315: The Children We Are (Janice Harrington)


“This the room he painted to cradle the boy he was.
The painter’s step, the sleepers think, is the floor settling.
His breath against their skin, they think a draft or the night’s cold.”
                -Janice Harrington, “Topoanalysis,” in response to Horace Pippin’s painting Asleep 

                Sometimes I think we’re all still children. And toddlers, and infants, I suppose, and adults. Part of me is still knee deep in a pond in the early ‘90s, watching the pollywogs wiggle, swept up in the fullness of life that isn’t mine, and part of me is the child a week later, bored by the polliwogs my parents let me catch. Part of me is the child kneeling by the fishtank sometime after that, wondering how I missed the moment when they got legs. Breathless at their transformation into something familiar and new.
                In “Topoanalysis,” Janice Harrington shows us a painter, Horace Pippin, as he goes back through two world wars (one of which he fought in) and five decades to the room where he was a boy. She lets the painter walk through that room, step on that floor, see that child. She watches Horace Pippin paint a room “to cradle the boy he was.”
                And I realize I’m still so many children. So many kids with skinned knees who can’t explain that it hurts, and kids who feel smothered, and kids who learned too early that hugging isn’t cool. And I’m supported, loved children, too: children snuggled up to hear stories, children exploring the creek, children gathering magic stones. Harrington suggests these places don’t need to stay locked in the past. They aren’t from some other world. Like her painter, we can go there, and cradle the children we are.

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