That’s how my eldest daughter named Ruth Mehl, mother of her adopted aunt Ximena. She couldn’t manage the pronunciation of “R” until she was over five. But did she get annoyed when we imitated her. “You mustn’t say ‘Druth’ she said. You must say “Druth” producing an imperceptible change of sound which was more like a change of tone.

She had known Ruth since she was in my belly, because, luckily, I had run into her daughter at the University many years before. Although, to tell the truth, the one I knew first – at least by name – was Ruth. I made friends with Ximena only because I discovered that she was Ruth Mehl´s daughter… We had always read with pleasure her columns about shows for children in the newspaper La Nación, although there were no Trinis or Candes yet in anyone´s minds. (Had it not been for that “no way would this be me” being a friend of Ximena’s. Not a chance!)

Ruth’s columns were complex, as she was. Full of subtle perceptions, with severe opinions about the quality that must be demanded from artists and of what children deserve, but full, as well, of charm, warmth and humour. Thanks to Ruth, at first only by reading her and then, much more so when we mutually adopted each other as family, we discovered so many valuable things: musicians, puppeteers, actors, illustrators, books for children, science fiction writers, movies, series.

We couldn’t now tell of the many discoveries made through her, so many shared tastes, so many teachings about tastes… Maybe we’ll be able to do it little by little, but we’re still too moved by the fact that she’s no longer here with us. Ruth Mehl died on May 18 after a heart operation. She kept her good humour until just before the operation and then she did not awake again. So, even to the end, she left us an example of life with that enviable presence of mind.

That is why, maybe, what we can do is to imitate her spirit of diffusion. In a minimum scale of what she did for us and shared with us, we can show you one of the books that she gave to Trini when she was about two. It had been sent to her as a juror in the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Contest of children’s literature, and she assured us that it was beautiful.

She was not wrong, of course. Since then it has been our favourite book. And so now, hoping I will not fall in odds with anyone because of copyright issues, I share it with you.

Elephants never jump

Badger the Grocer was adding up Mrs. Lamb’s bill.

Three and three are six and two are… BOOOO! He screamed BOOO so loudly that poor Mrs. Lamb nearly died of fright. Mrs. Goose, who was waiting for her turn, jumped almost to the ceiling, and Badger the Grocer could not stop laughing.

“It’s the third time I made you jump this week,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Pig was merrily hanging clothes to dry and her husband was reading the paper sitting by her. Suddenly, from behind some bushes, Benjamin Leopard appeared with a jump. He was wearing a mask and he roared loudly: “BOOO!”

Mrs. Pig jumped and fell on top of the clothes. Mr. Pig leaped from his rocking chair and spilt his tea, while Benjamin Leopard laughed even louder than Badger the Grocer.

That same day the Elephant arrived in town. While the animals were welcoming the new neighbour, the cow yelled “BOOO” making the lion leap, while all the others bust out laughing.

“You must have meant moooo, said the elephant, wrinkling his forehead.

“No… its’s a game of ours” explained Mrs. Pig with a little laugh, “It’s called ‘Making the other one jump’”.

“Oh”, said the elephant “Well, elephants never jump”

“They never jump?” cried all the animals with amazement.

“Never!” said the Elephant. “There are two things that elephants never do. They never jump and they never forget.”

These words made all the animals very excited. And as soon as the elephant left, they decided to organize a contest to see who was able to make the elephant jump.

On the next day, the elephant was going for a walk when, the lion sprang out from behind a rock with a mighty roar.

The roar made Carmen Goat jump out from where she was hiding, waiting for her turn to shout BOOO!

“Is anything the matter? Are you all right?” the elephant asked the lion.

“Yes, yes, thank you”, answered the lion, somewhat baffled., “Actually, I was trying to make you jump”

“I already told you”, continued the elephant, “elephants never jump.”

All through the next days, all the animals tried to make the elephant jump.

“Please”, said Badger the Grocer “Don’t you try it inside the store. If he starts to jump here, it will be a disaster!

But he himself forgot, and shouted strongly “BOOO!” when the elephant came in to buy some peanuts…

Fortunately, it didn’t work.

The animals stopped scaring each other. It had to be with the elephant and with no one else; and they didn’t try it only in the daytime.

One night when the elephant was about to turn off the light to go to sleep, two hens appeared in his window. They shrieked and moved about as if they were horrible ghosts.

“Elephants never jump”, yawned the elephant, “and even less when they’re in bed”.

Then he turned off the light and the hens felt very, very silly with their costumes.

As time went by, and as the animals couldn’t think of new tricks, days returned to normal. One day the elephant and the other animals, went for a picnic near the river.

Tea was almost ready when a scream of “HEEEEEELPPP” was heard coming from the water. The Tiger Twins were playing on a boat, but the rope that mas mooring it had come untied. The animals ran to the river and saw how the boat was being rapidly pulled by the current. It was already so near the other side of the river that even the elephant’s long trunk couldn’t reach it.

“They’re going straight toward the falls”, cried Badger the Grocer “Quickly! Let’s go to the bridge. It’s the only way to reach them!”

“They already too far away…we’ll never get there on time!” cried Mrs. Pig while all the animals ran desperately towards the bridge.

The elephant was the only one who did something different.

While all the animals ran towards the bridge, the elephant ran away from the river: he stopped, turned around and ran again towards the water as fast as he could. Then he gave a fantastic leap that took him through the air, and landed him on the other side of the river. There, he stretched his trunk and pulled the boat with the twins to the coast.

When the other animals arrived they saw that the twins were safe and sound beside the elephant.

“How did they get here?” asked Badger the Grocer in surprise.

“He jumped! He jumped!” said the twins with great excitement. “We’ve won the contest! We’ve made him jump!”

“But…” said the lion “you had told us that elephants never jump…”

“I know…” said the elephant shyly “But I forgot”.

“The Little Box” - Teresa Usandivaras - CD ¿Jugamos a cantar? (Shall We Play Singing?)

We want to end this entry with a song that Teresa Usandivaras and Julio Calvo, two of “Los Musiqueros”, sang to bid her goodbye. She always asked them for it, they told us, and we loved singing it with them and for her.

La petaquita
(canción tradicional de Chile)

Tengo una petaquita
para ir guardando
las penas y penitas
que voy juntando

Pero algún día,
pero algún día,
abro la petaquita
y la encuentro vacía

Todas las chicas tienen
en sus vestidos
un letrero que dice
“Busco marido”.

Pero algún día,
pero algún día
abro la petaquita
y la encuentro vacía.

Todos los chicos llevan
en sus sombreros
un letrero que dice
“Casarme quiero”.

Pero algún día,
pero algún día
abro la petaquita
y la encuentro vacía.
The Little Box
(Traditional song from Chile)

I have a little box
Where I keep storing
All the sorrows and little sorrows
That I go about gathering.

But some day,
But some day
I´ll open the box
And I´ll find it empty.

All the girls have
On their dresses
A sign that says
“I´m looking for a husband.”

But some day,
But some day
I´ll open the box
And I´ll find it empty.

All the boys wear
On their hats
A sign that says
“I want to marry.”

But some day,
But some day
I´ll open the box
And I´ll find it empty.

Ruth has left but she stays and will stay forever in our memory as in the memory of so many people who loved her and admired her. And they are many and this is not too little to feel that a life was complete.

5 comentarios:

Megkoronáz, AJP dijo...

Beautifully written, Julia. Now I have to find some children to give Elephants Never Jump to. Maybe I'll just give it to myself.

Julia dijo...

Thank you, AJP, I'm glad you like it!
And yes, you can keep this story to yourself (waiting for a child to come)

tia o'c dijo...

Wonderfull story and illustrations, fantastic tool for education!

Julia dijo...

Yes, I've read this story in my daughter's classes with great success.

Julia dijo...

Pueden ver algo aquí sobre el último libro de Ruth.