Are you Rex-perienced?

Having once served as a story-reader, I thought I knew what to expect when I arrived at Borders Books and Music in Preston Royal last Wednesday morning. My personal philosophy was: Read the story, do some silly voices, show the kids some pictures, and get I expected the same and prepared myself for a timid bookstore employee armed with a supply of Richard Scarry and Dr. Seuss books.

But this was much different. All the mommies at Rex-perience--Borders' Wednesday-morning story time featuring Rex Rasor--knew one another, calling one another by name, making play dates and plans for other mommy activities. Forget soccer moms; the new parenting cult is the story-time mommy. Though only slightly younger and more rested than the average mommy, I didn't quite fit in. I was alone on a weekday morning, and suspicious glances questioned my motives; damn, I knew I should have borrowed a nephew or neighbor. A little boy began the smiling-and-hiding game with me. But instead of cheering me up, it only reconfirmed what I've known all along: Little boys like me. It's the ones older than 13 I have problems with. There was enough innuendo present in this story time, however, without me adding my own.

It was eerily quiet as Rasor, with his banjo, took his seat in front of the group. He began by warning the mommies that the kids can get away with murder, but that if they talk they'll be asked to leave. For the next 45 minutes, he threw one-liners in between the standard fare of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and stories teaching about opposites, body parts, and animal sounds. After a story about penguins called I like it when..., Rex advised the children to remember peek-a-boo, reminding them, "You don't outgrow peek-a-boo. When you're an adult, you just call it Victoria's Secret instead." The story-time mommies giggled and looked around self-consciously. The kids, looking to their moms for guidance, decided to giggle as well. Rex continued: "The next book is called I Love Animals. It sounds like a Jerry Springer show, but it isn't." The pattern was set: Whenever the mommies laughed, the kids did too. Children's laughter seems out of place after these jokes, bizarre even. But, hey, the children are happy and don't fuss.

Rex christened the day "St. Miller's Day," because, like St. Patrick and the snakes of Ireland, Laura Miller had just driven all the roosters out of Oak Cliff. Even some of the mommies seemed a little confused at the reference. The kids just started to cock-a-doodle-doo, because Rex said the word "rooster." And then it got really strange. During a story about nightmares hiding out in dark closets, he said, "Watch out, because Troy Aikman might be in there with them. At least that's what I've heard." The mommies were embarrassed, but some laughed nervously anyway.

At the end, Rex picked up the banjo and asked, "Do you want to hear some Dylan? Maybe a little 'Desolation Row?'" But, alas, instead we got to sing our ABCs in funny Texas accents and 'Wheels on the Bus,' after which Rex quipped that he hoped the bus driver doesn't encounter the new Dallas school superintendent on the road. Rex manages to keep everyone entertained by reading stories or leading the sing-alongs. Only a few children got fussy or threw tantrums. Most sang along with Rex, stomping, clapping, and repeating when requested. Though the jokes go over the children's heads, the mommies are entertained. More important is that they don't fuss either.

--Shannon Sutlief

"Rex-perience," a story-time for preschoolers featuring Rex Rasor, happens every Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Borders Books & Music, Preston and Royal Lane. Call (214) 363-1977.

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Shannon Sutlief