Peter Pencil

photo: Martha Dallas

 

 This morning’s service is about home.

P [practically interrupting]: Speaking of home, would you let me out of here?!

[shocked, confused… looking around as if to ask “where did that voice come from?”] Um, did you hear that?

P: of course they heard that. I said, “would you please let me out of here?”

Um… out of where?

P: out of this kleenex box.

Kleenex box?! You’re in a kleenex box?

P [politely growing impatient]: Yes, I’m in a kleenex box and I would like some help getting out.

Um… you’re in a kleenex box… where, exactly?

P: in the pulpit.

[shock, surprise, then cautiously peer into the pulpit, and gently take out kleenex box] You mean…

P: yup, this kleenex box.

Wait, you mean… you’re… you’re in here?

P: yes, I…

Wait… could it be… I mean [ looking excitedly to congregation]… I only know one someone who lives in a kleenex box.. I.. could it… [carefully pulling back kleenex, and then, excitedly]… it IS you! Oh my goodness! I can’t believe it after all these years! [to congregation] You’ll never guess who it is!! [carefully removing Peter] It’s Peter Pencil [lift him up and gaze into his face with joy and recognition] How GOOD it is to see you! Wow! Can I… I’d like to introduce you to these people. Let’s have a proper introduction, okay?

P: Okay!

First UU congregation, may I introduce Peter Pencil [slowly show him out/around, especially to children nearby. Make sure they can see his face. Keep him up and animated, like a puppet.]

P: Wow! That’s a lot of people. Hi everybody!

[To Peter] We should explain how we know each other. Because, you know, you were a very special pencil to me.

P: and you were a special person to me!

Thanks. [to congregation] Peter and I knew each other when I was three and four years old. In my preschool class. [to Peter] Right?

P: Yup!

Each morning, the children would gather in a circle when it was time to take attendance, right?

P: Yup.

And then our teacher – do you remember her name?

P: Yup: Mrs. Clifton. She was such a nice teacher!

Yes, Mrs. Clifton would wait for us to be ready and then she would go to get you from your kleenex box.

P: Yup: my kleenex box was my bed and my home all at once. I was always ready when she needed me.

And then she would start to take attendance.

P: Yup: she would call out each child’s name, one by one, slowly. And when the child’s name was called, they would say, “Here!” and I would make a check! [mime making a checkmark with Peter], and when the next child said, “Here!” — check! [mime again]

You were so good at that, Peter and we were always so glad to see you.

P: yup, and when we finished attendance, we would say goodbye till tomorrow, and Mrs. Clifton would take me back to my kleenex box and tuck me in for the day. You know, [thinking a little]… my kleenex box is such a nice home, and even when I came out of my kleenex box, I still felt like I was at home because I had such a special job — a job that was just for me — that only I could do just so. And I was very good at that job, so doing it gave me a feeling of being at home. And that’s such an important feeling to have. Hmmm….

Well, Peter, maybe it’s time for you to go home now.

P: I suppose it is, but first I want to say a wish I have: I wish that everyone here can have a home as soft and cozy as a kleenex box and I wish that everyone here can have a purpose in life that’s so special… so just for them… that they feel at home when they are doing that. Okay? Okay. I’m ready to go home now.

[to Peter] Okay, let’s just tuck you in carefully [tuck back into kleenex box]. You take care now. It’s been so good to see you again! And with Peter’s wishes in our thoughts, we will sing you to your classes.

 

***

 

This reflection has two voices: yours and Peter Pencil’s. Use a chipper, higher voice for Peter, and practice going back and forth between the two. Peter’s parts are preceded with a “P.”

Preparation: Take a classic yellow pencil and with a black sharpie, draw a small, simple smiley face at the top near eraser end. Make some simple clothes for Peter. I used a tiny square of plaid flannel to make a shawl of sorts and glued it on as if it covered his shoulders. You could try adding a small piece of denim wrapped around below that to suggest pants, but elaborate clothes is unnecessary as far as convincing folks of Peters’ reality. The voice and your belief in his character are the real theatrical vehicles for this!

Credit for the creation of the character of Peter Pencil and deep gratitude and love go to Barbie Clifton, my preschool teacher from 1970-1972 at Brooks School in Concord, Massachusetts.

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