PEEWEE'S GREAT ADVENTURE
All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to my daughter, Samantha, when she was living in North Carolina. As I wrote it, I was in the process of compiling a tape for her of my toy inventing efforts.
I'm writing this while the tapes are being copied, and I must admit that I am getting a little depressed at viewing all the many hours of my life that I wasted working for the waste basket! And I am remembering the time I showed my buddy, Peewee, the tiny realistic elephant that is on the screen right now. It was right here at this desk; and Pee amused me greatly by sitting on my desk chair, looking, wide-eyed, at the newly sculpted elephant, and doing me the favor of pretending he was Scared! To a dumber cat than Pee, that elephant would have been just a lump of clay. But Peewee, because he was so clever, studied it intently and recognized it as something that might be alive, a new kind of animal, maybe. And, because it was advancing towards him [guided by my hand and growling slightly], he leapt off my desk chair and fled in terror, convincingly! He always knew just how to please and amuse me. Of course, less than a minute later, curiosity brought him back again, eager to do it over.
Did I ever tell you about the time, when Peewee was still a kitten, and he climbed up the tall Mimosa tree in the front yard, in the middle of the night? He was under a year old, and had been trying to learn how to climb trees, for weeks. Often, when we went outside he’d rush out with us, and making sure that we were watching, scramble a few feet up a tree and say, “Look at me!”, then grope his way down again, with difficulty.
Now, it was mid February, and your Mother let him out the front door for a late night wee-wee. Zoom! Trying to show off, he scrambled up the Mimosa tree. So High! Then he started to holler, because he didn’t know how to get back down again! An hour passed, in which we figured he would figure it out. But, as we watched, from the warm side of the front windows, it became clear that Peewee’s progress was progressing in the wrong direction; he was continuing to climb higher. At about 2 A.M., cursing and grumbling, and too pissed off to bother to put my pants on, I went out into the cold night air, wearing only my leather jacket, shoes and a long flannel nightshirt.
I grudgingly dragged out the 35 foot double telescoping ladder, and propped it up against the tree. After extending it as far as it would go, which was not nearly far enough, Mom held the bottom of the ladder, while I climbed up as high as I dared, way beyond the point at which I felt safe. Now, tottering at the pinnacle, I extended my arm towards poor frightened Peewee, who was shivering and clinging to the tree above me, only to discover he was still a good three feet beyond my reach. Worse still, I could see that he was looking up, and thinking about climbing even higher. Out of sheer desperation, without thinking, I bent my head forward, impulsively, and pointing to my back, exclaimed, "Jump On My Hump, Pee!”
It was an Amazing Moment! Although, English was, only, his second language, Peewee understood exactly what I meant, and with one heroic leap, dove for the pronounced protrusion between my shoulders. Courageous Kitten! Flying bravely through the air, he landed perfectly, digging his scared little claws into my leather jacket. For once, my lousy posture came in handy.
He hung onto my back, valiantly, as I slowly descended the ladder, with one hand on the rungs, and the other reaching backward to stabilize brave little Pee. The instant my feet touched the ground; he jumped off my shoulders, made a beeline for the porch, and dove through the front door to safety. Pee had learned, the hard way, why the Mimosa is called a “Touch-me-not” tree.
For several weeks, thereafter, Peewee refused to go outdoors. He would accompany us to the front door, stick his head out, peek cautiously around the corner, take one look at the terrible tree, and run back into the sanctuary of the hallway.
It's funny how an unexpected incident can burn itself into one’s memory, and remain crystal clear, when so many other images have faded. Whenever I think of Peewee, that moment always comes back to me. And in my mind’s eye I can still see the look on his little face, so brave, so smart, so trusting, as he catapulted himself through space, courageously, to land safely on me.
In spite of this initial setback, Peewee went on to become a Master Climber. And I remember another day, months later, when to my surprise, I saw his precious little face, this time not scared, but triumphant, proudly looking down at me through the window of my skylight. God knows how he got up there! It must to have involved a tree. As before, he couldn’t get down again. So, he made his way to the roof’s edge, where he stood meowing, “Mel, Help Me!” And I had to get the ladder out, again, lean it against the gutter, this time, extended only 15 feet, and invite him to, once more, ride my hump, down to Earth again.
And, this was only the beginning. From that day foreword, there was no end to Peewee’s climbing, and no pinnacle he could not conquer. Eventually, he learned how to get on and off the roof with ease, and made it part of his regular routine. I still don’t know how he did it. I’d often hear his paw steps pitter pattering on the roof above me. And if, by chance, a ladder was left leaning, anywhere, Pee Wee would be up it, instantly. The roof, on the outside of the house, and the high rafters, on the inside, became his familiar domain. There was no height, tree, roof, or rafter that Dare Devil Peewee did not master....