Saturday, April 23, 2011

Truth in advertising

E is at the age of urgent literalism, where she explores the nuance of language she hears and believes it at face value. Of course, that means we've been struggling with idioms, such as when I recently said to the lovely husband that I was "heartbroken" over something, and at bedtime hours later she asked me with sorrow and trepidation if I wanted to borrow her glue stick to fix my heart.

That was sweet, wasn't it? And now we have to be even more careful with what we say, never mind what she hears in commercials on TV or the radio.

She was embarrassed by her misinterpretation and so I told her of a similar scare I had when I was little, misunderstanding a phrase in a comparable way.

When I was preschool-aged we lived in Pennsylvania and had a sweet elderly next-door neighbor named Rose. On one bright morning a firetruck and then an ambulance climbed up the hill of our quiet little street and we saw the paramedics take away our Rose. My brother and I surely won't supposed to hear all the neighbors talking, but we heard one woman explain to the other: "oh, the floor was a little wet in the kitchen. She slipped backwards and hit the stove - cracked her head open in half."

That's the first time I remember feeling panic. I was picturing a meat cleaver to a watermelon, or the aftermath of Humpty Dumpty. And we all know he couldn't be put back together again.

Rose was okay, ultimately, but I remember that panicky feeling when I'm too close to laughing at E's sweet literal interpretations.

And the good thing about the Rose story is that I have much sweeter memories of her to balance against that one. Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you another one about her. In that one I felt my first rage, not my first panic, but Rose couldn't possibly have foreseen that result. Pin It