Saturday 14 June 2008

Russian Dolls

I was thinking about how hard a baby works. Every waking moment something has to be noted, something has to be understood - or mis-understood; interpreted, made sense of. At the other end, with age, there is so much information in the memory that taking in something new feels like pouring water in to a bowl that is already overflowing, fitting a quart into a pint pot, or decanting perfume in to an antique scent bottle - they have a name, but I've forgotten it! Inevitably, there has to be spillage in order to make room: a piece of information relinquished. Call it a 'senior moment' if you will, but it is really just overflow. Perhaps a more positive image would be of a suitcase stuffed to the brim; if anything were to fall out, it could be recovered, picked up, put in a safe place in case of future need, after all, we do get some thought-to-be forgotten knowledge back. Rescuing spilled perfume and putting it in another bottle, less full - I dont think so, so it has to be lost forever.

The other day I watched a baby dealing with his first solid food, some baby rice on a spoon. No surprise, he tried sucking it. Did'nt work. He tried again. The rice remained external, his hunger internal. He stared hard at the circle of fans around his high chair, all with their tongues out, making loud num num noises. The encouragement was palpable. There must be something he didnt know, a missing link. Suddenly, light shone, his tongue came out, too, and he licked the spoon. Such a look of triumph as he tasted the food and exalted in the cheering of his adulators. However, the next day when offered food on a spoon, again - rebellion. No question of a talent to amuse, to-day. We had had our fun and it was back to the breast or else.

I tell you this because it seems to me we are like Russian Dolls, all the people we ever were incased inside one another, so that baby will, later, be nestling inside the next doll which is nestling inside the next one and so on and so on. The scenario becomes more complex if one of those trapped people needs some attention, let's say about a situation that wasnt effectively dealt with when it should have been. We shall have to wait to see how my baby friend reacts to rice in later doll incarnations, but it could explain MY current Wont, Shant, Cant Make Me when confronted by The Right Thing To Do: it is my inner fourteen-year old who, at the time I WAS fourteen, was what you might call 'bland and compliant'. ( In that case,the mind boggles with the struggle to imagine what the forty year old is currently trying to sort out.)

I do try to inhale the scent of now but, it seems, it has to be at the expense of lost drops of the scent of then. It's not that I am just geriatrically forgetful.
Anyway, that could be the true explanation of what you may come to see as my preoccupation with the young: letting some air into the tight chambers of those Russian Dolls.

PS. I've retrieved the word for a perfume bottle: atomiser! There you are. It was on the floor behind the suitcase all the time.

No comments: