06 Apr The Legend of The Croc
By, Heather Chaet. One-time Montclare mom, writer…new yorker…worrier…wife…lover of lists…overuser of the ellipsis…shall I go on?
You know him, don’t you? He can be found on everything from tote bags to envelopes. He’s the Montclare mascot – and has been for a long, long time now. But perhaps what you don’t know is how Croc became the Montclare Croc. Like most things in Life, when we don’t know something, we just need to ask. Whether the question is why the sky is blue (molecules scatter blue light from the sun more than red light) or how fast a hummingbird’s wing flaps (up to 100 flaps per second), if you don’t know, all you have to do is ask.
So, how did Croc end up as the Montclare mascot? I’ll tell you. One day, many years ago, Winter arrived in New York City. Like a cocoa-jazzed, sugar-filled snowflake, Winter zoomed along the festive windows on Fifth Avenue, flew over Rockefeller Center, and skated by bundled holiday shoppers on Broadway. On that day, Winter danced right over Croc’s red beret, grabbed his hand, and pulled him along the Upper West Side. Croc had just arrived in New York City, and he was quite surprised to feel Winter nudging him toward 747 Amsterdam Avenue. Croc stopped in front of the old bank building. Something made him wonder if this was the place, since Croc had been looking a long time for a place where he might belong.
Like most things in Life, figuring out where you belong takes time. Whether it is perfecting a spectacular shoe-tying technique, or mastering the art of whistling a happy tune (without being hugely annoying to your little sister), or figuring out how exactly to reach on the tippiest of toes for that box of Vanilla Wafers (that your Mom always hides on the second shelf, just beyond your grasp), finding where you belong in this grand world takes:
- Oodles of time.
- Piles of patience.
- Heaps of hard work.
- And a tiny lick of luck.
No one knew this more than Croc. With his lovely shade of shamrock green and slightly mischievous grin (with two teasing teeth), Croc had been searching for a long, long, long (quite long) time to find exactly where he belonged. Croc’s first dream had been to be a banker, but he soon discovered that it was very hard for crocodiles to work in banking (something to do with his tail always knocking over papers and such). Though Croc, like all crocodiles, had many talents, he knew he wanted to do something that he loved to do, and so Croc traveled all over the globe, in search of a place where he could do things he loved.
He “sweeped” on the Olympic curling team in Canada, He massaged 1,143 achy shoulders in Sweden, and he designed shorts in Bermuda. All of that was fine, and fun, but no matter where he went, Croc felt that something was missing: he still hadn’t found something that he really, truly, LOVED to do. One day, Croc decided to visit France. Oui, oui! With his red beret perched atop his head, slightly askew, he sat at a café and nibbled on his favorite thing to eat: banana-and-chocolate-filled crepes. “I love these so much,” he thought, “Maybe I belong in a kitchen making these, all day, every day!” So, Croc studied and practiced the fine art of making banana-and-chocolate-filled crepes, and finally, one day, he became the best crepe-making crocodile in the world (okay, there weren’t that many other crepe-making crocodiles, banana-and-chocolate-filled or otherwise, though there was a crepe-making muskrat in Finland famous for her crab and mushroom concoctions…but I digress).
The scent of Croc’s tasty treats tangoed by the Arch de Triomphe, sailed over the Eiffel Tower, and settled by the Louvre. His banana-and-chocolate-filled crepes made people (and their full tummies) very happy. Croc was proud of himself. He had found something he loved to do, and he had worked hard to learn how to do it…and he did it!!! BUT something was still missing. Croc realized that he still hadn’t found home. So France was not where he belonged. Someone (Croc couldn’t recall who — the cheese-making alpaca? The croissant-baking kookaburra?), yes, someone had told him that everybody feels at home in New York City. And off he went to check out this wonderous city.
So, here we are, back where we started this story (remember, Croc standing in front of old bank building at 747 Amsterdam Avenue? It was Winter? He wore a red beret?). Croc stared at the building and wondered why Winter had led him here of all places. “Hmm…,” he thought, “I did want to be a banker once.” Then Croc thought some more, and some more, and a wee bit more, and finally said, “Well, I have tried many places, why not try this one too?”
As Croc reached the top of the stairs, he suddenly realized that he was not in a bank. Far from it. A river of laughter flowed through the hallway, whirling around little shoes, and finally puddling by the fish tank. A flock of giggles fluttered on the ceiling, swooped along the walls with artwork, and plopped onto the gym floor. A herd of smiles rumbled from the roof, tumbled over tiny chairs, and wuffed Croc right in the nose. “A school!!!” thought Croc, “I’m in a school!” The laughter, the giggles, and the smiles snuggled right inside Croc’s heart. And Croc finally, finally knew that he had found the place where he belonged, and that place was Montclare Children’s School.
How? How did he know, you ask? Believe you me, I asked the same question too. Like most things in Life, there are somethings you just can’t describe with words; things you just know. Whether it’s how you feel when you are cuddled just-so next to your Dad on the couch, or when you’ve had the most miserablest of miserable days, and your Mom makes you your favorite spaghetti with hot dog chunks for dinner, or when your belly starts to laugh, because you see your Grandma laughing in the kitchen, but you don’t know why your belly is laughing…at those moments, you know that you are home, that you are where you belong. There are no words to describe it, you just know.
And Croc just knew that home for him was where he could be with children, listen to children, and be filled with joy. He had suddenly realized the joy that only comes from being around children. Yes, he knew, without a doubt, that his home was Montclare.
And so, that’s the story of how Croc came to 747 Amsterdam Avenue and decided to stay. In no time, his picture started appearing on memos, t-shirts and BPA-free water bottles…and now, years since that first day of Winter, his grin is absolutely everywhere. Croc is the Montclare mascot.
Has anyone seen him? Where does he live? Well, he has been known to pop up at picnics to welcome students to the new school year, but often, Croc just stays in his cozy abode behind the clock. You know, the clock! The old, big bank clock in (where else) the Clock Room on the second floor — it keeps him close to the action, yet not in the way, and always on time.
So, if you happen to be in the halls of Montclare, listen very carefully…you may hear the oh-so-faint echo of “Crocodile Rock” (his favorite song). And you know that slightly sweet smell that tickles your nose as you walk around the school? Banana-and-chocolate-filled crepes, of course.
Croc still makes them every day for breakfast.
Author’s note — Illustrator and Art Teacher Bernard Adnet (Draw Me a Croc) who is the “father” of Croc, gave me three important tidbits about his creation:
- Croc is a big fan of Elton John
- He speaks English and French
- He is a vegetarian.
From those nuggets, the “Legend of Croc” was born.