Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Little Prince.

When I was in high school, I was introduced to a book that changed my life....The Little Prince...by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  I read it in French class, and I think my French teacher...aka "Madame"...cried every day that we read it.  Now that I think about it...I think all the girls in the class cried, too.

Now that I am "grown up" with kids of my own...I can often relate to The Little Prince...and I wonder if my kids get frustrated with me.  

The book begins like this:

"Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.

In the book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion."

I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing. My Drawing Number One. It looked something like this:

I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them.

But they answered: "Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?"

My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of a boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained. My Drawing Number Two looked like this:

The grown-ups' response, this time, was to advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa constrictors, whether from the inside or the outside, and devote myself instead to geography, history, arithmetic, and grammar. That is why, at the age of six, I gave up what might have been a magnificent career as a painter. I had been disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."

Well today, Jackson and I lived out a "Little Prince" moment.  He was doing homework for his kindergarten class.  (Yes...I know....first day of school pics will be posted soon!)  He was working on the letter "M."  The last part of the assignment was to draw things that begin with M.  He drew a monkey, some meatballs, milk, a map....and Mars.  Yes, the red planet.  He grabbed a red crayon and drew a circle.  (I was so proud.) Then he drew black squiggles around the edge of the red circle.

"Jackson," I asked, "I see that you made Mars red...but what are all the black things??"  (Of course...to me it looked like a flower...but I wasn't about to tell him that.)

Jackson quite seriously replied, "Well, Mommy, those are all the holes on Mars.  You know....where all the aliens live!"

Once again I'm saddened by reality....I'm all grown up and I've lost my childhood imagination.  Thank goodness I have children to remind me what is really important in life...and to remind me how innocently our journey begins.

Saint-Exupery, Antoine (1943).  The Little Prince.  New York, NY:  Harcourt.  Retrieved from http://www.angelfire.com/hi/littleprince/frames.html

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