Friday, July 17, 2009

Do Children Still Learn Nursery Rhymes?

Typing on the desk we had here, with no key tray, made my shoulder very unhappy, and it passed the favor along. We had an unsettling evening where I couldn’t move my arm voluntarily in some directions for about 20 minutes, while Michael manipulated it until it loosened up again. Since what we do is fix things, we fixed it: we replaced the desk and redoubled the PT exercises assigned for this time. Looking around, pricing things, buying just the right desk, getting it home, assembled and set up took a few days, during which I let my arm rest. It’s still pretty sore in the shoulder, so we’re hoping the key tray helps. After today’s walk and breakfast, we’ll find out. As icing to the fixing-cake, we gave the old desk to the upstairs neighbors who have been so difficult this year. They were surprised since things have been a bit tense, and all indications are that we’re seeing a sea change in relations. It’s so nice to have real-world applications of all that social psychology I read for work.

Our walks are interesting, since they contrast so sharply with walks at home. We mostly walk in parks at home (or on the treadmill, but that’s not the point here, so never mind), though occasionally around the neighborhood. I think sometimes about what someone from a city like this one must think walking in a flat midwestern town like Urbana, where most streets are on grids, have big yards, few fences and have a general feeling of openness. Here, part of the pleasure of walking is to be able to get more of a glimpse of life through fences and hedges than it’s possible to get from a car: virtually every house and building is secluded behind walls and vegetation, and as this is very hilly territory, every road curves and goes up and down: think Grace Kelly on the roads in To Catch a Thief.

Taking a break from writing here for a few days got me to wondering about why I’m still posting here every few days, when the original intent was to write about the diagnosis, surgery and recovery. Sure, the recovery is still underway and comes up with regularity, but little of what’s here these days is actually centered on those issues. Coincidental with the pause in writing while my shoulder recuperated a bit, I got email from out of the blue from someone I know distantly who made a comment rooted in long-term reading here. It jolted me a little, again causing me to reassess what this is all about. I’ve always known this was a public place, though it felt fairly sheltered--like the gardens and houses here--because the community of steady readers who communicate with me regularly feels relatively intimate and close. The few serendipitous visitors who find their way here through keyword searches feel like comrades in arms, in a way, with the commonality of the odd experience of brain surgery. While there’s a fair amount of information about us here--and pictures! someone exclaimed not too long ago--we’ve exercised reasonable care and at least thought about most of what’s appeared.

Reflecting on these questions brought several motives to the surface: writing regularly still helps me process what’s been a strange experience. The re-connection with the community of friends who read and comment has been a lifeline for us. We wouldn’t trade that for anything. At root, though, is a thought that floated to the surface slowly and reluctantly. My mother died when I was twelve and I never knew her as an adult. Especially at the beginning when the outcome had question marks around it, there was an urgent need to leave some record of what I was thinking and who I am for our girls. I’m not sure I ever directly acknowledged this to myself or anyone else. Of course, I’ve been writing to them for years. When Kearney went off at what felt like a young age with such great courage to Greece, we wrote to her pretty much every day that year and in her early years of college. Similarly, we’ve written, if not every day, regularly, to both girls while they were away at camp. So it’s not like they haven’t got something left behind, and by now, we hope and believe their foundations to be pretty solid. Still, apparently I worry about this, and it’s part of what stimulates this strange combination of diary, soapbox and exploration of recovering from head surgery. Learn something new every day.

We’ve continued listening to the series of books we started in the car on the way back from Sonya’s and are much enjoying it, despite its intended audience of people considerably younger than we. It’s well written and listening connects us to the years when all of us listened to the Harry Potter books, one summer after another, here together. The author is British, so there isn’t any condescension and the reader (except for the second book in the series where they deviated for some reason) does a nice job. Set in an earlier Europe, it’s another nice lens through which to process differences here.

Thinking about listening with the girls, their summer birthdays, times gone by and looking at pictures of their earlier years got me to thinking about nursery rhymes, which I heard throughout my childhood and many of which we passed along. Do children still learn nursery rhymes? Thinking through the kids I know, they seem absent, though maybe it’s just the context of our interactions with those children. What about old ditties and folk wisdom? Do April showers still bring May flowers? Can anyone say what being Tuesday’s child, or in the case of both our girls, Saturday’s child, means?

On that note, off for our walk in the sunshine--on the flat. On days when I’m feeling creaky, we drive down to the port and walk around the yacht basin instead of in the hills on the uneven terrain. Now that’s a porthole into another world.

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