I don’t think I’ve blogged on this before, so I thought I would share it; it periodically resurfaces in my memory, sometimes with shame , sometimes to stiffen my spine.

As a boy I was a rapacious reader. There was no love like the love of books.  I enjoyed reads about  weather and science. History books were also exciting. However what I loved most were story books, particularly those that took me to faraway lands and alternative worlds. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade when I discovered Pippi Longstocking.  For those unfamiliar with her, she is a little girl who lives by herself with her monkey and she does what she pleases.  She was absolutely delightful;  I could not get enough of her.

In order to get to the elementary school we had to cross a street which was patrolled by an adult crossing guard who would stop traffic with a hand sign. This corner was supervised by a woman, whose name I no longer remember. She was probably  in her 20s or 30s, a mere volunteer, but at my age she seemed a behemoth of authority, Justice incarnate.  I had just purchased “Pippi in the South Seas” in which Pippi takes her friends to the South Pacific on the Hoptoad to visit her father the cannibal king.  My emotions were as high as having received the latest Harry Potter book.  As I waited for MissGuard to approve my crossing she spied my book and exclaimed “ Pippi? What kind of book is that? It looks like a girl’s book! What are doing reading a girls’ book?”  or words of that effect. I don’t recall the exact words but I recall her emotions, which were surprise, disgust, and contempt.  I immediately assumed she was right and I felt horribly ashamed.  I turned red and tried not to cry. I hid the now horrible book in my coat lest someone else see it.  I did not read the book for a very long while and when I did I did it behind closed door, lest someone see me doing it.

Later in life I realized the crossing guard was a total bitch and what she said and did was shockingly wrong on many levels. Yet out of this humiliating experience I extracted some good: the courage to read anything without shame or guilt.

The irony of this vignette is Pippi Longstocking  isn’t cowed by the yoke of custom and convention. When adults try to get her to behave ‘as she should’ she either takes no care or she runs rings around them. On a few times she shows enormous strength and stands up to the worse of adult bullies.

I am a proud member of the Friends of Pippi.  We stand up to the manky crossing guards of Life who like to tell us to stop don’t cross and what to do and read.