Monday, August 14, 2006


Perhaps my outlook on life is too dour. The child and I were playing in my "nostalgia box" this evening. It is filled with an assortment of clutter—old birthday cards, my high school and college graduation caps, Cub Scout arm bands and neckerchiefs, crappy poems I wrote in 1988, and various toys. The child was intrigued by the toys, and, truth be told, so was I. Pretty soon we had various tops, a gyroscope, a miniature Slinky, and a magnifying glass scattered about the kitchen floor.

We used the magnifying glass to read the print on cards and look at the faces of action figures up close. We looked at each other's distorted eyes. We had three tops zipping about the floor, a gyroscope spinning upon my fingertip, and Slinky bouncing from one hand to another. Before I realize it we are flying green, red, and yellow paper airplanes around the dining room. The child then wanted to play with her Play-Doh. To the high chair! Red Play-Doh became a baby, bowl of pancakes, and spoon with which to feed the baby. Pancakes morphed into a bottle. Blue Play-Doh became a snake, which in turn became a stack of cookies and a frog head to feed them into. Yellow Play-Doh became a locomotive and boxcars, a tunnel turned into a rainbow. Boxcars became blocks. It was silly and organic and fluid. It was fun. It was unfettered.

Three days ago, the child saw the cover of the August 03-09 issue of local "newsweekly" The Stranger lying on the floor of our home library. It featured a painting by artist Gordon Wiebe. The piece is called Possible Ghosts, which is a "tree" of assembled, mostly earth-tone "ghosts" that is raining upon the ground beneath it. When I initially saw it, I thought it somewhat depressing with a miniscule glimpse of hope hidden somewhere within. When the child saw it, she was filled with joy. Perplexed, I asked her if the faces were happy, sad, or mad. She emphatically stated, "Happy," and proceeded to point out the faces that were the most happy. They were the faces with their mouths slightly more agape than the others.

When the child has insisted that she is happy, she drops her jaw as low as possible and forms her mouth into an exaggerated oval. Her face becomes distorted as though in rictus. I find the display rather absurd and disturbing, but she insists she is "happy." Much like some of the mouths in Possible Ghosts.

Two days ago, the child accompanies me to the barber. As we are waiting for my turn to get my hair cut, we begin to rummage through the shop's magazines and books for wee ones. Much to the delight of the child, we find a magazine on gorillas. Flipping through its pages, we come upon a picture of a young gorilla displaying the same face as the child's "happy" face. The child points at it and gleefully shouts, "Happy!" The title at the top of the page informs me that these are gorilla emotions. The caption below the picture that the finger of my child rests upon informs me that this is a display of gorilla happiness.

I found a new perspective on the world, thanks to the child, through Play-Doh, "possible ghost" paintings, and gorilla faces. Now, let's see if I can make it last for a short while.

[You really need to check out some of Gordon Wiebe's other works as well. They are not depressing at all, as I first thought. In fact, they are all infused with hope, something I was unable to see, but which the child immediately recognized. Hopefully, she can keep some of that awareness and sensitivity with her as she grows!]


Another story:
The child finds this small porcelain Chinese doll that I have, pictured above. She pulls it out of the box and announces, "Night-night. Baby. Baby, night-night." Sure enough, before me, in the child's hand, is a "baby" that is in the position that the child sleeps in: head down, arms pulled in, knees tucked under the belly, posterior pointing toward the ceiling or the night sky. It does appear that it is a baby going night-night. It is familiar to the child because it is her. A new perspective on an old item.

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