Friday, January 06, 2006

The Three Year Old's Essential Library

The Tall Doctor and I actually went on a date Monday afternoon, for the first time since I really don't know whe, and there was much rejoicing. We saw the Narnia movie (hey, I have already confessed to nerdiness), and to my pleasure it looked pretty much as I'd always imagined Narnia to look, ever since my English professor father read me the books when I was, oh, small. It didn't look the way TTD had thought it would look because he had no thoughts: he's never read the books.

That's right, the Tall Doctor's childhood was seriously lacking in P. Rabbit and W. Pooh. Nobody went to Narnia; nobody visited Middle Earth. The Wind never blew in the Willows, the Swan never Trumpeted, and no Stories were Just So. (Beloved, HAVE you forgotten the suspenders?) Alice didn't fall down any rabbit holes, Dorothy didn't head off to see any Wizards, and Five Children definitely never met It. In The Tall Doctor's household, there were seven children, two parents, eighty cows, a dog, some chickens, and about thirty cats, but no fantasy.

I try to remember this sometimes when I'm talking to him, but I find it hard to imagine life without, well, imagination. I mean, not that he's short on the facility itself, but unlike me, he grew up without a huge cast of characters dancing in his head like sugarplums, or vistas of distant lands beckoning for visits. And I just can't, well, imagine that. I cannot remember a time when I didn't have the sense that alternate worlds were available for the imagining (and are the voices in my head bothering you?) I cannot understand how anyone gets through school without taking refuge in long, luxurious flights of fancy during algebra class. As long as I can remember, I've had several different scripts of ongoing adventures running in my head, and it all began with Beatrix Potter.

So seeing Narnia was most satisfying to me--and the White Witch just rocked; what a performance! She ought to get an Oscar just for her beautiful swordwork while wearing a chain mail dress--but seeing The Tall Doctor see it was even better. I knew the ending; for me, the whole film was a series of recognitions. But for him, it was a series of discoveries, and all was new.

I thought about this the next day as I watched my father reading The Tale of Mrs. Tiggywinkle to The Rabbit, who spent most of his Christmas tucked beneath his grandfather's arm listening to just such stories. ("Christopher Robin goes hoppity hoppity hoppity hoppity hop/Whenever I tell him politely to stop it he says he can't possibly stop"). Because sometimes (OK, usually) in the midst of all the spectacular midnight vomiting sessions, public tantrums, shrieking in the library, pooping in the tub and refusals to go to bed, I forget that for every ounce of dewy youthful freshness the Rabbit and the Urplet have sucked out of me, they have injected an ounce of remembered wonder. They have refurbished my imagination--when they haven't KO'd it by staying up all night--and when I'm in my right mind, I take great joy in this. In fact, it feels as good as watching the Pevensie children trek through a snowy landscape in their fur coats. It feels as good as opening a beloved book for the first time in a very long time.


Anonymous MFA Mama said... husband has never read most of the "classics" either (he has a learning disability, actually a couple of them, and just DOES NOT READ), and I can really relate. Although as to the wonder part from the, talk to me when all three don't have rotavirus. LOL!

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Marina said...

yes, yes and yes. Santa brought Henry the _My Father's Dragon_ books for CHristmas (and of course HAnnukah, since Santa does double duty at our house... sigh) and it has been so excellent to read chapter books with the big boy. I am married to someone who, though he didn't read *all* the fantasy books I read (e.g. those you mentioned plus many you didn't, though I happen to know personally that you've read most of them) is one of the few males of the species who actually has read ALL the Little House books and remembers them fondly. And he makes a mean pannetone too. (What a guy!!)

Wishing that our boys were closer geographically so we could have sleepovers and read with all of them simultaneously,
aka Marina

7:27 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

I have to say, one of the pleasures of being married to the Renaissance Woman is that she's read many of the same children's books I have, and many more that I'd never read before she introduced me to them.

However, she had NEVER read "A Little Princess," and didn't think much of it when I pressed it upon her. (And she has not to this day been able to get through "Little Women." I think she thinks it's kind of tedious and moralistic. Might be one of those things you have to come to at the right age.)

And we both derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from foisting our literary tastes upon the Mermaid Girl.

p.s. my verification word is "cqlwuibi", which I translate as "cool we be." For having a taste for kids' fantasy fiction, maybe?

8:51 PM  

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