Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Brownies


A few weeks ago, while sorting through treasures at his mother's house, my Dad found this. The Brownies - Their Book by Palmer Cox - copyright 1887 (1915 version above).

It's no longer in print but you can get a collector's copy on Amazon for...$135.00. Yup - that's right - $135.00.

My Dad brought it out one night. I gently opened the cover - careful of the delicate binding - and read the front inlay...


Take Notige! This book belongs to Robert!

My Dad's own handwriting - his first and last name - penned with 7-year-old skill.

I peered into the sketches - into a human world as seen through the eyes of tiny elves that call themselves Brownies. The pages were thinned from turning and felt like tissue paper between my fingers.

My Dad remembers sitting on the chase lounge in the dining room reading about Brownies with his mother. On summer nights he would climb into his cot on the sleeping porch and read by flashlight until he fell asleep.

So during our live-in with my parents we read the Brownies' book to the girls. The language was charming and challenging, written in snappy rhymed couplets. The girls were introduced to a slew of new words. Like blithe, boulevard, scholar, cunning, and surly.

It was great for their little minds. A new adventure every night.

And the pictures were enchanting...


No one knows what Brownies do during the day, but they are very busy at night. They have an insatiable desire to know how things work or how food tastes. They want to experience what humans experience. They quietly observe, plot, then execute. Curiosity always wins out and during moonlight hours Brownies explore, fiddle, and tinker. They make toboggans, build bicycles, ice skate, cook pudding, or take a horse and wagon for a ride. One night they surprised a farmer by harvesting his crops.

As the sun begins to rise they scurry to cover any trace of their whereabouts. Occasionally they're in such a hurry they leave a few crumbs on the counter, knock over a chair, or forget to put their favorite book back on the shelf. But Brownies have good hearts. They finish undone tasks.


Like neatly stacking the wooden blocks in the toy cupboard, mopping the floor, finding a missing set of keys, or setting the breakfast table. No small feat for a band of Brownies. Wielding the mop alone might take five of them! But they're very resourceful and seem to work well together.

So we had reason to believe a Brownie (or maybe two) was creeping around my parents' house at night. Cleaning things up, folding laundry, putting toys away and nibbling on chocolate.

Eliza left him this note (along with the granola bars).


Not to worry. There was no fatality by water. This Brownie is alive and well. He left Eliza and Sami a thank you note in return.

So Brownies are afoot again. (Thanks Dad - for sharing the magic.)

Last week Eliza asked me, "Mom? Can we read a piece of the Brownie book tonight?" (Don't you love her innocent double entendre?)

Maybe Brownies will be sneaking around your house tonight. You could leave a snack out just in case.

I'm told chocolate is their favorite.

"The realm of enchantment is open to us all, if we are willing to step over the threshold." - Katrina Kenison


  1. sorry to intrude. i got to your blog through the comment you left on my essay on The Power of Moms...

    i had NO idea this is what a brownie looked like. :) what a treasure to find. that book looks SO neat.

    and thanks for your sweet comment after that essay.

  2. This is a wonderful book. Thanks for sharing. I'm tempted to go buy one. Your sweet sentiments always feel tender.

  3. Leslie - I welcomed your intrusion! And I really was moved by your story on Power of Moms. I hope you'll continue to share your journey. Your outlook and wisdom (obviously) was a gift to many. Nice to connect Leslie. Thank you.

    Andrea - My sister just found a copy on Etsy for $20.00. If you look around you might find one for a pretty good price!

  4. Your children seriously have the best mother, and the best childhood, and the best grandparents ever!!!! I just want to hang out at your house so I can have loveliness envelop me all day long. :)

  5. Joanna - good thing you didn't stop by tonight. There was no loveliness. No Brownie stories. No fun. Too many tears. Then off to bed. Some nights are like that. But tomorrow is another day. Thank goodness.


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