Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill, to Get Into Their Uber

Having your first baby certainly exposes you to new experiences, such as changing their diapers, consoling them when they are crying, and feeding them bottles in the middle of the night.  It also renews old memories — one of which, for me, is the nursery rhyme.

During my refamiliarization with these “timeless” classics, one theme stood out among those that I researched: they are really, really, old.  These rhymes and ditties that we, our parents, and their parents before them, several generations back, are so familiar with, date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.  Jack Sprat wasn’t eating fat all the way back to 1639 (my guess is his wife died of congestive heart failure in the early 1640s); the Baker’s Man in Pat-a-cake (totally thought it was Patty or Paddy Cake) was baking as fast as 1698 convection oven technology would allow; Little Jack Horner was sitting in a corner way back in 1764, well before the invention of the time-out, and a year before the cows from Hey Diddle Diddle were jumping over the moon (probably to get away from that Little Piggy, from This Little Piggy, who, back in 1760, didn’t have any roast beef, which inexplicably resulted in his bratty Piggy brother having a temper tantrum all the way home); babies were being blown out of treetops (Rock-a-bye Baby) dating back to 1805 (in today’s society Child Protective Services would be all over that sh*t), which is the same year that Little Miss Muffet got frightened away from eating her spoiled cottage cheese by a spider (#bestifusedbytheinventionofthecottongin).

It has been written that Baa, Baa, Black Sheep (1731) is about a tax on wool known as “The Great Custom”, and that Jack and Jill (1765) is about King Charles I’s failed attempt to reform the tax on liquid measures, forcing him to resort to reducing the volume of half- and quarter-pints, known as “jacks” and “gills”, respectively.  London Bridge is Falling Down (1744) is supposedly about the Norwegian Viking Olaf II’s attack and subsequent defeat of England.  Ring Around the Rosie (1881) is believed to be about the Great Plague of London in 1665, describing the rash that covered the afflicted (rosie), and the smell of which was covered up by posies; “ashes, ashes, we all fall down” likely refers to the fact that 15% of London’s population ultimately died from this pandemic.  Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary (1744) is apparently recounting the homicidal nature of Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary), who executed hundreds of Protestants using torture devices known as “silver bells” and “cockle shells”; similarly, Three Blind Mice (1805) allegedly refers to a group of three Protestant bishops who tried to overthrow the aforementioned Queen Mary I, but were burned at the stake for heresy.  Mary, Mary, why you buggin’?

While it can be debated whether or not certain nursery rhymes contain hidden or alternate meanings, there is no arguing their simplistic, everyday nature.  The creators of these rhymes wrote about what ostensibly were daily parts of their life.  In my analysis, I found that most included references to one or more of the following: pies, cakes, lambs, sheep, cows, dogs, spiders, and maids.  While all of these things still exist in most of our lives to some extent (I’m sure Brooklyn has at least two “tuffet” stores), I am certain that they don’t dominate like they must have in the 17th and 18th century; the typical man in Europe at this time likely lived among lamb, sheep, cows, and dogs, and if he was lucky enough to avoid getting dysentery, smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever, or cholera, he could take a local maiden out on a Friday night for a plum pie or cake (likely half-eaten by spiders).  The bottom line is that they wrote about what they knew.

That said, I believe we are more than overdue for a massive overhaul of the nursery rhyme, as we just don’t live like that anymore — that “dish has ran away with the spoon”, so to speak.  When Old Mother Hubbard wants to get her poor dog a bone today, she goes online into Jeff Bezos’ carry-all cupboard known as Amazon.  Mary, no offense, but nobody cares how your garden grows (please don’t draw and quarter me), as we need instant gratification and certainly don’t have time for you to explain to us the process of photosynthesis.  Let’s face it, when all the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, need to try to put together a man made of eggshells today, there’s probably an app for it (Review on App Store: “I downloaded ‘Cracked’ and within seconds, I was no longer scrambling for a solution to put my little perfect protein back together again.  The process was over…easy.” – Sunny Sideup, Bangor, ME).  Our “re-boot” needs to have rhymes that are more reflective of how we as a society live in 2017 (excluding those vast swaths of Trump supporters in middle-America who likely still cohabitate with livestock).  To that end, below are a few of my attempts:

“Like, Share, Follow”

Emma had finally gotten her first mobile phone

Direct from Amazon Prime — delivered via drone

She was late to the game — her friends all had devices

But her parents waited until Sprint cut their prices

First she downloaded Twitter, followed by Instagram

And then Facebook and Snapchat — all tracked by Uncle Sam

“A teen’s rep is based off of their social media

And not what you learn from an encyclopedia

So I need to get busy,” she said with a swallow,

“Because coolness starts with a ‘Like’, ‘Share’, and ‘Follow'”

The Binge Week

On Sunday Walter White was simply a chemistry teacher

Tuesday afternoon, Heisenberg’s a dead, drug-dealing creature

That night Omar and Stringer Bell rule the streets of Baltimore

By Wednesday both got capped and McNulty’s a cop nevermore

That same day Tony starts his weekly psychiatrist routine

Only to find out on Thursday that it ends with a blank screen

The next day Sterling Cooper employees love to drink and smoke

While on Saturday Don Draper wants to buy the world a Coke

We no longer have patience to watch a single episode

Society’s frozen to their TVs — Netflix a la mode

Whole Foods, Half Life

Emma was passionate about how and where she got her food

Hated the mass-merchandisers — procured from the local dude

It had to be organic — no pesticides or GMOs

Free-range or cage-free?  Each was philosophically juxtaposed

She did not watch television — that’s why she cut her cable

Giving her more time for restaurants — she preferred farm-to-table

She despised all antibiotics, as well as growth hormones

While renewable resources were one of her cornerstones

Her meat needed to be grass-fed, and her go-to green was kale

Quinoa was a staple — to night shades she did not avail

Then one day Emma was driving, eating Ezekiel bread

You know what’s not sustainable?  Emma’s left front tire tread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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