A friend of mine asked me today where I got the idea for the name "Echolalia" for my blog. She has a sun (OK, a SON) -- a warm, engaging, big bear of a hugging creature who we've watched blossom through the years despite being on the autistic spectrum. As she knows, the word, "echolalia" is actually used to describe something that many autistic kids do... they hear something and they repeat it, over and over. Her "sun" T-Bone likes to do that to his own amusement and ours.
No, Dee, I knew about "echolalia" since the early 1970's.
It was all because of a book my dad brought home -- sometime in my early childhood. The book, Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip, was the most amazing book my sisters and I had ever been exposed to. In fact, I think it is one of the reasons I would write letters and doodle fantastic images along the sides. Anyway, on the inside page, the subtitle was A Collection of Connections, Endless Tales, Reiterations, and other Echolalia). What a strange word I thought!
Arm & Arm was filled with silly ditties and amazing stories. Pictures that morphed into other pictures. Sentences and pictures that ran across pages. Some stories required the reader to turn the book around and around the read all the words!
One of the things I remember about my dad is how he read these little snippets of stories night after night without complaint. The stories themselves became inside family jokes -- it wouldn't take more than a "On a dark and stormy night..." to come out of one of our mouths -- to get us all to recite the rest.
Many years later, when we were helping my dad clean our childhood home, we all felt compelled to find "the book." We couldn't remember the name of the book nor the author, but we were determined to find it -- it became an obsession. I remember searching through box after box, pile after pile, only to come up empty handed. All we could remember for sure is that it was a white book with some fantastic drawings and it started out with a tale of two octopusses who got married. (They walked down the aisle "Arm in Arm in Arm in Arm in Arm in Arm in Arm in Arm!)
My sister Deborah gets all the credit for finding it. And I know Google was involved! She searched and searched for phrases that she remembered and after many false starts, one day she hit the jackpot. Much to our great delight, my sister Christy and I each got a copy for Christmas one year. Needless to say, it was one of the best presents I have ever received.
I remember when I first opened it after so many years. I gathered my kids close and watched their delight as we flipped through the pages. Eventually, I purchased the full complement of Remy Charlip books -- because, they too, some 45+ years after this one was published -- still find his illustrations and witty stories a gateway to giggles! All I have to say is "I see the moon." and they say "And the moon sees me." Or "you're a copy cat" only to hear "copy kitten!" followed by peals of laughter! Of course, my husband's name is Pete, so the other favorite is "Pete and Repete were sitting on a fence, Pete fell off and who was left? REPETE ! Pete and Repete..." You get it, right? Perfect kid stuff!
This one book changed the way I thought about books and art, and humor, and expression.
My kids say their favorite Remy Charlip book besides Arm & Arm -- is the tale of Big Little Beard, Little Big Beard. (It's officially titled: Little Old Big Beard and Big Young Little Beard: A Short and Tall Tale. (All of his books are available on Amazon.) Sadly, I read that Remy passed away this past summer. Thank goodness his books will live on. He inspired me to think in color and squiggles. How about you?
Do you have a favorite childhood book?