Friday, October 07, 2005

In which the Meridian and his older daughter ponder some mysteries

G., my older daughter, is in the 5th grade and is approaching her 11th birthday. Though she affects something of that jaded, world-weary tone that seems to afflict girls in their early adolescence these days, she isn't vapid or obsessed with surfaces. She truly loves school and is happiest when she is learning. And she is learning things these days, as she told me in our phone conversation the other day.

She began by telling me that she has started to learn about atoms. "They are so small . . . they are like cells, aren't they?--that's how I tried to make sense of them." Well, sort of, I tell her; cells are in living things, but atoms and molecules are in everything. Molecules are different combinations of atoms, and atoms are the purest forms of matter. Somewhere in there, we also got electrons' and protons' respective charges worked out.

Then we moved on to math. "We've started to learn about algebra!" she said with a genuine exclamation point. "I like it," she said in answer to my question. "It's like solving a mystery."

G. will be going to middle school next year. She is a little nervous about it--the class-switching, she says. But she has ordered a book that she thinks will help her nerves. And anyway, her down-the-street friend assures her that "middle school is easy. And if Nicholas says it's easy, it's EASY!" Nicholas is smart but lazy and a bit of a complainer, you see. G. has only one of those three attributes; I leave it to my reader(s) to determine which one they have in common.

She has been enjoying playing her violin. She's been taking lessons for 3 years now, but she's not been terribly enthusiastic about it until this past summer, when she went to music camp for a week and, suddenly, practicing became something not to be avoided. She hummed a song for me that she had just started to learn, an "American fiddle tune" with "cabbage" in the title. After she hummed it for me, I said, "It's a waltz."

"No, Daddy, it says it's an American fiddle tune."

"Yes, but it has the rhythm of a waltz: ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three--"

"Oh, yeah--I hear it now."

"Some fiddle tunes can be waltzes--they don't all sound like 'Turkey in the Straw.'"

"::laughs::" (G. once had a toy turkey dressed like a farmer that would sing and dance to "Turkey in the Straw" when you pushed down on its head.)

I'm glad she hears the waltz in that fiddle tune. G., indeed, hears many things that children her age do not. I do not know if her approaching puberty is one of those things she hears, or if puberty's hormonal roar, when it arrives, will drown out all those other things to the point that she may forget she had ever heard them. But I also keep reminding myself that G.'s sense of self is such that she won't forget who she is even as she might believe that she's only beginning to discover that.

And C., my younger daughter? Oh--she was wearing her boots and watching The Magnificent Seven.

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