Thursday, March 26, 2009

Anna in Wonderland

So why did I become a teacher? That’s a question that has been asked many times, both by my friends and family and by my own mind when the days just don’t seem to work. There is an identified movement call GRUPS, or grown ups who refuse to grow up. You can find a pretty entertaining article here:

This article talks about people holding on to what was dear to them in childhood or adolescence and bringing it with them to their adulthood. The foregoing of penny loafers for their worn out Chuck Taylors, or the collecting of graphic novels (read = comics) and their love of collectible figurines (read = expensive toys). We have several friends who have decided to use this hobby and refusal to grow up as a way to decorate. It’s as if Tom Hank’s character in “BIG” actually got an apartment and never turned on HGTV.

So let’s get back to my decision to teach. I love the element of play. I love the element of fantasy, and I love to be able to share that on a regular basis. I have accepted growing up, and even though I didn’t own a suit until I was over 40, I can adapt and acculturate to the big scary adult world of responsibilities and mortgages. Teaching, especially teaching art allows me the chance to jump back into all that was wonderful about my childhood and adolescence. The world of art is an illusion, brought to our attention by the various artists we study and mimic, and it’s a wonderful world for sure. I tend to skip over the Realists when we reach that part of the text and instead focus on the advent of photography. Sure, the Realists have their place in the art canon, but it’s the stuff done by the early photographers that really blows me away.

One of first people to use photography as a way to tell stories and involve fantasy was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known to the world as Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice in Wonderland” and the father of nonsensicle literature. Dodgson’s images, in some minds controversial in nature, all presented a world of enchantment and delight. A rocking horse becomes a gallant steed for a young knight with a paper hat and an animal skin rug becomes a ferocious dragon menacing a young princess.

Lewis’ book also inspired one of my most beloved piece of art, the Alice Sculpture in Central Park in New York City. I remember watching Sesame Street as a young child and recall seeing Big Bird and his minions frolocking around the artwork. I also remember being blown away by the fact that you could actually climb on the piece and not be yelled at by some grouchy guard or parent. As I grew up, and began taking yearly trips to NYC, the Alice sculpture was tops of my list for “must see” attractions. For most of my life, I had seen art that invited you to passively look at it and marvel in its arty-ness. The Toledo Museum of Art has a great Henry Moore sculpture made of bronze that looks like a giant, mis-shapen potatoe. The shape is open and hollow, a tube of sorts, with a few portholes dotting its surface. The piece used to be near the basement entrance, and I recall my brother diving into the piece to crawl around its interior. A guard came and tsk tsk’d us and sent us on our way. But the Alice sculpture is different. You can climb as high as you want, perching and resting against your favorite character to relax in the sun. The surface of the sculpture gleams in the sunlight, even though it is exposed to the elements 24/7. The countless number of visitors each day polish and buff the work and keep it looking brand new.

And just like my chosen career, there are those who question me as to why I became a parent. Why did you decide at 40 something to do this? Was it a mid life crisis? What are you trying to prove? So why did I become a parent? For the same reason I went into teaching. I have much to share in my life. My love, my humor, my abilitiy to cook, my flawless taste in music. So why not share it with my own child? I was already hooked on SpongeBob and other cartoons, why not watch them with someone who might not get all the jokes but still laughs anyway? Why not stop my cable news addiction for something that really matters like a good ol’ cat whooping on Tom and Jerry. Why not step away from Rachael Ray and mellow out with a simple Little Bear toon on Noggin.

Being a parent allows me the chance to play and to have fun with my child. I can run around the park with Anna and roll down the small hill and no one would bat an eye. Do it on my own, and 911 would be called. I can sled with her down the big hills at Ella Sharp Park and drive by the kids sledding down the REALLY big hills at the Cascades and I can tell her that next year we’ll be big enough to do that. I can reread my favorite books as a child with fresh eyes and ask the eternal toddler question of “Why?” with each passing page. I can get excited about Christmas again and rediscover the magic that had passed. I can tell silly stories and perpetuate truths that only a child would believe (the menace of the freeway monkeys, better lock your doors of they’ll climb in the car and tickle you) and stuff like that.

Am I trapped in childhood? Maybe, but only my therapist would know that for sure. I do know that I am happily imprisoned in a world of fantasy and silliness and that my daughter loves being there with me. As we head to NYC this week for spring break, I will hold my breath with anticipation as we enter the east side of Central Park off of 74th street and we head towards the most awesome tea party in the world.

Miss Alice, please meet Miss Anna.

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