Monday, April 30, 2012

The Minivan Puppet Show

You can tell the bear is trying to escape.
I was in a bad mood while driving to work yesterday.

I really shouldn’t have been in a bad mood.  Three weeks ago I started a new job, and I completely love it.  I make double what I made at my last job and everyone I work with seems to love being there.  For these first few weeks, I have actually looked forward to going to work.
Weird, I know.

But there is a tournament series going on, which means the poker room is busier and they need us to work more shifts.  I am now halfway through thirteen straight days of work.

I don’t care what kind of job you have, thirteen straight days is annoying.

What bothered me the most, however, was the fact that the Flyers played their first game of the second round of playoffs yesterday.  At work, there are televisions broadcasting the game in every direction, but it just isn’t the same watching the game out of the corner of my eye while dealing hands of poker.  Aside from the Game 1 and Game 3 (which I went to) of the first round, I have had to watch every playoff game at work.

To top things off, traffic was moving slowly on West Chester Pike, and various annoyances had led me to walk out the door later than I wanted, so there was a growing fear of being late for work.

So there I sat at a red light, fatigued from being overworked, antsy for traffic to get moving, and daydreaming of watching that afternoon’s game at home with a beer.

As the red light changed to green and the river of cars began to trickle down the road, a dog’s head popped out of the backseat window of the minivan in front of me.

This isn’t a particularly compelling event.  Dogs are always popping their heads out of cars.

What was different about this dog’s head was the fact that it didn’t belong to a living creature, but rather a stuffed animal.

As traffic mercifully moved faster and faster, the dog became braver, sticking more of his body out, revealing the torso of a Dalmatian with its front legs acting as humanoid arms.


The hands of a child contorted the dog’s head to peer over the ledge of the window to see the whizzing street below it.  Then the hands twisted the head to gaze forward to see where they were headed and to take in the wind.

We slowed down -- the minivan and my car -- and we came to a stop at another red light.  The dog took this opportunity to wave to the people in the car that was sitting next to them.  Then the dog turned backwards and, with the help of the child’s hand, waved to me.

It was at this point that I laughed gleefully, completely thrilled that I was included in the show.  I waved back, although I did not notice any little human eyes witnessing my salute.

Apparently they had, though.  Because at this point another dog peered out of the right backseat window and began waving with the assistance of a different set of tiny human hands.  Not to be outdone, this dog waved and blew kisses.

*   *   *

I remember doing this very thing when I was a child.  I had a Snoopy security blanket, with which I was inseparable.   

This is the exact version.  Mine is frayed, though and has
huge holes from years and years of use love.
Snoopy and I went on many adventures together, but one adventure that he got to go on without me was his exploration out the car window.  I imagine it was an exhilarating experience for him, but it was equally thrilling for me. 

The joy was two-fold.

For one thing, I was doing something naughty.  I knew that I was not supposed to stick my hand out of the window, and even as a child I understood that sticking my stuffed animal out of the window was an inherent provision of the aforementioned rule.  Getting away with such mischief was exciting.

Secondly, I wasn’t just holding Snoopy out the window.

I was Snoopy.

I was seeing what he saw and feeling what he felt.  As a human boy, I could not stick my head and body out of a moving vehicle, so I had to extend myself to my stuffed dog’s head and body as he experienced the world at 50, 60, 70 miles per hour.

Looking back, it amuses me that I can’t remember a goal of this “game.”  Snoopy wasn’t trying to escape anywhere.  Nor was he looking for anything.  Yet it was vividly etched in my mind as an epic adventure, even though the only action was sticking him outside of the car.

Perhaps the thrill came from the fact that there was a chance that Snoopy could fall out of the car and be forever lost (although, that was a very slight chance, due to my death-grip on my best friend).

When I had determined that his mission was complete, I pulled Snoopy back into the secure confines of the car and hugged him tightly. 

We had made it through the ordeal and he was now safe and sound in that special tender embrace that could only be shared between a loving owner and his most beloved toy.

*   *   *

The turn signal on the minivan began to blink and before I knew it, the van was turning into a gas station.  I sped up a bit as it turned to enable the kids to see me waving, but I wasn’t fast enough.  All I could see was the dog rotating 45 degrees clockwise and counterclockwise, so as to simulate dancing.

I didn’t see how old they were or if they were boys or girls.  I didn’t see if they were completely entranced with their animals and each other, in their own little bubble, or if they were giddy with laughter at a reaction from a person in another car.

As I drove on, I realized that it was a good thing that I hadn’t seen the kids. 

Because everyone knows that good puppeteers lose their power when they are seen.

For all I knew, I had just seen two stuffed animals come to life, catching the breeze from a car ride on a nice day, sniffing the outside world, perhaps pondering escape.

Just two dogs with owners who love them and treat them just like real dogs.  Owners who use them as an extension of themselves so that they can see the world from a different set of eyes.  A set of eyes that is not confined by seatbelts or windows.

A set of eyes that is not held back by minivans or parents.

Yes, a child’s imagination is the only place where stuffed dogs can have real-dog adventures, but for that car ride, that’s the way I saw it too.

The way I used to.

And honestly, when you can look at the world this way, who cares where you watch the hockey game?


-Youngman Brown


Dude Write

Linking up with Dude Write. Go over there and check out some awesome male writers with some great stories to tell.


91 comments:

  1. AAAAHHHHHH that is so sweet. And one advantage to the stuffed dogs is you never have to scoop their poop.

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  2. This was the most wonderful post. I really really loved it and it was just what I need tonight.
    Thank you. I am really smiling

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  3. Wow that was sure a different post than usual. I used to stick things out the window too. If only we could always see things like a child I think we'd all be better off.

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    1. Yea, I'm mostly sour, but sometimes I am sweet.

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  4. Aw, how sweet is this post! I can't tell you how many times my eyes were re-opened to doing something mundane just by how my kids perceived the exact same thing, but in a totally fresh, imaginative way.

    Glad those kids were able to make you smile, despite the fact that you were missing the game! Thanks for sharing this. :)

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  5. Not the kind of post I was expecting from you, but I love it. It's amazing how something like this can change your perspective and pull you out of a terrible mood, isn't it? Also, you're lucky. The kids around here just play in the street, and then their parents yell at me for driving near them on "their big asphalt playground" while I'm trying to go home. Yeah, I'M the jerk.

    Also, re: today's comment, no worries about falling off the grid. Brandon's message was a little misconstrued, and it doesn't mean we're stopping reading and commenting entirely. We just can't read our regular blogroll. But for close blog friends, we'll always be by. Even if it's not as often, we'll still be here.

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    1. Okay, good. And it makes me feel warm inside to be considered a "close blog friend."

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  6. Sometimes when we are having a crappy day whether it is warranted or not, it helps to be reminded of the little things that make life easier to swallow.

    13 days straight sucks I have done that too and it is not easy to deal with. I am glad that the idle playthings of the kids made you smile.

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    1. It is cool, I am hoping to get out early for tomorrow's game :)

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  7. I was at the park yesterday and there were at least 6 sets of people flying kites. Although I think flying kites is boring, it reminded me of when I had one and it was the coolest thign to see it soaring high in the sky. Sometimes stepping back into childhood is just what we need.

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    1. Aw I used to fly kites on the beach. I've really gotta do that again.

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  8. I know what you mean. On the way to work, I am usually a very frustrated individual, but if someone shoots a kind deed or even a humanly act my way, it immediately brightens my mood. Even something as small as thanking me for holding the door open for them (which is a rare event in Boston).

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    1. I agree. Even a genuine "Hi, how are you doing," is good enough to lift my spirits.

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    2. Us southern ladies always smile and say thank you when a gentleman holds the door for her. Well, most of us do.

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  9. Kind of nice when some random thing turns your day around like that.

    The only time I ever did anything remotely like that it was my new spring jacket. The worst happened and it went flying out of the window. My parents were not happy.

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  10. Oh, we are all do totally housed if this is your entry for yeahwrite... And it should be. Awesome work.

    WG
    http://itsmynd.com

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    1. Hmm I wasn't going to, but now that you mention it, I suppose that I will.

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  11. The guy in that picture is creepy, and may or may not give me nightmares.

    Very cute story. I used to carry two puppets in my car so that in traffic, they would do a show out the sun roof. I'm talking as an adult. One day in the horrible traffic on the way in to San Francisco, another driver saw me and pulled out A PUPPET OF HIS OWN. What are the odds? It was pretty awesome. I think I may need to get some new puppets.

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    1. Haha that is totally crazy. Can we say "soul mates"?

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  12. This was adorable. :)

    Also, I'm starting to warm up to the Flyers. I only started watching hockey a couple of years ago, and Carcillo just really turned me off that whole team. But my friends insist that the team has changed its core and is now awesome, so I'm giving them a chance, since literally every team I was hoping to watch through the playout run is out now.

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    1. Yea, Carcillo was a punk. I said that about both him and Asham when we had them. And look at Asham now being a crazy mofo on the Penguins.

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  13. This was a great recap of the imagination of childhood. I will no longer scream at the kids to stop holding their Transformers and Bey Blades out the window. There's magic in those moments. Appreciate the reminder.

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    1. Just don't blame me if they lose a toy or an arm.

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  14. awww we used to take actual puppets with us on long road trips and have them sing to phantom of the opera...which none of the other cars could hear...but it didn't matter lol

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    1. My parents blasted that shit in the car when we were growing up, too.

      No puppets, though.

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    2. We MAY have been considered a little WEIRD :)

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  15. It's amazing how something sill,y like a child's stuffed toy, can make even the most miserable day brighter! I'm not wild about children, but they are a good reminder to us grumpy grown-ups to stop and enjoy the little things now and then.

    When I see visitors off in the evening, my neighbours' 4 year old, who is supposed to be sleeping, peeps out through his curtains and waves at us in the dim glow of his nightlight with his stuffed duckie and bunny, one under each arm! It tickles me pink to see the look of delight on his face, knowing that he is breaking the rules! It reminds me of the lost pleasure of devious behaviour that gave me such a thrill as a child.

    When I'm in a mood, my house mates put on the oven gloves and make them talk and sing in funny voices! They then proceed to chase me around the house with them screaming: "The claw, the claw, beware the claw!" Nerf herders! Gotta love 'em! :)

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  16. Awwwww....

    I spend a lot of time with my friends four year old, and there is nothing quite as special as seeing the world through a childs eyes.

    And hearing some of the amazing/funny things she says.

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    1. I agree! It is definitely cool to see how they play and remember how much imagination went in to playing with seemingly boring toys.

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  17. That is really sweet. I love it when something simple and innocent, like a child waving to you from another car, can make other troubles seem silly.

    Great post!

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    1. Yea, kids have a way of making things seem a-ok.

      Thanks!

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  18. Apart from being traumatized at the picture of perv and bear, this was amazing. I might have even teared up a little. Don't tell anybody.

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    1. Sorry about the perv and the bear. I just couldn't bring myself to make a post completely serious.

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  19. LOL!!!!! The stuffed pooch threw you kisses?? How freaking adorable is that?! haha

    Glad that you're enjoying your new job.

    P.S. 13 is an unlucky number. I hope you worked day 14 before taking a break. :)

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    1. Well, I am trying to get out early tomorrow to watch the game, so that is like 12.5 days.... does that work?

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  20. Great post. I remember those days as well.

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  21. Thirteen days is a long time and I would be frustrated as well. I think we all are busy right now and even so, this was a great post Snoopy.

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  22. I have been nannying for the past two weeks, and it has been quite the eye-opening experience, both remembering just how hard parents have to work and because the kids have so much hope and passion. Thanks for a great way to start a new week :-)

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    1. Yea, in hanging out with my sisters the past month, I have definitely noticed how hard they have to work as parents of newborns.

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  23. I spent most of this post making a ridiculous face and saying "awww". It really is the simple things, the moments that take us back to more innocent joys that make us smile the largest and put things into perspective. What a cute glimpse at a carefree and Snoopy loving YMB. :) Loved this post.

    Oh...and HELL YEAH!!! GO FLYERS! :D

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  24. Well, living in Canada, I would have to beg to differ about watching the hockey game... even though I have lost a little interest now that the last Canadian team is gone.
    This is the first time I'm visiting your blog and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.
    Not having a goal in the game, sometimes that's what it's all about!

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    1. Thanks, I thoroughly enjoyed having you!

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  25. This post made me so happy! I remember doing that, too, when I was a kid. And isn't it nice when you realize that kids today are just the same as they always were? I love this!

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    1. It is nice to see that some things never change!

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  26. There's such whimsy in this post! I loved it!

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  27. Youngman Brown,

    Great post. We have to grip onto those magic moments when they find us, for childhood melts away faster than an ice-cream cone in August.

    My younger son displayed classic 5-yr-old behavior yesterday: he pretended to "read" Harry Potter (so as to compete with his very literate older brother). Short sat there making up stories about HP out loud, while flipping through the pages. He had no idea I was there listening or he would've most likely stopped. Then he proudly announced that he'd "finished" the 400-page tome in 10 minutes.

    Your stuffed animal story made me smile like that did.

    xxo
    MOV
    ps-- found you via your LINK!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

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  28. Great post! Wouldn't those children be thrilled and mystified if they knew you were thinking and writing about them, and that other adults were reading and commenting?

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  29. I would prefer this to the kids flipping me off from the back of the school bus because they are young and getting away with it. I would love a stuffed puppy puppet show! Sounds awsome.

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  30. Sometimes the simple innocence of children is all it takes to put you in a better mood. I remember doing much of the same when I was a kid... with a stuffed raccoon named "Rocky".

    Fantastic post!

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  31. That is so cuuuuttttee. I had a similar stuffed security thingy as well. Mine was a monkey.

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  32. Adorable! I'm glad the day got better for you. Thirteen straight days is certainly long. Although better than a single day at a job you hate.

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  33. i love puppet shows. i remember being the kid putting them on.

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  34. oh this is just way too sweet.
    my Lovie (2+) is still rearfacing and i drive a small car with a big rear window and i just adore it when she manages to get people's attention. i can see them (usually in minivans) smiling and waving back while i hear her making goofy little noises and watch her hands waving to them. it really makes for a much better commute.

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  35. Just got a chance to read today. What a wonderful post Mike. I love it that you found joy in this experience. Means you'll make a great uncle. I think little are awesome because they bring such magic and newness back into our lives. Great post.

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  36. I have a 2YO and witnessing her imagination come to life is one of my favorite aspects of parenting. When do we lose that, I wonder?

    In any case, I'm glad you were able to re-capture yours as you viewed the world again through the eyes of a child (from which vantage point, it is a beautiful place).

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  37. Aww...what a lovely story. Thank you for the smile.

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  38. Thoroughly enjoyed your story. It's great when nostalgia can prevent road rage.

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  39. You reminded me that I would gladly return to having a curfew and a paltry allowance just to be the puppeteer again. This post was a pleasant surprise in my reading today.

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  40. Such a nice post! I remember those days of brining my dolls/stuffed animals to life and I love to watch my son do it now. Good memories you brought back there!

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  41. What a great story! I loved how you tied everything in to your frustration with work, and I love how that great moment and exchange with the "dogs" helped make all that frustration go away, if even for a moment. I used to do the same thing as a kid. My stuffed animals were my "pets," and I treated them just as if they were real. And I guess to me, they were.

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  42. Very cute! I had a stuffed animal. And by "had" i mean "absolutely still own," of course

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  43. How sweet! My kids love to put on shows in the back of our minivan while I'm driving. I keep waiting for one of their "puppets" to yell at another driver to move their @ss! Whoospy. Haha!

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  44. It's hard to find entertainment like that, especially when you are driving.

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  45. DAMNIT! Don't you know that every time a piece of my icy heart melts that I have to do something HORRIBLE to make up for it?!?!? I'm going to have to blow up an orphanage or something after this!

    (The stuffed animal was blowing you KISSES for fuck's suck! *sobs*)

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    1. I'm so distraught that I have misspelled "sake".

      *sobs and gets the explosives*

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  46. Loved the connection of seeing the world through a new set of eyes. And those unexpected events that brighten our day. Sweet post.

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  47. Aww, that was great. I started cracking up when you realized that it wasn't a real dog. Kids are so funny in cars. My son (who is 1) carries a rock with him. That was a great read. And oh, btw, I think it's awesome that you play poker for a living.

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  48. What a wonderful moment! For some reason, I kept picturing that scene in Bridges of Madison County (you've seen that six or twelve times, no?) where Streep is deciding whether or not to stay with her family at a red light. Don't know why, but that's what I pictured. How different that scene would be with a stuffed dog inserted at a critical moment.

    Great storytelling, as always!

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  49. Same storytelling, but a different take than your usual forays into the world. Totally appreciated this perspective too though when tempered with your narrative skills. Nice job, Erin

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  50. Hi Youngman,

    I left you a very touching comment about this very touching post, and it made me cry (your post, not my comment, although I know my comments was so touching too that you would've cried), but then I guess I was too lame to hit the "send" or "publish comment" key, and my words were wasted in the cyber air.........

    Now I forgot what I was going to say. Just ka-know that I left a poignant comment. And it was perfect. *sniffle*

    best,
    MOV

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  51. I have to admit, this post actually brought tears to my eyes - just thinking of the innocence and care-free feelings of childhood. Do you still have your Snoopy blanket? On the day I was born, my dad gave me this little stuffed bear (which I named Bear - how original, right?). At the age of 33, I still have Bear.

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  52. Oh, I LOVE this post!! Who knows, those kids could be the next Muppeteers!! How awesome!

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  53. That was the sweetest post! (in a manly way, of course :)
    Lovely way to start my day.

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  54. Great post, as usual, but it's hard to feel much sympathy for your thirteen-day work stint. Ring me up after you've spent 72 days submerged with 150 other dudes.

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  55. 13 days straight? Ouch, that's rough. It's amazing how such a small kind act can really help us put life in perspective.

    Nice post YGB!

    Michael A. Walker
    Defying Procrastination

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  56. This is a fantastically adorable piece. When I was a young kid, I'd just do the horn-blowing motion to the truckers, and squee in delight when their horns blared.

    Much cuter than me, sir. Kudos to those kids.

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  57. I actually read it again. Because I was feeling down and needed a touch of uplifting to bring me back up!

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  58. The gift of letting a moment make you smile rather than make you annoyed. Way to go Mr. Brown! This kind of attitude makes life so much more pleasant. And fun. :)

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  59. I still have my snoopy puppet/blanket.....I'm 36. Great story.

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