17
Jul
07

Being Someone Else’s Grown-Up

Today I took my class to the Taipei Museum of Fine Arts, and craggy-voiced got them to tell the difference between 3D and 2D, discuss the colors, the shapes, and how they felt about them.  It’s a mixed class– the oldest child is in sixth grade, youngest in first, mixed English abilities as well.

We went to the calligraphy exhibition and discussed how the artists must have made the different kinds of lines– big and sweeping, versus fast, scribbly and little, airy brushed versus wet-brushed.  They made their own rubbings of pictograph-antecedents for modern Chinese characters (as someone studying Chinese characters, it was nice to see the evolution of some of them) at the children’s exhibit.  The line for the dragon was much longer and more stubborn than the fish, or the horse.

The first floor had modern dimly lit installations, and the kids had fun watching a video installation– two televisions with close-ups of a baby’s eye and a man’s eye apparently looking at each other, and then the baby’s mouth making noises to be copied by the man’s mouth.  My class did a bit of echoing cooing themselves.

B, a first-grader I met yesterday, held my hand and buried her head in my arm as we walked through the dimly lit galleries with odd noises from some installation in the back.  She whispered that it was scary– the noises, and some of the art.

It’s odd– I could identify with her response.  When I was in France and tip-toeing through the bottom gallery of the Pompidou with its video installations talking in the distance, rope trailing across the floor from another installation, and Marcel Duchamp’s up-ended unicycle pointing upwards, I missed having someone’s hand to hold and guide me through this separate world gone strange–  I think each piece was interesting and wouldn’t have intimidated me on its own, but the overlapping of such disparate visions was jarring, and being alone in the mostly empty (except for video-installation faces talking at me) gallery didn’t help.  Company helps in reinforcing reality of a kind–depending on the company I guess.

Anyway, I so often feel rather Piglet-ish– a very very small person in a very very big world, that it humbles me when a smaller hand than mine holds onto my little finger for consolation.  I used to find it frightening– being the grown up for my children.  I still do somewhat, but I guess I’ve learned from being my younger cousin’s pillow on long car rides, and teaching, that it’s something I can sort of do– pillow-service is easy– just stay still and try not to mind appendages falling asleep, though peed pants still freak me out, and my ability to perform stern reprimands still needs a bit more brimstone.

I held B’s hand through the rest of the exhibition until we came out into the light of the courtyard, descended the stairs and she cheered up with lunch.

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