image as I remember it. When we were little, mom would put my sister and me down for naps or for bedtime with stories of Miss Blue Mouse (for me) and Miss Pink Mouse (for sis). Mom would spin tales of details about what they were wearing, the friends they would visit. Picking out dresses, shoes, and purses. Planning parties. Her vivid descriptions helped fuel my imagination, and I knew that if I ever saw Miss Blue Mouse I would know her instantly. Years pass. Miss Blue Mouse was replaced with my own dresses, friends and parties. Although wee animals have been illustrated before by such famous souls as Beatrix Potter, A.A.Milne, Richard Scary, and the close but not quite right Wee Village, I just never saw Miss Blue Mouse again.
Mom got cancer, and by the time I was 22 she was only a few months from leaving us all. On my 22st birthday, I went over to the little apartment she and Dad had on Slide Road. After dinner she handed me a small package. It contained a small 4x4 blue frame surrounding her pastel drawing of Miss Blue Mouse. As the tears brimmed in my eyes, I said , “Her nose is so soft!” My gaze was met with her own tear filled eyes, and she softly spoke, “That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.” Miss Blue Mouse was one of my first memories, and she was the last picture Mom (a devoted mother and talented artist) drew for me.
Recently, Janie called me so excited about meeting a woman who struck up a conversation (Janie can talk to any stranger and leave a friend) about her own plans for a party she was planning. Janie told her about our Miss Mouse stories and the lady sparked Janie’s enthusiasm to write a children’s story about it. When she called, she was already talking about finding a publisher. Trying not to spoil her moment I told her to just write everything down, and we would go from there. We hung up, and moments later (really!) she called again to read her story to me. It did bring up all those wonderful stories again. They even added to the paragraph above. Again she was ready to call a publisher. Not being an expert, but at least a little knowledgeable about writing, I knew we would first need to work, draft, revise and edit it. I know that the publishing business can be brutal, and I didn’t want to go to that disappointing corner. I unthinkingly blurted out that we could even write it in 5 different perspectives to see which we liked best…..dead…silence. Then in her Janie way, she told me that she did not want my negativity (a REAL sore spot with me) to spoil this for her. She did not want me to overwork it so much that she would not want to do this any more. She didn’t want to change it at all, just find a publisher and an artist to illustrate it. Although a trained and talented artist in her own right, she said she can't draw from her imagination and wanted me to do all the leg work with her story as is.
It took everything I had to walk softly through this conversation. It easily could have ended up a yelling match bring up the old feuds we had when we were younger. I have achieved the dubious honor of being Miss Negativity and probably not without reason. I, of course, would consider it walking on the side of caution, but the reputation is solidly fixed. At the moment I felt I was being chastised for negative remarks that hadn’t even happened yet. In her perspective, Janie saw revision after revision as a killer overworking her inspiration. We did back pedal (both of us) to let’s just exchange ideas and see where it goes from here.
Soft. Too many connotations that don’t even come close to the baby’s bottom, bunny nose, chinchilla fur touchables that most might think of. Then again. Memoirs are about connection and most of those are with people…not objects; and, with people, emotions, actions, and relationships are more important. They have to be handled softly.