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23 November 2011

'Please Don't Eat the Daisies' by Jean Kerr

This is one of the books that kept me sane when my children were young. I constantly reread it, even now. The book, published in 1958, is a collection of essays Jean Kerr wrote and published in several magazines over a two year period. The essays discuss her opinions, observations and adventures as a working mother of four, she would eventually have six, children. Jean was a playwright. Her hilarious essays include topics such as career choices, decorating, house hunting, marriage, rearing young children and even how to handle a hospital stay.

She puts in perspective the challenges of the everyday, like disciplining children, keeping your sanity, handling big, friendly dogs and work wise, how to pick and hire a producer (tip: never more than two at a time.) She makes me laugh because I can relate. There is no such a thing as writing in peace when you are a mother, and in former times, if you were a woman.

A while back, I pointed out that the 1950's were a hypocritical time in American history. Freedom and equality came with the caveats of white, heterosexual, protestant male. Nevertheless, Jean Kerr wrote funny irreverent essays and plays. She wrote without a sign of guilt or complaint about her life as a working mom. She was funny because she wrote with wit and intelligence. She made jokes. Ever notice that 'women with a sense of humor' are women who laugh at jokes. She did not live a 'bohemian' life with multiple lovers. She did what she enjoyed. She was absolutely a participant of her social world yet confident and charming enough to laugh at it.

Jean Kerr is rarely remembered today. She may well be forgotten because she was so funny and intelligent and a mother of six, and a loyal wife of a famous New York theatre critic. How about that? A woman who did not 'try to have it all.' She set herself a goal and went to work to achieve it. Her goal, so she states even in poetry, was to linger in bed in the morning, with a proper excuse of course (apparently parties didn't count back then either). Historians do not like people who may have been happy in life.

A movie with Doris Day and David Niven was based on the book. True to form, all the bits about Jean's success outside the home were taken out. They also took her biting, observant humor. Doris Day was cute and sweet. No doubt so was Jean Kerr but that is not all she was. I wish an optimistic woman would remake the movie properly. Jean Kerr is an example we could all use in our hectic lives. Besides, I love to lay in bed in the morning. It is a small accomplishment and I refuse to feel guilty about any accomplishment.

And as for the daisies? She forgot to tell her boys NOT to eat the daisies before guests arrived. She felt she was not creative enough to foresee this situation. She'd only mentioned not using the guest bathroom, or leaving their bicycles on the porch.....From then on she told them, of course.

In that spirit, I would like to find a job that is flexible, challenging and lets me keep my sense of humor. Any suggestions?

ISBN: 9780005712467

1 comment :

  1. Anonymous10:42

    got a suggestion for you. you should write. find a publication where you can write something similar to your blog. i like the way you write in your blog. it feels like i am having a conversation with a very intelligent friend.
    btw, i can remember my mother reading this book when i was 10 or 12 years old. i can remember looking at it then, but it did not resonate with a pre-teen boy. maybe i will look at it again now that i have some adult perspective.
    keep up the joy,