I had set the ironing board up in the lounge room and I popped Play School on the TV for my toddler daughter. And as Justine and Alex sang an old Play School classic, Jelly on a Plate (you know…wobble wobble, wobble wobble, jelly on a plate…?), and the little one pottered around watching them shake their arms and legs like no one was watching, I suddenly felt like I was transported back to my childhood lounge room.
My brother’s may have been at school, my sister may not have been born yet. The room was mine! Mum was mine! I’m fairly certain my mother was behind me, the ironing board set up in our 1970s lounge with the dark gold curtains. Play School was on TV, or Over Ann’s Rainbow? Or was it my favourite Thumbelina story being read to me from the record player, “Ding-ing!” every time I was to turn the page?
I was shuffling around in dress up shoes which I’m pretty sure were my mum’s wedding shoes that had been dyed for a one-off-occassion shade of puce purple. And while I think it would be safe to say that when the boys got home I joined them in the back yard playing in the dirt with the trucks and cars, at that moment I was the little girl of the house. Even with my 1970s I-have-two-older-brothers-mullet hair-do.
It was the era of being a kid. Well, my era of being a kid. It was the Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars down the side of the house, the dress up box of mum’s old clothes – not shop bought Elsa, Thor and Hulk. It was homemade jam drops, vegemite sandwiches and rissoles and veg for dinner. It was when the blank paper to draw on consisted of the back of old Telecom plans, when you wandered over the street to your neighbour’s house to play and came home at 5pm to call of your mum bellowing out your name from the top of the front stairs. It was when washing flapped on the hills hoist, and when it wasn’t, you were grabbing hold of the clothes line’s arms and running until you picked up enough speed to fly through the air like on a ride at the EKKA. It was the era when books were the go-to-source for all information.
I still smile when I think of his big round face smiling at me. Good old Mr Happy. In a family of 4 kids, it was a rare day when new books were bought, that’s what libraries were for. But Mr Happy was mine. Mine! Mr Sneezy was my brother’s and I don’t think Little Miss had even made it to our house yet. Mr Happy was hands-down my favourite of all the Mr Men characters. And he remains my favourite. Just like ‘2’ is still my favourite number and ‘T’, my favourite letter. Oh it was a happy day when Sesame Street “brought to me today the Letter T or Number 2”!
It was 1971 when Bristish author Roger Hargreaves started writing the Mr Men series and Mr Happy was the 3rd book released. In 1981 the first of the Little Miss books was published; Little Miss Bossy (interesting…).
It’s 2016 and I never fail to turn over one of the small, square books and run a finger along all the characters on the back with a cry of “I had that one! And that one…and that one!”. It takes me back just like wibble wobble, wibble wobble jelly on a plate. My kids may have reams of white paper, Avengers and Marvel costumes for $5.99 and sugar free, gluten free, dairy free prepackaged ‘treats’ but it’s comforting to be able to hand my own Little Miss a pile of those bold and brightly coloured illustrated books and see Mr Happy’s smiling face to know that some things, don’t change.
Including the ironing.