Friday, January 27, 2017

Let the little children come

This week I keep encountering memorable children, from the irrepressible Randolph--the boisterous boy sucking on sugar cubes and stabbing ladies' dresses with his walking stick in Henry James's "Daisy Miller"--to the woodsy girl Sylvy in Sara Orne Jewett's "A White Heron," a shy creature who climbs a tall pine tree to seek knowledge but then pays a high price for keeping nature's secrets. My Creative Nonfiction class will soon contemplate another memorable child in Brian Doyle's delightful essay "The Wonder of the Look on Her Face" (click here), where an inquisitive child who loves to write reminds us of the importance of a really good pen and negates any excuses we may have for not writing.

But of all the children, real or imagined, that I've encountered this week, none has been more therapeutic than a very brief video my daughter posted on Facebook of my granddaughter making my grandson laugh. It's so simple you don't have to see it (which is good because I can't embed it in here anyway): he's sitting in the high chair and she ducks down and then pops up to say BOO, and he laughs his little head off while waving his arms ecstatically.

I could watch this all day long. It's certainly the best thing that's popped up in my Facebook feed all week, and it's good therapy: A laughing child will not solve any of the problems facing us these days, but a dose of joy helps counteract the caustic anger suffusing social media and public discourse.

Some days I want to be like Randolph, speaking my mind while boldly tearing into the social fabric; on other days I pursue Sylvy's quiet contemplation, despite the costs. Doyle's creative interlocutor makes me want to pick up a pen (and it doesn't even have to be a really good pen) and write with abandon, but at the end of a week when classes and committee meetings have pulled the plug on my store of energy, what I need is a healthy dose of glee. Today I'm grateful for the children in my life who bring me what I need. (Even if some of them are imaginary.)

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