in which I frightened the children

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Yesterday Philadelphia was glorious—an art show on Rittenhouse Square, dozens of children at the Imaginarium of B.F. Spells, sun and blue skies.

At 1:30 or so I found myself in a library-like corner with a gathering of children on a braided rug. I had been asked to read Dr. Radway as part of a benefit gathering, but there was no one older than eight in the crowd. Can you read us "Peter Pan?" they asked. Will you read us "Little Mermaid"?

But all I had in hand was Dr. Radway, and so I began telling stories about our city now and then. I talked about boys who rescued lost animals for a living, about river races, about Eastern State Penitentiary. I turned to the illustrations in Dr. Radway—pictures, I thought! I'll talk about pictures—and realized very quickly that I was in a stew of trouble.

But why is William's brother gone? an incredibly adorable five-year-old pixie named Maisy had to know.

Because he was murdered, I didn't feel I could say.

But why is the father in prison?

Oh dear, I thought. I can't answer this. There are accidents and alcohol involved.

But who is that pretty woman in that picture?

That's Pearl, I said, but then couldn't say, Pearl, the goodhearted prostitute.

And then I shared a picture of William's best friend Career—a good kid, an ambitious kid, a hero himself. I can talk about Career, I thought. I can say something actual here. I've got material! At last! For the children!

But then Maisy piped up with, I don't like the looks of Career at all.

Why's that? I asked.

Because he's smoking a pipe, she said. Do you know how to read Little Mermaid? she said.

It took me all these years and a girl named Maisy for me to come face to face with this fact: I am not nearly as innocuous as I had always thought I am.

To the Chestnut Hill Book Festival now. To talk memoir. I think I might be better at that.


KFP said...

Thanks for making me laugh today, Beth.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Only children can make you lost for words. You've got to love them. Thanks for sharing your experience, Beth. ~Victoria Marie Lees

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by 2008

Back to TOP