29 October 2011

Let's Pretend, Baby, Because the Revolution Outside Needs Our Magical Minds

"One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry"

I recite these words at least once a day, sometimes five or six. Bruce Degan's children's book "Jamberry" has been a longtime favorite. It was the first board book I bought the baby when he was just a few months old and already showed an unusually obsessive love for the books on the bookshelves throughout our house. It was a defining moment as a new mother, as a writer, and as a lover of books. It didn't matter that he wouldn't know the words until months later, I brought "Jamberry" home and read it through to the "berry" end while the baby shifted in my arms, still a newborn, still so far from words.

We just celebrated the first year with our son. And at this marker in his young life, I can say the babe's love of books has only grown into more of an obsession than I thought possible. We've blockaded the shelves for the first few feet up with end-tables, baby gates, and toy boxes so he cannot reach the treasured collection I've amassed over my lifetime. He points eagerly up at the volumes and tries to make the words that he now understands but cannot speak: "I want!" Once a day, at least, I pick him up, pull us close to the shelves and let him touch the bindings with an outstretched pointed finger. We're just close enough for him to touch, but not grab and pull. The tiny thing caresses the titles and lets out a little hiss of breath that simultaneously means "I made it" and "What magic!"

And I couldn't agree more, my son.

His desire for books, now that I can read board books and picture books to him and he understands the words, is insatiable. We read "Caps for Sale" "Good Night Moon" and "Hello Baby!" as frequently as we read "Jamberry" and sometimes it's all in one sitting, one after the other, after the other, and then repeat! Did I ever guess I might start to grow tired of reading? Not really, but these days, I am surprised to hear myself say, "let's do something else, let's not read books right now" and I am simultaneously so proud of this little child of mine, and so exhausted from reading the same lines over and over that he's grown to cherish.

What follows a new understanding of the words on the page? Imagination and pretend.

Within a week of turning one, this boy astounded me when he reached out to the page where a little boy and a bear tumble in a wonderfully imagined world of berries and dancing animals, and from the pictured bounty of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, my smiling son plucked an imaginary juicy sample and brought it to his mouth and made a smacking-lipped tasting sound with his lips and tongue. I was shocked and brought to a few joyous tears at witnessing my son's first display of pretending!

I immediately followed suite and took my own berry or two and "mmmm" "yum!" tasted the sweetness of that moment and laughed as he repeated and copied my "mmmm" sound. I was a proud momma that day.

These days, I am wrapped up in my jobs teaching young adults how to navigate their lives and educate themselves, and helping a local cafe kitchen run smoothly. Between everything, I am trying to stay engaged and aware of a growing movement of change on our streets where my fellow citizens are pushing up against the walls of a system that has somehow lost it's imagination and ability to honor the integrity of a life that allows someone to feed more than just their bank accounts, their cars, or their greed. I am witnessing a newly imagined system of inclusion and speaking where the one, and then the many, are heard.

I am honored to witness this revolution.

Whatever one might think of this wave of protest and call for action, it cannot be denied there is a new united voice out there in the streets and it calls for justice on a most basic human level, without discrimination, without waiver, and without a motive of greed or partisanship.

For the first time in my lifetime, I can say I see a horizon of real change coming, and my son can one day know change is possible when people gather, use their voice and hold the shameless and corrupt corporations accountable by those they use, abuse and strive to silence.

My last thought here is of the ballot envelope that sits on my desk along with the Voter's Pamphlet.

People, the system may be flawed, may be unrepresentative of you, may be corrupt, may be disenchanting. It is darn near without imagination or innovation these days. Yet it is the system we have to work within right now, and until this changes, as it will, we must use it to our advantage and exercise our right to vote. While many rights are being challenged, and are at great risk in the streets and in the halls of justice as I write, I think the message of the occupiers remains a very loud: TAKE BACK YOUR RIGHTS and ENGAGE IN YOUR DEMOCRACY!!

So please, please take the few minutes it takes to educate yourselves on the issues on the ballot and vote, vote, vote. I know it's a bit cliche to bring this up, but it's anything but cliche for those who have lost their lives and loved ones: people outside of the U.S. are risking their lives to cast one vote, sometimes the first vote in their adult lifetime.

The baby stirs. Until next time, keep imagining, keep aware, seek out the truth, and be safe! ~AD.


karie jane said...

You are magic Analee. You inspire the mother in me.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog entry, Annalee!

Love, your friend, Dan Merwin

James Frase-White said...

Ah, as a reading teacher, your words embody what I do for a living! Taht is what it is all about; Enzo is a lucky lad!

Erin Schantz-Hilton said...

Your little one couldn't ask for a better Mom. He inspires such passion in you-- what a joy it is to read you, Annalee!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the latest post, I loved it. I have to say, good night pigeon is one of my favorite books, you should check it out. Hope you're well.