Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fields of Gold

Folk stories are a great distraction when kids and I are in the car, taking a walk, or engaged in any activity where storytelling comes in handy. I'm no great storyteller but I can recite classics like the Three Little Pigs pretty well give or take a detail or two. One of the more disturbing folk tales that we've read and I've recited a number of times is Rumplestiltskin. That story has got all kinds of things going on, none of which lend themselves to a feel-good tale. First there's the poor miller who lies about his daughter's ability to spin straw into gold. Then there's the king who's so greedy he can't stop at one room full of gold - he has to have three. Then there's the story's namesake who offers to help the miller's daughter, for a price, and ends up getting cheated by the miller's daughter, now turned queen. But my son hasn't noticed any of these disturbing details yet and loves for me to recite the story. He especially likes for me to make up a lot of funny names when it comes to the end and the queen's trying to guess Rumplestiltsin's name.
"Is your name Handsome Harry?"
"Is it Marvelous Mike?"
"Is it Mommy?"
To all of these questions my son happily sings out, "no!" Right up until the big climax: "Is it Rumplestiltskin?"
We were up in Vermont for a few days last month and we stayed at the Swiss Inn in Londonderry. The upstairs sitting room had the mandatory eclectic assortment of antiques that one would expect to find in any self-respective New England inn. One of the items was a spinning wheel which my son pointed out, saying, "just like in Rumplestiltskin." Just like it, I agreed.
The next day we drove to Woodstock and, among other things, visited the Billings Farm and Museum, which is a very nice spot if you're looking for something to do in the mid-Vermont area. In the museum part of the complex were exhibits of old farming equipment, actual examples of the equipment with explanations and old photographs showing said faming implement in action. My son even sat through a 10-minute video showing people cutting ice out of a pond in the 1940s. At one point he wanted to know if the mannequins in the scenes of life on the farm "used to be alive," which was funny and in the room with the farm equipment he started picking up the hay that the old plows and milk wagons were sitting in.
"Honey, you can't take that, it belongs to the museum."
"Can I just take a little?"
"Okay, just a little,"
He puts a handful into my pocket book.
"Okay honey, I think that's enough."
"Just a little bit more, Mommy."
Then he turns to me and asks:
"How much straw do I need to make gold?"

song: Fields of Gold • artist: Sting

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