Friday, November 28, 2014


     Among the many things at which I've failed as a parent is instilling a sense of family tradition in my children.  It wasn't that long ago that I read about a study which found that the happiest, most secure children are those who have a strong sense of their roots, including time-honored family customs and rituals.  Well, I personally suck at following customs and rituals, which obviously has made it tricky for me to pass them along to my offspring.  But then came yesterday.
     Yesterday was Thanksgiving, which we celebrated with just the four of us, and then my daughter's boyfriend joined us for dessert.  And that was when I learned that - as perhaps I should have remembered from last Thanksgiving, but didn't - we now have a wonderful new Thanksgiving tradition at our house, thanks to my ever-inventive husband.  While we eat dessert, we go around the table and take turns reading aloud from WALTER THE FARTING DOG.

     It's a fairly straightforward narrative.  Walter is adopted from the pound by an unsuspecting family.  By the time his gastrointestinal disorder makes itself known, the kids have already fallen in love with him.  Heartless Father, however, deaf to the heartrending pleas of his children, cannot tolerate the noxious fumes and is resolved to send Walter back from whence he came.  Tragedy is imminent... and then wouldn't you know it, Walter saves the day in the very nick of time.
     Naturally, this deceptively simple tale operates on many different levels.  For example, Walter's farts - despite the graphic nature of their descriptions in the book - may simply be metaphors for any form of "difference," or deviation from the norm.  And Father's desire to send Walter back to the pound may well be a euphemism for his belief in the practice of eugenics.  Father is clearly a cesspool of repressed rage whose excessive degree of repulsion with Walter hints at a dark secret in his own past.  I foresee many years of deep and meaningful family discussions as we plunge ever deeper into the postmodern symbolism of Walter and his "socially unacceptable" means of expressing his unconscious impulses.
     Best of all, though, is the fact that we now have a family tradition of which we can be proud.  Thanks to Walter, I have newfound confidence that, despite all my parental failings, my kids are going to be okay.

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