Saturday, October 31, 2015

Temps et durée chez l’enfant

[A re-post  for Halloween]

[This is the second note concerning temporal subjectivity in children.  The first can be consulted here.]

Today we are drenched in a frigid drizzle;  but the weather-front held off long enough that Hallowe’en night was perfect for trick-or-treating.   A procession of adorable but predictable  princesses and superheroes  trooped by -- past the pumpkin, past the penguin who greets all visitors to our door :  and then one costume  caught me up short.   It was a tall, pale, longitudinal sort of smooth something, with just an oval cut out for the child’s face.
            “Is that … a banana?” I inquired.
            She assured me that that was exactly what it was;  and that she was so attired, in attestation to the healthiness of fruits and vegetables.
            Silently blessing her in the back of my mind, I explained that the apparition had taken me aback, because it took me back -- back to that day in 1956, when our wonderful first-grade teacher, for reasons unexplained (or perhaps explained, but not understood;  or understood, but later forgotten, in the flood of facts and fantasies of all the later years of our lives), showed up dressed as a carrot.
            A giant carrot.  Orange.  Crunchy.   The most amazing vision I had ever seen.
            “Her name was Miss Fleming,” I added casually:  as though this Objective Correlative might ratify an anecdote otherwise stretching credulity.


And that, as with so many things  on a flat earth  in a grey life, would have been that;  save that she then spoke up -- evidently quite persuaded by my narrative -- and added this pertinent detail:
            I know Miss Fleming.”
            I stared at her, incredulous.   And did not mention, that the events referred to  lay a full half-century in the past.  And that, quite shortly thereafter,  “Miss Fleming” was, as such, no more, for she changed her name and station:  the memory of her wedding is with me yet. 
            “She’s a French teacher,” explained the banana.
            Charmed and amazed, I came back as best might be.  Eh bien, toi -- tu parles français?”
            She prettily mimicked regret.  “No-o… I don’t know French yet.”   Then added brightly, with a note of earnestness:  “Would you teach me French?”

Ah, ah! ma -- ma demi-demoiselle :  comme je le voudrais !  Les mots, les gestes, les métaphores -- tout, tout, je te donnerais, te léguerais, avec tout mon cœur battant !

These civilities past, I handed out the candy to the little clump of goblins and whatnot, who formed her entourage.   With that they withdrew, into the inviting, the enveloping night. 
A pang of regret at their going.
Yet then, from out of sight, a voice called back:  Au revoir !”

Ah dame oui, mais oui, j’espère, ma chère, chère demoisellette divine ! Peut-être cette nuit-même, dans nos rêves !!

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