Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Everything seems funny

I am traveling on a bus up Madison Avenue today at
3:30 watching little girls in private school
uniforms get on the buses with their moms.
The moms look so terribly preoccupied.

I hear one playing ISPY and I begin to imagine:
Little girl: I spy something yellow with the word taxi on it.
Mom: I spy a migraine.
Little girl: I spy a tall building.
Mom: I spy an exhausting evening ahead in
which I don't want to be doing this with my child.

It's sad.
And I hear the mom ask:
What did you do in school today?
And the little girl says: Nothing.
And the mom says: Nothing again?
And I think to myself: Don't you even know how
to ask a question? You have to be specific with
children or else they say: Nothing!
I just wonder
about these East Side families who seem to wear this incredible
wealth like someone else would wear a raincoat or an umbrella.
It's not just in what they have, it's who they are, it's how
they see the world and the rest of us in it.
Everyone on the East Side is not like this, but there
is a species of private school child with a mother dressed
up for the Junior League that curdles my milk.
Maybe this is how they were raised? Who knows?
Maybe I am just jealous. That's probably it.

Anyway, I started to imagine the interchange
between mom and girl as a Saturday Night Live skit and I
was cracking up. The contrast between what each of them "spies"
would make it clear that they weren't both thinking about the same things.
Not at all!

I met the wonderful author Patty Lakin today. She lives on the
block where Henry goes to school and showed me some of the
books she is planning to read during Everybody Reads Week at PS87.
The stories of her involvement with that block over the years
is the stuff of classic socially forward thinking children's book writing.
I can't wait for her to share her memories and experiences with the kids and
to talk about the books in Henry's school.

In other news, Gus has read the Sherman Alexie book: The Absolutely True
Diary of a Part-Time Indian
as well as Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963
by the awesome Christopher Paul Curtis. I mentioned he has been into realistic fiction, and these are great, great examples. Henry and I read Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins--which is perfect to read to kindergarteners and first graders who
truly believe their toys have lives of their own. It's scrumptious. The next book for his book club is Stuart Little. That will be fun to re-read. It's only been about thirty years since I have read it!

Gus is always trying to get Henry to read. He loves playing the role of older, wiser brother. Luckily Henry does love to read. On his Mothers Day list of top ten things about his mother, the book he mentioned I read to him was Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton Trent by Lauren Child. If you haven't read this one, order it. It's just the most delighful and cheeky picture book ever. It's about a boy who discovers that his fabulously rich parents aren't so rich after all. But the details are the greatest! Their house is so big that the hot chocolate turns cold by the time he reaches their room.

This makes me want to go back to reading the book my friend Vincent told me about: Don't Tell the children: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature by Alison Lurie. It reminds us that children love and need to feel like they have their own secret little worlds away from parents. This is also why the Pigeon books by Mo Willems are so loved by children. It's all about what you can try and get away with when your parents are standing around somewhere else being clueless!