Thursday, December 9, 2010

Broken Banana

Yesterday a small boy in the vegetable section of the health food shop was having a tantrum. His mother was young, sweet-faced and doing her best, struggling to get him into the back part of the double buggy, the front being occupied by baby sibling. I held the door open for her, made sympathetic noises. The boy was holding half a peeled banana, waving it in the air. He is upset, said the mother, because the banana is in two pieces. Broken, screamed the boy, you broke it! I said something like oh dear and then he kicked me - not hard, but the mother was mortified. You shouldn't kick the lady, she said. He rushed at me and kicked again. It's ok, I said, I know what it's like. Meaning not just the situation of trying to manage with two little children, a double buggy in a shop, tantrums and such, but also the broken banana and how hard it might be to explain why that mattered. His vision, I am guessing, was to have eaten it all of a piece with one half peeled, holding the other half in his fist as he ate. I used to give them to my children as snacks and sing (an old TV advert) "when you feel like having a snack - unzip a banana!" A small flourish as I handed the half unzipped fruit over for eating. Or I would cut it up into pieces with orange, apple and grapes, set the plate on the living room floor and call it a fruit pic-nic. I think I was lucky in that my kids were really quite easy to please, not particularly faddy or fussy about food. But sometimes one didn't get it right. My daughter coveted the packed lunches she saw her friends bring to school and my worthy wholemeal sandwiches with lettuce and tomato falling out were not the thing. She wrote me a note saying, plese can i hav a packlunsh wit wite bred a bisgit and a jingk in a bottel. You have to try and get what you want in life.

There isn't any way, said the mother of the small boy, that I can put the banana together again. If she could have she undoubtedly would.

I've been looking at the story of Goldilocks for the purposes of a poem I have been trying to develop. An earlier version of the story had an ugly, dirty, foul-mouthed old vagrant woman as the intruder, rather than a golden-haired little girl. Who knew? Not Bruno Bettelheim, who didn't like the Goldilocks story, believing it to be an escapist one that thwarts the child reading it from gaining emotional maturity. The story of the girl trying one bowl of porridge/chair/bed after another until she gets the one that is "just right" has a certain something satisfying about it. There is a small thrill to be had from the idea of the ugly crone doing the same thing, but on the other hand one has to face the fact that what is sauce for the chick is not necessarily sauce for the older bird.

So you won't find me going around wild-eyed and shrieking, brandishing the naked half of a broken banana - though sometimes, quite honestly, I might feel tempted to do just that.


Cusp said...

Of course there are days when the likes of me 'n thee feel like we ARE the broken banana but we just have to summon up our inner Mum and get on with life with that same flourish.

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, I ain't got no inner Mum! But I sure know how to party - er - banana muffins and that.

Cusp said...

...well the Mum that is their for your kids for your inner kid then

Banana muffins --- yeah! in fact any muffins please

trousers said...

I'm really not sure I'd know the best way to respond if I was in that situation, ie tantrum-throwing child kicking me. I think I'd probably walk off in a huff of my own: I admire your patience.

Fire Bird said...

'There isn't any way that I can put the banana together again...' I love that you told us about this.

Reading the Signs said...

She gives me sweets, Cusp - and cigarettes. Tells me to put a sock in it. Not how I was with my kids, just saying.

Trousers,, it's very easy when you know that in half a minute or less you'll be walking away. And I think being a parent gives you that patience.

Fire Bird, yes, it's a good one, isn't it :)

Mim said...

Desire and pursuit of the whole--banana or whatever.

I like the notion of an old woman trespassing. Will she win and not be driven out?

Reading the Signs said...

I think the ending was the same, Mim - she was driven out - but not before she had made herself comfortable and had a bit of sustenance to see her on her way.

Zhoen said...

Not to exemplify her, but my mother would have had me out of there before I had a chance to draw a second breath to scream. Broken is broken, gone is gone, but kicking someone is forever and unkind.

Golidlocks always seemed spoiled to me, the bears should've eaten her.

Reading the Signs said...

Zhoen, yes, I've always been on the side of the bears.

He was a tiny scrap of a boy so the kick was hardly more than a pat :)

yes, 'tis I said...

I recall Bruno B. said that the story of the bears mutated into the story of Goldilocks, as modernity marched on and, increasingly, became the myth of the individual. Initially (although maybe after the wild-eyed hag, whom I didn't know about, had made her exit), it was a tale of A Family whose peace was disrupted by An Intruder, told from the PoV of the bears. Instead of banging on about her living by the woods and blah, it started with once upon a time the three bears living in the woods and making porridge and going for a walk and what have you. Mind you, and especially since you've been looking the poem up, no doubt you know this and I'm just being useles here.

Anyway, I never cared for Goldilocks much, either - not in its modern telling, at any rate. It smacks too much of a morality tale as well, the wrong sort of morality. Plump little blonde girl children, always do as mum says and don't go trying out which bed would suit you best. Give me Little Red Riding Hood any day. Mind you, she comes close to a sticky end, and her mum warned her as well. But there's something wonderfully true about her tale. Wait. Have we been here before? I think we have.

The air is a porridge of snow here ("who's been eating my porridge?"). I can barely open the balcony door. And I have an essay to write. For tomorrow, oh woe. How are you doing? Remember to keep warm. The wvls say "precente". They are trying to be posh for Christmas.


Reading the Signs said...

Hei and hello there, 'tis you - I realise that the 'hei' is a bit of a giveaway and might have blown your cover. But hei.

I was supposing that Bruno found the story unsatisfying because there was nothing of transformation in it. But I don't know. He a Shrink and I'm a bit off those at present. I don't think the story would lend itself to an 'e' treatment otherwise I might suggest it (for you, obviously, not me).

The rainbow shawl is more or less my constant companion at the moment. We've been going mad with the cold in Blighty, as you've no doubt heard. Can't cope. Heathrow airport like a refugee camp. And more snow to come. We all need a spell in Igloo bootcamp.

Happy everything of the season to you x

hei and hei again said...

No need to worry about the usage of "Hei" - this just in from wikipedia (God, no, Hei how i love the snippetit information provided by that blissfully snippety source):

In Judaism
Hei is often used to represent the name of God, as He stands for Hashem, which means The Name and is a way of saying God without actually saying the name of God. In print, Hashem is usually written as Hei with a chupchik (apostrophe): 'ה.

It saves me the trouble of making up some attempted-oddball nonsense - a relief, as I'm sure you'll agree.

But yes, hei. Didn't we do some attempts at "e"-treating the said tale? I recall you came up with the term, no, wait. I'm thinking about Crimson Hood and the no-e treatment. Stoopid me. (Of course, you evil person, now my mind will be mulling over an e-Goldilocks. Although, of course, it would be much harder if it was a no-o challenge. No-e it would be easy peasy. Look: Goldilocks and t'Not-Four Ursi. And so it goes on. Or *would*, if I would allow it to invade my brain. Must stay strong, must.) I think Bruno B (referred to by some of his "friends" as Benno Brutalheim, on account of his less-than-friendly way of rearing his own offspring, had you heard of that? I've always found that verbally very amusing) didn't like G-Loxx (I just watched a programme on the evolution of rap music in this country, hence the hip-hoppy spelling. I'm quite proud of how hip I am here) because there is no victorious solution to the Oedipal dilemma, which makes it fly in the face of all fairy-tale laws. I would like to hear more of the off-shrink thing, you know? In the meantime, just think Benno Brutalheim at them. Hope it will help.

Glad the rainbow scarf has been of use. The secret to coping with Weather is threefold: wool; layers; not scared to look like a Chechen granny. Believe me, I look like one, but I remain warm. I hope you manage it too, against all the odds.

'Tis Christmas Eve (here, just(. Noël, Noël. And mwahs.