September 16, 2008

Of interest

Elliot thinks a lot about this picture.

As you can see, it is a picture of a lion who is crying. What you cannot see is the small girl, standing on the other page, "raaahhring!" at the lion, pleased at herself because she is not scared of the huge animal. She says, "I like me wild, I like me tame/I like me different and the same!"

This girl and lion live in a very good book called I Like Myself, and I would include more details about it except that the only part of the book that occupies Elliot's attention is this picture. He thinks about it so much that he has torn it out ("broken!") and sometimes carries it around to talk about.

"Lion scared. Lion crying. Water. Tear. From Eye."

Out of no where he mentions this lion. "Lion? Lion crying?" and trots off to find the picture. He points to the tear. "Tear. Lion sad."

When I was very small I broke my elbow very badly, right in the midst of the growth center. I had to have surgery, and be in traction, and it was apparently very awful for everyone involved; happily, I was too small to remember. When I was old enough to talk about the large scar on my arm, I claimed that a lion had bitten me, and to punish him I had carried him across the desert and buried him alive for seven years. (I'm not making this up.)   After seven years (so my story went; I was younger than seven myself) I dug him up and we became friends. My mom told me recently that it was only after we had learned that my arm would grow normally (at first the surgeon anticipated a "permanent deformity" that would require multiple surgeries) that I added the part of the story about the digging up and the forgiveness. 

When I told my story about my lion, I was imagining my own small self mastering a dangerous beast. I was a bit like the wild girl (not pictured above) laughing as the lion cried.

But Elliot seems actually a little worried about that lion.  Maybe it's something like empathy.  Or maybe it's him realizing something a little disturbing about the world itself.  Why would this this powerful animal be "crying?  scared?  tears?".  Something might be really wrong here.   Elliot, I think, wonders if he and the lion are different or the same.  (He imitates lion noises, too, saying, "I'm like a lion!  Rahhr!"  Other times he says "I'm scared [of?] the lion.]")

I'm glad to see something like compassion in my small son, but it pains me, sometimes, to watch him worry;  it tempts me, sometimes, to take this dangerous lion to the desert and bury him, too.


Roxanne said...

I LOVe this post, what a creative kid you were (no suprises of course) and this picture makes me have empathy and wonderful joy all at the same time, a big strong lion can cry. Tell Mr. E that Anni says Lion in Kiswahili is simba!

Beck said...

This was a beautiful post. it's hard sometimes to figure out why children seize onto something, what things mean to them, isn't it?