Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Life in Books: "Like Dolmens Round My Childhood, the Old People"

It's time once again, for a few true-life stories of kid-on-book action! See: the spines bent and splintered! See: the insistence of 300 repeat readings! See: the drool-stained pages!

Lately, my almost-two-year-old, Eleanor, has been going through an Identity Crisis.

Well . . . "crisis" is not the right word. Perhaps I should say "Identity Calm" or whatever the true opposite of "crisis" might be. Eleanor, in true toddler fashion, has been very firm and insistent on identifying herself as often and in as many ways as possible. When she catches a glimpse of her reflection, she says, "Nor-Nor." When she spots her be-strollered self on closed-circuit security television, she says, "Nor-Nor." And when her little shadow flits on the grass beside her? "Nor-Nor."

So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that my girl, this budding bibliophile, should find herself in all of the books she reads. She's identified herself as the bouncy toddler protagonist of Caroline Uff's Lulu's Busy Day, and also as the boy in Peter McCarty's quiet masterpiece Moon Plane.

The last few weeks, however, Eleanor has extended this book-identification to include her entire family. Especially when we are reading any kind of Mother Goose anthology. Eleanor is always Mary Mary Quite Contrary, or the good king's daughter in "Grey Goose and Gander." But my husband? He's Humpty Dumpty.

Yeah, Humpty Dumpty. Now, lest you immediately get the impression that Brian is a round, pale, bald guy, let me present a comparison. Here's Humpty:

And here's Brian:

Well . . . they're both in close proximity to a wall. Beyond that, I have NO IDEA why Eleanor thinks her Daddy is Humpty. (Although Daddy Humpty sounds like a great name for a rap star.)

And me? I'm always the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe:

Now, that might not seem such a stretch. The Shoe Lady is always pictured with a bunch of kids, so I can understand why she'd make the connection there. But Eleanor also makes sure to inform me that that I am also The Old Woman Tossed Up in a Basket:

When Eleanor made this little assertion, it hit me: she thinks I'm old. Mother-Goose-style old. That means being the kind of lady who wears a bonnet. And lives in non-traditional houses. Oldy-old-old. And to a two-year-old, that makes sense. I can't help but think of Paul Fleischman's poem, "Mayflies," when I think of a toddler regarding her ancient parents. "Your minute / Mayfly day / Your hour / Mayfly year." To her, someone capable of doing magical things like peeling a banana or turning on a night light must certainly be an Ancient Source of Cosmic Wisdom.

While my inner Narcissus is hurting, hurting over the comparison ("Noooooo! I'm only 29!!!) I can't help but be a little touched by this very real, honest perception of a child for her parents: as being something so safe, so strong, that they seem to have existed forever.

Like. . . sigh . . . Stonehenge.


K and M said...

That is so cute, Brooke. "Peeling a banana...ancient cosmic wisdom" - classic! Of course, you neglected to mention that both Brian and Humpty are wearing neckties (if Humpty can be said to have a neck). That might be another reason for the comparison. :)

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