Sunday, 25 May 2008
What amazed me is how differently they used the costumes than I had expected. Grandpa was worried that the guests might get into rows over who wore what. He need not have. What they did was take the costumes on and off, all except Little Stuff who chose the purple glittery one first off and stayed with it. I think that every kid, including the sister, had all the costumes on at one time or another. One little girl arrived in her own princess costume from last Hallowe'en and stayed with that. One was wearing a brand new party sundress and preferring to show it off, took her princess costume off after the photo op. The others tried pink and aqua and blue and green, helping each other with the velcro fasteners, and had a ball. They would swoop off to another activity (big brother's snake was a huge hit) and swoop back to the dresses.
This level of co-operation fascinated me. I am wondering if it happened because most of them go to the same daycare and kindergarten and are used to playing in that group. I am not familiar with how 'daycare' kids interact. The small herd of neighbourhood children that my girls inhabited worked rather differently – there would be one or more leaders and the others were assigned roles or parts or costumes or whatever. And if one of the others got offended, he or she stomped off home. This cannot happen in a daycare group, obviously, and I have to commend the teachers and ECE leaders who run the kindergarten/daycare that Little Stuff attends. I am sure I missed some of the nuances, as the party took place in shrill, high decibel French and I am, um, French language challenged, but I did not see any hurt feelings body language at all.
In fact, the body language was also very interesting. This group of little girls crowds together. They colour and do crafts touching one another. They gathered so tightly around Little Stuff when she was opening presents that her mom had to lean in over the top to remove the wrappings and opened gifts. They travelled from room to room holding hands. They hugged one another. They also sat quietly at the table to eat and almost nothing got spilled. Amazing!
Enough of Grama as social anthropologist. Except to say that it is a long time since I have been at a small child's birthday party. Thank goodness. Pictures to follow.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Thursday, 15 May 2008
And so I started thinking about memory forming my character and that of my daughters. And how I edit memory myself. The premise of the book is that we form memory in different ways at different ages, and that memory is stored and accessed in layers. One of the major things we do is to stretch memory to cover more than the original event – leading to, for instance, a clear memory that it was always sunny in the summer at the cottage. Or the conviction that your sister always got the first chance at something and you got second. These convictions shape your perception of reality as an adult – causing extra misery if your week of vacation is rainy or colouring your reaction to your sister's success. It is possible, according to Kotre to deconstruct these memories and influence how you react to things, although he is very sceptical about accessing childhood memories (regressing, I think is the term, but I took the book back to the library).
A lot of our childhood memories are, in fact, not ours but are picked up from the adults around us and incorporated as if they were real. We tell our children stories about themselves and they internalize these stories. Or, at least, my family did it that way. My grandmother and my mother told me stories about myself as a baby or a two year old or whatever. I can identify some of these stories as dramatizations when I think about them. Or at least as edited versions of an event that was probably a lot more shapeless when it took place. As an example, my mother would tell, repeatedly, a story about taking me to the House of Commons public gallery at the age of three and being embarrassed by my saying in clear and ringing tones 'there's the man who wore Daddy's pants' about an MP who was my father's friend, causing all the MP's to look up at the gallery. This story was supposed to illustrate my precocious command of clear speech and, I suppose, that I was an extroverted toddler. The tale has become part of my mental furniture. I have no clue how it really happened, but I think of myself as having been a confident and extroverted child.
I think we all do this to our children to some extent. My grandmother relied on her memory; my mother did much the same. When I do what my daughters call 'telling baby stories' I tend to pull out photograph albums to illustrate things, or I tell stories from the photographs. Because although my grandmother and my mother did have photographs, they were far fewer and mostly static poses. I have maybe half a dozen images of my mother as a little girl. I have more of myself in my first three years because my father was in the navy during WWII and the family sent him photographs; it was much more expensive, relatively, to take and develop photos in the '40's and '50's. Even in the '60's, colour photographs were an item that most people had to budget for. Today's disposable cameras and $.19 prints amaze me; even more astounding is the digital photograph revolution, making still and live photography available in quantity immediately. And so, where my mother relied on her memory, my daughter will have not only still photography but also video to discuss with her daughter.
And there is the mommy blog. Unless your mother kept a diary or a baby book, your stories, like mine, rely on the spoken word backed up with still photographs or even the occasional grainy 'home movie'. Mommy bloggers' children will have the stories preserved, in their original form, backed with copious illustrations in living and sometimes moving colour, put together as the event unfolded. You will probably still retell seminal stories to your children. But your blog will be there to give them a different look, a time frozen reference, to these stories. And to the woman who was telling them.
I wonder a lot about how that will unfold. I picture my granddaughter remembering, say, planting flowers with grama. And there will be the story, with photographs of her in her bug shirt lining up the plant pots. Not raw data, certainly. All of us necessarily edit the stories as we tell them, shaping them to fit the time and space we have to get the story down, emphasizing the point we want to make about what happened. Even bits of dialogue get edited for coherency or chosen to fit into the thought thread as it is spun out onto the page.
I wonder, as I write this, how my mother would have blogged about her day at the House of Commons with her daughter. Or how she felt about raising a child alone when her husband was out sailing around in a corvette in the North Atlantic, in constant danger. I have these stories as she told them recollected in tranquility and, I am sure, smoothed into a pleasing shape by time and repetition. I know that the stories I tell to my daughters are, in fact, partly constructions formed by time and retelling. The stories about Little Stuff, on the other hand, are immediate, although shaped. I almost wish I could live long enough to understand if there will be an appreciable difference.
I won't. When Little Stuff is, say, forty, I would be 101. I'm not hoping to be that old; don't much want to be, tell the truth. And so I write this blog, a message sent forward into the future with hope and love, and try my best to make it a true record, even though I know it can't be perfect, of who I am, what I think, and how we were together.
And I had better get myself back to the sewing machine and start on dress #6, green spangles and all. Tempus is fugiting.
Monday, 12 May 2008
The idea is that Little Stuff is getting all of these in a 'Dressing Up' box, since she is fixated on princesses just now. Her friends will wear them for the party and then the dresses will go back into the box. I hope this works, as I do not want her birthday party guests to be disappointed. They are getting their crowns to take home, plus loot bags, plus sceptres if the ED and I can find enough the same.
The 'Dressing Up' box is my idea -- my daughters had one and they loved it. I made dresses and other costumes, plus junk jewellery, scarves, hats, artificial flowers and whatever else they liked to put in. They and their friends had a wonderful time with it. I was talking with the YD about this on Sunday and she says she remembers it well, plus my making costumes for school plays and shows and Hallowe'en.
The dresses are not as fancy as they look because all the fabric except for two pieces came from the remnant room at a wonderful fabric store in the city and cost about $2.00 (Canadian) per metre. The trimmings are mostly wired floral arrangement ribbon. I figure the average cost per skirt and vest combo is around $9.00, adding in elastic and velcro. And it is very easy to do, especially since I am making the vests reversible and thus avoiding bias trim. I may spring for some custom frogging closures, if I run out of energy to make the bow fasteners.
The Painted Maypole organized a send up of personality tests as this week's Monday Mission. Hers is really, really funny. You can see it here. Her post got me thinking about personality and personality tests. There is one you can add to Facebook. I have done mine and each time I did it, it came out as something different. I am either an INFJ, (Sage) or an INTP (Theorist). I am both amused and bemused by this; some of the explications seem apt and others are just not anywhere near.
And so, who am I? In fact, if I think about it seriously, I really am not sure who I am. I am one person at home with the husband. I am quite another person when I am running a Board meeting. (Catch me telling JG that he's out of order -- not one snowball's chance in hell!) I am not the person I want to be -- who is, after all? I am not the person I was 25 or 50 years ago (and thank goodness for that!). I guess I should be happy that, whoever I am, people seem to like me and work with me. And I should get on with cutting out dress #5.
I have a flight of male goldfinches at the nyger feeder, glowing in the late afternoon sun. I have a wild turkey stomping around in the dead leaves in the little bush below the screen porch. The Canada Plum and the trillia (ums?) are blooming and there are two red ones in the patch beside the kitchen window. My bearded iris got planted this morning. The lilac are budded out. How I love spring, blackflies and all.
I should put in a post label called 'babbling on'.