One Misty, Moisty Morning

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One misty, moisty morning

When cloudy was the weather,

I chanced to meet an old man

Clothed all in leather.

He began to compliment,

And I began to grin,

How do you do? And how do you do?

And how do you do again?

I’ve been storing nursery rhymes in my mental warehouse since I was a little girl. Two Mother Goose books stand out from my childhood: one was “Baby’s Mother Goose,” the cover of which featured a sobbing child (Lucy Locket?) and the Rock-a-bye Baby; the other was a Little Golden book entitled “Nursery Rhymes,” and I particularly remember the pretty pastel illustration for “Lavender’s Blue” in that book: perhaps I aspired to be Queen? As I recall, my older brother and I were allowed to watch only one television show —The Flintstones—so I had plenty of time for looking at the pictures in nursery rhyme books. Like many parents, my mom and dad read aloud to us; being read to frequently was one of the perks of being an older child in a family with six children, or so my mother tells me.

Not only did my parents read nursery rhymes to us, but we also had a record—an LP, vinyl, call it what you will—of nursery rhymes being sung. Our Nursery Rhymes album was released by United Artists in 1962, so I suspect that it belongs to my older brother. (Want it back, Tom?) An extensive series of Tale-Spinners for Children albums was produced in the 1960s. While searching for the Tale-Spinners’ Nursery Rhymes on YouTube, I came across this wonderful Tale-Spinners’ Robin Hood featuring a young Robert Hardy, whom I first encountered on the BBC’s All Creatures Great and Small.  Alas, we didn’t own any of those exciting Tale-Spinners storybook albums, but I was content with Nursery Rhymes (probably because I didn’t know about the storybook records).

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The Famous Theatre Company and the Hollywood Studio Orchestra performed the songs.

I still have the record, so this morning I listened to the now-scratchy chorus singing classics like “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush,” “Oranges and Lemons”—a childhood favorite—and “Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?” (Listening to children’s songs sung by classically trained adults was not on my agenda today, but authoring a blog will consume your time in strange and mysterious ways.) I was surprised at how well I remembered every inflection, although I had not remembered the jazziness of certain songs or noticed the musicianship of the Hollywood Studio Orchestra; the creativity of “Humpty, Dumpty, Dumpty,” “Pop Goes the Weasel,” and “Three Blind Mice” must be heard to be appreciated. On the other hand, the upbeat style of “Three Blind Mice” was a little disturbing, given the subject matter,  and “Rock-a-bye, Baby” sounds almost like a dirge (which, in a way, it is).

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Lovely morning glories brighten the misty morning.

Fortunately for my children, I didn’t have this record in my possession when they were young; today I played part of the album for my youngest son, and he pronounced it “scary.” My husband and I continued the tradition of reading aloud to our children, particularly when they were little. Like my parents before me, I read nursery rhymes to my children: I wonder if people still do that? Even if I hadn’t grown up loving nursery rhymes, I would have read them to my children because experts have suggested that listening to nursery rhymes is good for developing minds. (I’ve always been a sucker for parenting advice.) Happily, my mother had kept the books that we had as children, so in some cases I was reading to my children from the very books that were read to me. That turned out to be another perk of being an older child: inheriting books and toys from my parents’ overflowing attic. Since nursery rhymes were read both to me and by me, I can rattle off Mother Goose verses when the occasion calls for it.

Friday morning, as I took a constitutional walk around tiny Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain, the occasion definitely called for a recitation of “One Misty, Moisty Morning.” The Weather Channel has been referring to this unseasonably warm weather as  “Augtober”—a mixture of August and October—so perhaps the confluence of some weather systems resulted in the very humid conditions on Friday. “Misty,” “moisty,” and “cloudy” all described the scene perfectly.

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Do I always look so serious when I walk at Lake Tomahawk? I hereby resolve to smile on my next walk.

The conditions weren’t ideal for a walk, particularly since I’d forgotten my rain jacket, but thinking about how well the poem fit the occasion helped keep my mind off how damp my hair was getting. I kept opening up my umbrella and then taking it down again (it interfered with picture-taking, and it really was just misting, not raining outright).

While I didn’t meet an old man clothed all in leather, I did meet these gaily adorned ladies:

Lake Tomahawk adjoins a retirement center, so I also met a number of older men and women out for morning exercise, and I encountered mothers pushing strollers and young adults riding skateboards. It’s only a half-mile around the lake, so I tend to run into the same people repeatedly as I’m trying to get in my two miles. I’ve never been sure whether it’s correct to walk clockwise or counter-clockwise around Lake Tomahawk; as the Scarecrow says in The Wizard of Oz, “People do go both ways.” At any rate, it’s polite to smile or make eye contact with people as you pass them: “How do you, and how do you do, and how do you do again?” Sometimes I’ll even make a remark about the weather, but, mostly, we grin and nod.

On Friday, I chanced to pass a woman whom I know—another homeschooling mother who has two kids in college and several still at home. The first time that I encountered her, we smiled and nodded. The second time that we met up on the path, I decided to do more than smile and nod; I stopped to ask her how her kids were doing, and we had a lengthy conversation about homeschool tutorials and dance studios. Meanwhile, the mist and the moist kept coming and going: I put my umbrella away for a while, but then the drizzle started again.

It’s been a strange fall here: warm weather, leaves late to turn, more fog than I remember typically having. But I enjoyed my misty, moisty walk, particularly the spiderwebs glistening with raindrops and the geese and ducks who plunged into the water the moment they saw me approaching with my camera.

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My fascination with “One Misty, Moisty Morning” did not end when I left Lake Tomahawk. This morning I listened to both sides of the Nursery Rhymes LP (and making an almost inaudible recording of Side 2), but I did not find what I was seeking: an older man’s voice reciting “One Misty, Moisty Morning.” I knew that I had heard that nursery rhyme read aloud, and I was stumped when I didn’t find it on the record. I racked my brain, trying to remember other records we listened to as children, when it came to me: Kindermusik! Kindermusik was another one of those activities that were supposed to be good for children, so I spent years taking my kids to Kindermusik classes and playing the CDs. A recitation of the poem is on the Village DewDrops CD, which I own because I participated in the Kindermusik class with my two youngest children. Mystery solved!

“One misty, moisty morning” engraving by Alexander Anderson in Illustrations of Mother Goose’s Melodies

Still, my memory had played tricks on me, confusing my childhood with my children’s. However, I feel reaffirmed in my commitment to Kindermusik: aside from “One Misty, Moisty Morning,” many other nursery rhymes and folk songs were on the DewDrops CD. Folk music is another thing that I loved as a child, and Kindermusik exposed my children to songs from around the world. I decided to quiz my youngest son on his knowledge of nursery rhymes: he said he didn’t know any, but he was able to recite more than he had expected. One day, he may even read nursery rhymes to his children. I can dream, can’t I?

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21 thoughts on “One Misty, Moisty Morning

    • There are eighteen grandchildren for us, and granted some of them have not received the attention they craved. It may be that our five did not all get what they thought they deserved, but I pray not. We loved them more than they could understand until they got their own. Having children makes us know a lot more about what parents give.

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      • If I got it right, you are related to Sandi. Sorry for asking, but are you her mother? And in that case, Sandi is the proof that they received all attention and love, and you can be very proud of what you gave.
        I am not a mother but a stepmother, which is not the same, as we don’t get to experience the same, when the kids don’t live with us. But I agree with you that motherhood, in whatever format, makes us aware of the ‘methodology’ used by our parents, and to give more value to it. I see myself sometimes repeating their behavior.

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      • My parents have 19 grandchildren (one now in heaven, as you know). Such parallels between us, Beth! I’ll admit that sometimes I’ve wished I had a different order than Oldest Girl (I’m the least domestic of the four daughters, which is not what you would expect), but I know that is just human nature not being content with many blessings.

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        • Sandy, I am the eldest girl and the youngest too. 😉 I am second born to a family of four. Hey this might make a good riddle. Suppose? Anyway I had an elder brother and two younger ones. I was the mother and companion to the two younger boys, but the elder brother wanted to be an only child. I stood in his way my whole life–and paid for it dearly.

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    • I agree: we were fortunate indeed. My mom does say that they didn’t read as much to the younger kids; I’m a good bit older than my youngest sisters, though, so I remember reading to them. There also seemed to be less going on back then–more time for reading and playing.

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  1. When I was still a child at home, my mother had a book of nursery rhymes about 3″ thick and approximately 8.5 x 11, as I remember it. It was beautifully illustrated, and she and I both read it to my younger brothers daily. Since that time I have never seen a copy of it again. When my children were small, I asked for that book and my own IF I WERE GOING & SINGING WHEELS readers, but she had been in a cleaning mood and donated them to the elementary school teachers. Then there were the RAGGEDY ANN and ANDY books our kids loved. I priced them in a used book store back in the late 80’s and each book sold for more than $200. It was also my joy to find the old readers there too.

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    • I loved the Raggedy Ann books, too; I don’t think I’ve heard of your readers.

      Books from our childhood evoke so many memories and associations, don’t they? I read nursery rhymes and stories to my younger sisters, too, which probably embedded them deeper in my mind. I’m sad that my youngest son doesn’t have younger siblings, but someone has to be the youngest, I suppose.

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      • Both readers were my inspiration for studying art in college. Each page had a wonderful watercolor illustration that captured my brain and heart as I read. The IF I WERE GOING book was part of a series for my third grade and, as you might imagine, took children into parts of the world they might never see in real life. Lapland and England were such a fascination for me then. Of course we all secretly made up our minds to travel there one day.

        The SINGING WHEELS series was mostly American history, but if I ever loved history it was then. A speeding stagecoach decorated the cover, while page after page was illustrated by more watercolor pictures of the settlement of our great nation. I am not sure whether they were both part of my third grade experience, maybe different semesters.

        I was blessed to be part of a generation that studied subjects for content, not imaginations taught by someone who was out of tune with the times or with world geography and history.

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