Monday, December 11, 2006

Helena's stories

Adèle and Simon
After expressing my desire for it on the basis of one review, Helena did in fact receive a copy of Adèle and Simon for her birthday. It's a hit, and is oft-requested at bedtime. We test our memory in listing all Simon's belongings and we search for (and find) the lost items; when people arrive at Simon's house with his things, we retrace our path to find out where we recognize their faces from; we study the map. I'm confident Helena, when one day we take her, will not get lost in Paris, though we do at times lose ourselves in the illustrations.

Anyway, if you're looking for a Christmas present to delight a 4-year-old girl (or boy, I guess — Simon is a boy after all, and there's nothing particularly "girly" about the story), consider this book.

Ngonghe & Nurlna

Helena, who used to refuse to name her dolls and bears, now invents near unpronouncable names regularly. (The dolls and bears for the most part remain unnamed though, slipping into character as the situation demands.)

She tells me my name, maybe the name of my teddybear, and sketches out the scenario I'm required to perform.

Helena (Ngonghe) and I (Nurlna) first meet when I answer the door — apparently she knocks on the doors of the homes of strangers. We go shopping together (in my bedroom), and buy a cat (the real one lying on the bed). We take the cat home (Helena's bedroom) on the metro (a train of child-sized chairs in the hallway). She thanks me for my help and asks, "Do you want to sleep with me? At my house?"

She makes up beds for us, tucks me in, and makes herself comfortable. She turns to me and smiles, "I love you. What's your name again?"

The bath
Bathtime, much like every other time of day, has become storytime. It's easier on me though: since Helena's mobility is reduced in the bath, she resorts to good ol' storytelling, as opposed to enactment.

She tells me a story with a little dog and a big bad wolf. Red riding hood makes an appearance, I think, as does Han Solo. There's an imprisonment and, later, ice cream.

As the bath draws to a close she decides to recap the story she'd told me only minutes earlier. She tells me there was also an octopus in the story, only she didn't tell me about him because he wasn't there.

(Weirdly, most of her bathtime stories these days feature Han Solo and Chewbacca — weird cuz I don't think there's ever been mention of them in our home since Helena was born.)

The nosebleed
Of all the possible vacation anecdotes she could tell — the zoo, her wonderful aunt, the nooks and crannies in her aunt's home, her birthday presents, the local park, the shopping expeditions and Christmas decorations (including a Santa sighting), the neighbour's baby, airport security checks, the airplane — the one that gets told most is the one about the nosebleed. Her nosebleed, on the flight home, which, admittedly, freaked me out at the time. It was an intense experience while I was in it, but quickly passed into the realm of the forgettable while the more pleasant, general impressions of our trip endure. But Helena sees her world differently than I do, and it seems she knew the nosebleed story would fascinate her daycare peers.

The doctors
It is our habit to watch Doctor Who together. If ever I try to hurry bedtime, whether to watch a program or for some other selfish reason, my efforts always backfire. Helena has, however, become very compliant in being scrubbed and pyjamaed with the prospect of watching Mommy's program with Mommy, and in Mommy's bed to boot. She used to ask a lot of questions, but they've trailed off a little, as she must now realize they'll be answered with, "Ssshhhh!" Or maybe the complexity of the program (compared with, say, Dora) challenges her question-asking abilities. But she does save up some questions for commercial breaks and for ensuing days, and what remains unanswered has not, that I can tell, caused nightmares or existential crises. (I dread having to explain the nature of The Beast. While once I regaled her with book and film summaries, describing them as epic battles between good and evil, over breakfast, I haven't so much since she learned to talk, daunted by the possibility of follow-up questions.)

Last week I made the mistake of hurrying an already way-overdue bedtime and explaining I wanted to watch a program.
"Doctor Who?" It's almost an accusation, that I'd exclude her.
"What program? What's it called?"
"Is it about a house?"
What's it about?
"It's about a doctor?"
"What's his name?"
"Is he a house?"
"No. That's his name. Dr House."
"Dr Who?"
"No. Dr House."
Helena says it's a silly name. How can a person be a house? It does not occur to her to question Dr Who's name. We engage in a little unintentional Abbott & Costello repartee.
Then, "Does he have a spaceship?" Which leads me to think our Doctor Who watching may have effects other than the nightmares I worried about.

Regularly scheduled programming has been interrupted to celebrate the season. Tonight, instead of watching Doctor Who (which Helena was so looking forward to), we'll be watching Dr Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas — or, as Helena likes to call it, Dr Who-ss.

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