I'm not kidding, today is Mary Had a Little Lamb Day. The poem was first published by Sara Josepha Hale on May 24th, 1830. It is American and based on an actually incident.
This particular nursery rhyme holds a special memory.
When Erva and I first started going to school in Cruz Bay on St. John, we were the only two white kids in attendance. There was a lot to learn on both sides. We couldn't understand the dialect and the kids couldn't really understand us and our American accent. We were obviously very different. Being blond-haired and blue-eyed we stuck out like sore thumbs. Of course we got teased. We were called things like whitey monkey and whitey cheese (terms that were considered very derogative and disrespectful in those days.) We got back by copy-catting, which was something the island kids weren't familiar with. It drove them crazy.
But I don't remember it being too long before we gained respect and made friends.
There came a point when the school put on a show for all the parents. A kind of review. Each class was given something to do, like a song or a skit.
My class, kindergarten and first grade, sang Mary Had a Little Lamb. Nothing unusual with that, except our teacher decided I would play Mary and that I would have a little lamb follow me around the stage as the song was sung.
One has to imagine the situation, the audience. Except for a few Board Members and my parents, except for my sister and me, everyone else was black.
So here I come onto the stage followed by my little lamb, a little boy who crawled on his hand and knees and whose whose skin was a particularly deep dark brown.
"Mary had a little lamb with fleece as white as snow..."
The audience exploded with laughter. We were the hit of the show.
Those were wonderful days of innocence, when a little irony, intentional or not, was accepted for what it was.
I'm not sure something like that could be done today.