Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oh, That's Deconstruction, Clementine

I woke up this morning to my seven-year-old informing me that his little brother was crying. Once my cobwebbed brain processed this information, I could hear my six-year-old crying downstairs.

What I heard was not a cry of agony from taking a Nerf sword to the side of his melon or a distance miscalculation when jumping between couches. Instead I heard a soft sobbing. It was the sound of heartbreak.

“Why is he crying?” I asked.

“He’s crying about the song, Clementine.”

There came footsteps up the stairs and the sobbing drew closer. My seven-year-old ever so compassionately rolled his eyes, exited and was replaced in my bedroom doorway by his younger brother.

“Daddy. His daughter is lost forever,” he said sadly and began sobbing uncontrollably.

You see, my sons have a small wooden harp. It comes with about a dozen songs printed on paper inserts that slide between the wooden body of the harp and its strings. You can pluck the strings in the order printed on the inserts and play a song. Included on the inserts are the lyrics.

They’ve played with this harp from time to time over the last few years. It would seem that my youngest son’s recently acquired ability to read allowed him to finally read the lyrics to “Oh My Darlin’ Clementine,” which he had previously only known to him as the song Huckleberry Hound always sings. And this caused him to be distressed at the loss of Clementine.

He climbed into our bed and cried and I tried to think of a way to console him.

“I know, it’s a sad song, isn’t it? But it’s just a song, buddy. There wasn’t really a Clementine.”

He continued to sob.

“Does it make you afraid of being lost?”

He shook his head and still cried. “It’s just sad,” he said.

He had a point. It was sad. But, sad songs had their place in the world and sometimes you need to listen to sad songs. And no matter how much somebody consoles you and tells you not to be sad, you just have to take some time and let it and, eventually, get past it. So, I just held him for a little while and let him cry.

He lay there with my wife and I, lamenting the short, sweet life of Clementine and his crying finally subsided. I was proud of him for seeking out comfort and dealing with his sorrow. But I was proud of him for something else, too and I wanted to let him know about it.

“Hey, buddy,” I said as he climbed off of our bed and started t walk away. “I’m proud of you for reading the words to the song and figuring out what they meant. That’s called reading comprehension.”

I received a blank, can-I-go-now stare in return.

“You read a song, which is just like a poem. So what you just did was read and interpret a poem. I’m actually really impressed.”

He turned and left without a word and I suspect he might have rolled his eyes the same way his older brother had earlier as he walked out. Meanwhile, I put my hands behind my head and took a deep, satisfied breath, knowing that my boy’s literary skills were developing. Today he’s analyzing poetry, tomorrow he’ll be employing literary devices like the metaphor, onomatopoeia and in medias res into his own writing.

They grow up so fast.

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