The Last Days of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle…

Mrs. Piggle Wigggle sipped her glass of chardonnay. She stared through her upside down window, and out into the empty street beyond.  Then she glanced at the clock over the mantle.   Only 3:16?

Well, she figured, surely it’s five oclock somewhere…

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle  polished off the glass and reached for the bottle with a sigh.  It had been a good ten years since anyone—any lonely kids or harried parents—had come knocking at her door. So really, what difference could it possibly make if she had one more teensy tiny glass?

Next morning, still wearing her daytime apron and one lonely little black highheeled shoe, her hair a fright, she sat up from the hearthrug where she’d spent the night, and remembered.   With a groan she sat up and massaged her temples.  “Oh, my!” she said.  “Oooch!”

Then, being an efficient sort of woman, she showered, changed her clothes, put the kettle on, brewed herself a cup of strong tea, and reached into her spice cupboard for an old yellowed packet that read, “The naughty-mommy tipsy-topsy cure.”

She shook the silvery lilac powder into her mug and took a deep gulp of the elixir. Then, as the pain in her head began to subside, as  the world jumped into focus, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle resolved to fix things.     She resolved to take the bull by the horns!  She decided that today, she would do something she had never done before.  She would make some calls.

Right after she took a bubble  bath, and maybe a little nap.


That afternoon, refreshed and renewed, in a nice clean apron, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle picked up the phone to call some of her old regulars.

“Hello?”  she said  on her first try.  “Mrs. Harroway? This is Mrs. Piggle Wiggle!”

“Mrs. Piggle Wiggle!” cried Mrs. Harroway.  “How lovely to hear from you. It’s been years, dahling—simply years!”

“Yes, well,” said Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  “That’s what I’m calling about.  “You see, business has been rather slow over here, and I wondered if you might have any problems to be solved? Any interrupters? Any dawdlers? Any issues I could help you with”

Mrs. Harroway laughed.  “Goodness, no!” she said.  “Of course, Fetlock is all grown up now, so we’re done worrying about him.  And Bloom, his little girl, has never given us the littlest bit of trouble.”

“No trouble at all?” asked Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, puzzled.  What child on earth, she wondered, has never been a bit of trouble?

“Not one whit,” tittered Mrs. Harroway.  “When she started biting her nails, Fetlock just took her to the doctor and he prescribed a lovely medication that made her into a perfect doll. We’ve never had a problem since! She’s so good. Extremely docile. Like nothing you’ve seen.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.   “Oh.”

“You know, though,” added Mrs. Harroway, “Now that I think about it, you might call my neighbor, Mrs. Muskrat!  Her son Chard is a holy  terror He’s been kicked out of four schools. For biting! And language!”

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle perked right up when she heard that.  “Oh, thank you,” she said.  “The information is much appreciated. I’ll call her right away!”

But when she did, she wasn’t quite sure what to say. She’d never cold-called a customer before.  She’d never had to.

“Hello?” she tried. “Mrs. Muskrat?  This is Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  I heard that you might have a problem I could help you with?”

“A problem?” said the tired-sounding woman.   “Are you an exterminator? A landscaper?  Has the yard grown too high? What exactly do you mean by problem?”

“Well,” said Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, trying to be tactful. “You see, I specialize in helping children with their more, ahh, difficult traits.  Their more challenging aspects…”

“Why on earth would I need help with my children?” asked Mrs. Muskrat. She sounded as  baffled as she sounded worn-down.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle wasn’t quite sure how best to proceed.  “Well. I, ahh, I heard that your son has had some  recent trouble. In school?”

“Oh that,” said Mrs. Muskrat with a sigh.  “People just don’t understand my little Chard.  He’s got a ton of creative energy. He’s not an in-the-box thinker.  He’s a real boy, and schools can be so closedminded, don’t you think? The other children can be so oversensitive!  And people can be so limiting with their silly personal boundaries.”

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle wasn’t sure how to respond to that, but it didn’t matter, because just as she opened her mouth to speak, she heard a terrible noise through the phone—a sound of screaming, followed by a loud bang.

“I should be going,” said Mrs. Muskrat breathlessly, moments before slamming down the phone.

And one by one, call after call, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle hit dead ends.

Mrs. Coffeecake said that her twins, Tippy and Tappy, had been diagnosed by an expert for their sensitivity to certain colors, and she didn’t think a babysitter like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle should meddle, in case her methods weren’t the same as those of the esteemed medical professional.

Mrs. Macaroon said that her son, Marmite, had indeed a recent incident with a knife, but it wasn’t really his fault, because he was a Capricorn, and anyway that they were addressing that problem with a dietary regimen that required he not leave the house.

Mrs. Ballbearing informed Mrs. Piggle Wiggle  that her daughter, Josiepie, had been dealing with some self-esteem issues last year, but that they’d fixed the problem easily.

“Really? How?” asked Mirs. Piggle Wiggle.

“It was the simplest thing!” chortled Mrs. Ballbearing.  “We discovered that as long as we don’t ask Josiepie to do anything she doesn’t already do well, she’s as confident as anyone! Provided, of course, that she remains surrounded only by family and close reliable friends and there are no loud noises.”

And so it was at every house she called.  Plenty of children were gifted and special, requiring special tutoring and extracurricular classes.   Other children had very  specific medical diagnoses that required trained professionals and medications.  But most of the parents she spoke with swore up and down that their own children were quite perfect, though sometimes misunderstood by the world at large, on account of their delightful quirks and intense personalities.  With each call, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle grew more frustrated.  It seemed that bad behavior had simply disappeared.

On her seventeenth and final call, Mrs. Piggle at last cried out in frustration, “But Mrs. Sassafras, surely there’s something that could be improved about your little Sunshine!  Perhaps I could help her work on a small thing like her table manners?”

To which Mrs. Sassafras responded in a condescending tone, “Oh, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. We do not embrace the idea of table manners in our house.  This is an important part of our parenting philosophy.”  Then she hung up.

Parenting philosophies?  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle knew she was in over her head. So she sadly hung the old rotary phone in its cradle, crossed the room, rooted through Mr. Piggle Wiggle’s old sea chest, and  emerged with what appeared to be a pack of cigarettes in her hand.  Then she stepped out onto the porch and sat down in an old wicker chair.  She drew out what looked like an ordinary cigarette, struck a match, and inhaled deeply, staring up at the sky.

But then, she heard a voice.  A teeny tiny voice, coming from the tree above her porch roof.

“Jeex! You shouldn’t smoke cigarettes,” said the voice.  “They will kill you dead.”  A moment later, a small girl climbed down from the tree.”

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle blew a smoke ring.  “They aren’t cigarettes,” said Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, holding up the pack.  “They’re prescribed. See!”

The girl walked over towards the porch and peered curiously at the pack, which read, “Relaxo-sticks: In case of absolute-despair-itis.”

“They look ‘zactly like cigarettes to me,” said the girl, squinting at Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  “I think you’re just taking something you don’t like to fess up to, and renaming it, to make yourself feel better.”

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle laughed and drew on her Relaxo-stick again.   “Smart kid,” she said, adding, “Who are you, and where did you come from?”

“I’m Jenny,” said the girl. “I ran away from home. My parents suck.”

“I don’t doubt it, my dear,” said Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  “I do not doubt it one bit.   She stubbed out her Relaxo-stick, and stood up.  “I don’t suppose, Jenny, you’d like to join me for a tea party? With cookies?”

“I’m not supposed to drink tea,” said Jenny, shaking her head and disappointing Mrs. Piggle Wiggle to no end.  “Or eat sugar.”  But then she added, “However, I’m also not supposed to talk to strangers, and I’m already doing that, so sure! Why not? What the hell!”

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle opened the door and ushered Jenny inside, not even bothering to correct the child’s foul language.  Times had changed. Her day was done. And anyway, she’d probably be arrested if she gave the child a dose of “cuss-be-gone” or even a stern talking-to.

But more than that, she found that she didn’t want to fix Jenny. Not at all.  Jenny might well be the only plain-old-badly-behaved child  left in the world.  The final inheritor of a grand old tradition.   The last of a dying breed.

It was enough—just to have her to tea.

35 Responses to “The Last Days of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle…”

  1. Jenny Schwartzberg Says:

    Oh thank you! That’s fun and made me smile. I loved the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books too.


  2. Donna Baier Stein Says:

    Oh my gosh. I haven’t thot of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle in years! I’m 58! I loved those books tho they were sometimes a little threatening in their discipline yes? I’ll have to find mine if I can… Thanks for doing this…

  3. Wendy Says:

    Just delightful, Laurel.

  4. SarahT Says:

    Terrific! I shared on both Facebook and Twitter.

  5. Around the Blogosphere – Kurtis Scaletta Says:

    [...] was thrilled to see that somebody was writing Mrs. Piggle Wiggle fan fiction, and even thrilleder that it was my pal Laurel Snyder, author of Any Which Wall and other wonderful [...]

  6. Virginia Lee Says:

    Oh my! Poor Mrs. Pigglewiggle!

    My glorious fifth grade teacher way back in 1973/4 read aloud to my class and I think we got through all of the Mrs. Pigglewiggle books that year. We’d get our work done early, have it checked, and then Mrs. Sechriest would read while we did puzzles or drew pictures or other quiet things. It was calming, fun, and an ideal way to spend an afternoon for our group of “gifted” kids.

    Several of the people in that class have mentioned reading Mrs. Pigglewiggle to/with their children. I shall be forwarding them this link, but I don’t think they’ll be sharing!

    Thanks so much. This made my day.

  7. Lara Ivey Says:

    Beyond creative! Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives!!! She was a staple read aloud in my first grade classroom for YEARS. One year there was even a play of it that we were able to take a field trip to see. Now that brought the book to life. Thanks for sharing and bringing back such good memories. Mrs. P-W may have to be the next read aloud we do at home. :-)

  8. Melissa Manlove Says:

    I heart you, Laurel.

  9. paprikapink Says:

    Oh yeah….. And then I see Jenny and Mrs. P-W cooking up remedies for all the cliched parents.

  10. Barb Says:

    How fantastic! I just ordered ANY WHICH WALL yesterday after hearing about it on “Six Boxes of Books” and now this! I have a wonderful warm feeling that I am about to discover a new favorite writer.

  11. Kelly Says:

    Very well done! Sad story, but true. I love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I didn’t start to read them until I was an adult though. I use some of her techniques to convince myself to clean house.

  12. aquafortis Says:

    Oh, I loved poor old Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle when I was a kid. Your story has the painful ring of truth…

  13. Mara Says:

    Hilarious! Also depressing. I have to admit, when I read the books to my daughter, I had to explain why some of the behaviors were a problem. Our house could use a visit from the pig who teaches table manners.

  14. Jen Says:

    FanTAStic!! Thanks so much!

  15. Mrs P W’s Sunset Years « educating alice Says:

    [...] 7, 2010 Mrs. Piggle Wiggle needs to pick herself up, give herself a first name (Peter suggests Peggy) , dig up the pirate loot in her backyard, buy a [...]

  16. Brenda Ferber Says:

    Laurel, I love this! Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was my favorite as a child. You are hilarious!

  17. Mallory Says:

    Laurel, you are the light of my life! I can always count on you for a good giggle or two or three.

  18. marjorie Says:

    holy crap, this is delicious. thank you.

  19. julia Says:

    OMG this is so nostalgic and so brilliant…I loved it and hated the thought of the demise of the beloved Mrs. PiggleWiggle at the same time. I can’t even imagine trying to get my kids to read such pearls (all boys!). THank you!

  20. Diana (Ladybug Limited) Says:

    Love, love, love it! After listening to all the audiobooks on vacation this summer with the fam, Other Half and I were wondering what problems Mrs. Piggle Wiggle would be called upon to fix today, but you’re right, of course.

  21. Kate Coombs Says:

    Brilliant! The names alone made my day!

  22. :paula Says:

    Oh, Laurel. I love you. I’m sending this to everyone I know RIGHT NOW (and to all the teachers, under cover of darkness – they will spit out their coffee when they read it!).

  23. Jeannie Hagy Says:

    Love it! I’m 62, and I remember Mrs. Piggle Wiggle well from my own childhood. I am also a retired teacher, and I’m afraid you’re absolutely accurate in portraying modern parents and their kids who “aren’t problems.” Oh, my! Thanks!

  24. kids book junky Says:

    Love this! I had to link this on my blog to share…it’s just hilarious! Thanks for reminding me of such a wonderful character. I’ll make sure to introduce my daughter to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle…she’ll just love her!

  25. Connie Says:

    Love this … Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was a huge favorite of my childhood and a favorite read-aloud with my own children. Only last year I pulled a copy off the library shelf and read chapters to a 4th-6th grade reading club I ran in a public library. Had to explain a few cultural things to the kids, but by-and-large, they loved the stories and asked for more the next time we met. What fun! My husband and I have our own Mrs. P-W understanding over “Thought-you-said itis.”

  26. Margaret Ann Abrahams Says:

    Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is outrageous – and outrageously fun. I never read these books as a kid – but my 13-year old niece talked about them when I interviewed her on my blog. Maybe Mrs. PW will make a comeback.

  27. Maggi Says:

    Fantastic. I just bought reprinted copies (with fun new covers) to replace the old, falling-apart copies in my library and they are checking out right and left. The kids still think they’re funny, thankfully, even if they don’t understand the importance of some of the “cures.”

  28. Blogamundi: Links and Thinks : Semicolon Says:

    [...] The Last Days of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? Say it ain’t so! [...]

  29. Hannah Says:

    Love it. You’ve clearly been hanging out with a lot of today’s parents!

    I read all the Mrs. P-W stories as a kid, and I’m thinking maybe I need to revisit them. Some days I could definitely use her help!

  30. Kris Says:

    Laurel – My 7-year-old have been reading “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains” and enjoying it thoroughly. I decided to look up your website after she went to bed — to my delight, I found your Mrs P-W send up. I laughed out loud! Thank you!

  31. Martine Says:

    Betty MacDonald and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle have so many fans all over the world.
    There was a Betty MacDonald and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Fan Club Meeting in Oslo.
    I met Betty MacDonald fans from five continents.

  32. laurel Says:

    Martine! I’m jealous. How wonderful…

  33. Martine Says:

    Laurel, may I set up a link to your site on our Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Fan Club?
    Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Fans should read your story. Did you know that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has been translated in many languages?
    What is your favourite Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book and story?

  34. Barbara Says:

    Is Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle a bad book? I don’t know it yet.

    I’m reading the new Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Book. And it’s (sigh) BAD.
    I actually found myself feeling really bad for Anne MacDonald Canham, whose mother was Betty MacDonald. Because you just know she wrote this book as a tribute. A memorial to her mother. And you know she tried to do her mom justice. And you know it kills her that she didn’t match her mother’s wit.

  35. susan garvey Says:

    I’m 62 years old and remember so vividly the stories that were read to the class by my third grade teacher, Miss Mau. Bought a book re Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic for my newborn daughter 27 years ago. She doesn’t give a shister! How awful. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will always have a place in my heart.

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