Sunday, June 14, 2009

They know more than we do...

It's a typical drive home from Los Feliz after a night evening with my sister- and brother-in-law. The baby's already asleep in the back and Brett Dennen is on the player. My son is chiming on about this or that mostly involving crashing of some sort. If he were a teenager you might be worried about his constant referrals to crunching and crashing, but he's five and it's funny.

Then things come up most notably how Stefanie and Luke have this love-hate relationship of late. They are modern day "Archie and Edith". Similar to an old married couple. He refuses to brush his teeth when asked or make his bed or pick up his things. At the heart of his rebellion is his free-spirited nature, and that he wants to do it on his own terms. His hard-headed, stubborn existence can be attributed to the fact that a fair bit of his being is German. That should explain most of it, but another element is that he just likes to aggravate his mother. The arguments are entertaining no doubt. And then they are found snuggling 10 minutes later.

Other than the discussion of the daily ritual of arguments we were having a conversation about movies. Somehow the word "documentary" came up and somehow in some way the five-year-old in the back who was a second ago blabbing random noises, uses the word in a sentence in the right context as if he was listening to the conversation we were having in the front. I froze, turned down the music, and inquired about his sudden fascination with documentary. "How do know what a documentary is?" I ask. "I just do, hello!" says he. Kids say words they hear others say the word but have no idea what the word means and you brush it off as they are just repeating. "Okay, what's a documentary?" I chirp. "It's a movie about real people," he says. At that moment I turned the music back up, looked ahead, took a gulp and marveled in my head about the simplicity of his definition.

Later that evening it was story time and then bed. Tonight's feature was "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. A classic. A quick read. At the end based on the earlier exchange on the drive home, I ask him questions about the book. "Why did the man cut down the tree?" I ask. "Because he needed it to get away," says Luke. "But he cut down the tree. Did the man not like the tree?" "He loves the tree," he says. "Why did he come back to the tree?" I ask. "Because he loves the tree. Duh!"

Once again I was stopped in my tracks. Adults could go on about the meaning of "The Giving Tree" and give analogies and childhood or adult examples, but a five-year-old boy could sum up the situation and message in simple terms that says so much. In its simplicity is complexity. In its complexity is a general understanding of what it is... a timeless story no more than what may be 250 words.

Eventually, the five-year-old will give in to the complexity, lose the innocence, simplicity and instinct that defined "Documentary" and the meaning of "The Giving Tree." For now he has his crazy imagination, his uninhibited attack on life. It's funny, frustrating, fruitful and will remain deep in his being, this I am certain. This kid is an old soul and my guess is that he will tap this wonder from time to time as he gets older.