“Will you tell me another Herman story, dad?” So begins a nearly nightly journey with my son Aaron into the land of the Animal Lodge Museum and its residents, an ever-expanding group of plucky animals as they tackle adventures ranging from finding hidden treasure to handling the more daunting fears and anxieties of life. For the longest time, I thought of these stories as a way to entertain Aaron. The other night, I realized the stories are all about me. With each story, I believe I am trying to tell my son who I am.
I often don’t know at the start where Herman stories are going. They are unscripted and unfold as the spirit moves me. Only the characters and their characteristic personalities provide a loose framework. For example, there is Herman Worm, small in size but brilliant in inventiveness, and the namesake of the stories. His boss and the director of the Animal Lodge is a cobra named Sinister Snake, a misnomer because, though he’s a crusty administrator, he is gentle, with a heart of gold. Sinister Snake’s nemesis is Monkey B, the master of practical jokes, aided by his wife Monkey-See-Monkey-Do and their daughter Monkey Shines. And there is an elderly grasshopper, short on hearing but long on experience and wisdom.
I began a recent story as a joke surrounding the adage about putting lipstick on a pig. But in the very act of telling it, the story developed into a reflection on coming to see that others will accept us as we are, without artificial embellishment.
It seems that in the woods surrounding the Animal Lodge, a pig was nearly running over other animals as it raced past them, endangering their safety. This had to stop. So Sinister Snake ordered that the pig be caught and questioned about her behavior. It turned out that Margaret Pig was running because she felt embarrassed about her looks and didn’t want others to see her. A decision was made that Margaret could be helped by being given a make-over by the ostriches who ran the Animal Lodge beauty salon.
You guessed it, part of the make-over involved putting lipstick on a pig. But during the make-over, the other animals discovered Margaret Pig had a wonderful personality, and took to her. A coming-out party was held and all remarked on her lovely restyling—except the old grasshopper. He approached Sinister Snake and Herman in private and said, in all honesty, that Margaret still looked like a pig, but now with bright purple lips. “It just isn’t right,” the old grasshopper declared, “No matter how you make her up, she’s still a pig.” “How,” the grasshopper wanted to know, “does this show an appreciation and respect for who she is, a wonderful person?”
Aaron got the point. There’s no reason to put lipstick on a pig who has a beautiful personality. Doing so only detracts from her best feature.
“That was a good story, dad,” Aaron declared. “Thanks,” I said, as I suddenly realized I can’t possibly tell a bad story. Who I am is fine with my son. No make-over required.
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