Monday, November 23, 2009


We have a magnet of Botticelli's Venus on our fridge as well as a magnet of Michaelangelo's David. Both are the kind where the characters come with removable magnet clothes. Both are conveniently nude; but who doesn't want to see our favorite Biblical hero wearing a motorcycle jacket, or the Goddess of Love in a plaid sundress and hiking boots? I love the city of Florence and both of these masterpieces are exquisite in person; however there's just something about punishing the entire male gender by making David prance about in just his tightie whities that I've never outgrown.

E says, as she so often does, tell me a story, Mama. A hundred times I've told her the story of David and Goliath; a hundred times I've told her about how Venus rode the sea breezes to land to be born. She knows the stories so well that I have my rote dialogue and she has her rote responses. I say, "and the mean giant never, ever was able to bother the people again" and she says Oh, yes he will! When I ask you to tell me the story again tomorrow! I say "and you remember what the whole painting looks like, I've shown you the picture of it, that's why she's standing on the shell like that, that's why the faces are blowing her towards land." And she adds, and Venus was the Goddess in charge of Love.

The time-defying linkages of narrative are strong in her blood. I tell her the stories of her birth, of her Jewish heritage, of Roman gods first spun thousands of years ago, and in them she finds herself. She find me, she finds her sister, and she finds her place in the anchors of the past and the uncertainty of today. And that is why we tell stories again and again.

But ask her to tell you the story of Venus, and she'll tell you that Venus was friends with David. They live side-by-side on our fridge and they've been known to swap sweaters on cold nights. Of course they can't come from separate historiologies. Love makes us strong, we've told her, and thus she has come to the inaccurate but comforting conclusion that the reason Venus needed to be born and blown to land was to give strength to David in his battle. Friends help each other, obviously, and three-year-olds are not to be argued with.

She sees the world and her past the past of all of us in the stories we color for her behind her eyes. So with every why and but how and but what about? I'll make words scatter and rearrange like jumping beans until I've told a story that she'll hold on to, and I can remember, and satisfies both our curiosities for one more day.


My latest Nursery Rhyme Expounded is up at Simple Kids today. Do you remember B-I-N-G-O? Bingo was his name-o? Did your kid ever ask you why we can't just say his name to remember it, why do we have to spell it so much? Parenting, it seems in my world at least, is about 5% quick acting and 95% quick thinking. And thus I scrambled to create The True Story of B-I-N-G-O. I hope you enjoy it. Pin It