Elizabeth N. Goodenough - Secret Spaces of Childhood-The University of Michigan Press (2003) - Secret Spaces of Childhood \u201cThe Woods in Autumn,\u201d

Elizabeth N. Goodenough - Secret Spaces of Childhood-The University of Michigan Press (2003)

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Unformatted text preview: Secret Spaces of Childhood “The Woods in Autumn,” The Changing Year, 1884 Secret Spaces of Childhood ELIZABETH GOODENOUGH, EDITOR The University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor Copyright © by the University of Michigan 2003 All rights reserved Published in the United States of America by The University of Michigan Press Manufactured in the United States of America Printed on acid-free paper 2012 2011 2010 2009 5 4 3 2 No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher. A CIP catalog record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data applied for ISBN 0-472-09845-4 (cloth) ISBN 0-472-06845-8 (paper) ISBN 978-0-472-09845-3 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-472-06845-6 (paper) ISBN13 978-0-472-02600-5 (electronic) Acknowledgments I began work on this project after moving from Boston to California sixteen years ago. Children’s sense of place, this transition made me understand, does not rely on historical monuments. Gertrude Stein said she found “no there there” in Oakland, California, but shortly after moving to the West Coast I learned about bodily place-making. From a warm tub, my son Jamie, then three, announced nakedly, “I like California.” Later he affirmed this preference for the state before a hot mound of mashed potatoes. My curiosity about how children shape their worlds recurred in my personal and professional life when Roger Hart, professor of environmental psychology at CUNY, gave a lecture at Pitzer College in 1990 that inspired me to consider literary works from the vantage point of Edith Cobb’s The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood. Since that time creating Secret Spaces of Childhood has become a collective effort which has drawn on the talents of many people. I would like to acknowledge my students and colleagues at the Residential College, especially Carolyn Balducci, David Burkam, Larry Cressman, Fred Peters, Cindy Sowers, Tom Weisskopf, and Sheila Wilder, who lent their insight, artistry, and encouragement. I am also indebted to the following individuals who provided critical assistance at various stages: Susan Ager, Barbara Bach, Leslie Becker, Kathleen Canning, Brian Carter, Nels Christensen, Liz Elling, Susan Glass, Fred Goodman, Deborah Greene, Robert Grese, Mark Heberle, David Hill, Anne Percy Knott, Lois R. Kuznets, Esther Lamb, Rebecca McGowan, Marianetta Porter, Katherine Rines, Sue Roe, Inger Schultz, David Scobey, Mark Stranahan, and Sandy Wiener. Doris Knight, MQR administrative assistant, offered hard work and good cheer. John Woodford lent time and space in Michigan Today to consider a proposal for children’s studies. I’m enormously grateful to the community partners that enabled this project to grow outside the university: Child Care Network, Conservation Committee of the Garden Club of Michigan, DD Wood Productions, DTE Energy Detroit BLOOMFEST, Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, Emerson School, vi SECRET SPACES OF CHILDHOOD the Greening of Detroit, and the Young Actors Guild of Ann Arbor. Gifts in kind came from Delancey Design, Foto I, and Nicola’s Books and Little Professor. I also want to thank artists who contributed exhibits in Grosse Pointe Shores and Detroit: Tina Gram, Pamela J. Guenzel, Dan Hoffman, Helen Homer, Balthazar Korab, Duncan Laurie, Gary Rieveschl, and Mary Brecht Stephenson. Earlier research on this topic was enabled by faculty grants from Claremont McKenna College and its Gould Center for the Humanities, and the University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The 1998 University of Michigan Residential College exhibition and symposium, designed in collaboration with Nichols Arboretum, the International Institute, the School of Education, and the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, was funded by the Arts of Citizenship, the Barbara Isenberg Fund, the Center for European Studies, the Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Elling Family, the Institute for the Humanities, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. Publication and layout of the color portfolio was made possible by the generosity of Brett Ashley and Kathy Krick, as well as Nancy Cantor, Provost, and Glenna Schweitzer, Director, Office of Budget and Planning. For the opportunity to develop this project into a documentary for public television, I owe much to filmmakers Katherine Weider, Christopher M. Cook, and Mark Jonathan Harris and to Jay Nelson of Michigan Public Media. Interim President B. Joseph White provided critical funding for the first phase of this initiative. I am especially grateful to Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, who provided a subvention to support the publication of this volume. LeAnn Fields, acquisitions editor at University of Michigan Press, provided guidance and enthusiasm. Finally I wish to thank Larry Goldstein for his editorial expertise and belief in this project. He enabled there to be a double issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review on Secret Spaces of Childhood and encouraged me at every step. This book is dedicated to my husband, Gil Leaf, who has given me unstinting support, stories to tell, and reassurance that all will be well. Contents Introduction, Elizabeth Goodenough 1 A S Y M P O S I U M O N S E C R E T S PA C E S Wayne Booth, Paul Brodeur, Frederick Buechner, Peggy Ellsberg, Noël Riley Fitch, Mark Jonathan Harris, Jim Harrison, Jerry Herron, Paul Karlstrom, Nan Knighton, Philip Levine, William Meezan, Valerie Miner, John Hanson Mitchell, Kathleen Dean Moore, Robin C. Moore, April Newlin, Joyce Carol Oates, Zibby Oneal, Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr., Paul Roazen, Robyn Sarah, Lore Segal, David Shields, Tobin Siebers, David Small, Cathy Song, Ellen Handler Spitz, Ilan Stavans, John R. Stilgoe, Stephen Trimble, Marina Warner, Paul West, Edward O. Wilson 19 P O E T RY The Secret Speaks, Nancy Willard 113 Door, Julie Jordan Hanson 114 Fields of Vision, Roald Hoffmann 116 Mouse History, Molly McQuade 118 On Little Boys and Their Guns, Brad Davis 120 A Room in California, 1954, Laurence Goldstein 121 The Children of This Land, Wole Soyinka 124 Book of Hours, Cathy Song 126 Boy of Sea, Allison Eir Jenks 127 Japanese Plums, James Nolan 128 La Isla de los Monstros, Virgil Suarez 130 PORTFOLIO Negotiating Boundaries, Regenerating Ruins: The “Secret Spaces of Childhood” Exhibition, Margaret Price 135 An Exhibition of Remembered Hide-Outs: Graphics Portfolio following pg. 150 viii SECRET SPACES OF CHILDHOOD E S S AY S Peeking through the Curtain: Narratives as the Boundary between Secret and Known, Susan Engel 153 Like a Fable, Not a Pretty Picture: Holocaust Representation in Roberto Benigni and Anita Lobel, Adrienne Kertzer 167 Children with a Secret, Kathleen Coulborn Faller 189 The Camera of Sally Mann and the Spaces of Childhood, James Christen Steward 204 Special Place—What Is That? Significant and Secret Spaces in the Lives of Children in a Johannesburg Squatter Camp, Louise Chawla 215 PRIVAT (sic) KEEP OUT: The Diary as Secret Space, Joan W. Blos 236 Primal Postcards: Madeline as a Secret Space of Ludwig Bemelmans’s Childhood, Mary Galbraith 245 Writing from the Secret Annex: The Case of Anne Frank, Karein K. Goertz 254 MEMOIR In the Memory Mines, Diane Ackerman 271 The Generosity of Arpeggios and Ravens, Thylias Moss 284 My Life among the Dolls; or How I Became a Radical Feminist Playwright, Carolyn Gage 290 Spaces Within: The Portable Interiors of Childhood, U. C. Knoepflmacher 297 Children as Observing Critics and Skeptics, Robert Coles 309 FICTION Telepathy and Other Imitations, Abdon Ubidia 319 Satan in All His Glory, Karen Heuler 326 Blue Dog in the Crazy Truck, Catherine Ryan Hyde 338 Butterfly Meat, Wanda Coleman 352 From The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Mrs. Gaskell J. M. Dent & Sons, 1971 Introduction Well I wot that heaven and earth and all that is made is great and large, fair and good, yet all that is made is a little thing, the size of a hazel nut, held in the palm of my hand. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, 1373 Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Eleanor Roosevelt, address to the United Nations, 1958 I was lolling with my six-year-old son Will on a small beach near a rented house at Pocono Lake. Silent woods surrounded us, and we were alone this afternoon, without toys, electronic devices, or other children around to occupy us. I poked some ferns into the sand and formed a little circle of towering fronds, then carpeted the fern palace with emerald moss. Will and I hunted for strips of bark to construct a roof; balancing rough pieces unevenly, we formed an entrance at one corner, making a kind of square-roofed woodcutter’s cottage. To this we added a loose teepee made from sapling branches woven together and then fashioned an adobe hut with a smooth dome formed with wet hands over a fist-sized interior. When it collapsed, we used latticed twigs to prop up the round dark space from within. It was an immensely satisfying afternoon for us both. Later that afternoon I was alone, rocking in a chair on our screened porch. Forest and ferns encircled the cottage, and conifers rose above the wooden eaves. While I gazed at the lofty space above, something strange occurred. Suddenly my senses of large and small, inner and outer merged, and I experienced myself both magically recessed on the porch and yet transported to the dark interior of our tiny fern palace by the lake. Driving away from the cottage at the end of that vacation, Will and I wondered aloud if any vestige of our structures 1 2 SECRET SPACES OF CHILDHOOD would survive the winter. When we returned the next summer, we could find nothing in the sand. But as if a door had fallen open that day, I began to ponder questions about the mystery of these secret spaces of childhood and how they linger in the memory long after time and tide have caused them seemingly to vanish. I wanted as an adult to be able to access the world of a child in play, to reenter that secret space in an attempt to answer some of the questions. When adults read fairy tales, where do they see themselves? In dying or neglectful parents, cruel stepmothers, and feckless fathers? Or in canny orphans bound for the woods and trials that will transform them into glittering selves? Following breadcrumbs or the possibilities of fiction often means keeping grown-up eyes shut. The microscopic lettering of Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia kept her secrets safe. At thirteen, she invented an empire, what child psychologists call a paracosm, with a distinctive language, history, and geography. Over fifteen months in a remote Yorkshire parsonage, her massive output—twenty-two volumes, sixty to one hundred pages each—is magnified by the minute scale of her act of primal imagination. Possessing secret space—in a locked diary or cardboard fort—requires stealth and ingenuity. “Given a cardboard box of the right dimensions, a child will always try to climb inside,” says Olivier Marc in Psychology of the House. Yet there are times when everyone needs a box retreat—to crawl out the other side or to live out of the box forever after. Why do babies play peekaboo? Or children hang by their knees and capture insects in small, cupped hands? Reframing the universe teases their brains to claim their true dimensions. Schools exhort pupils to seek, but children know the importance of hiding out, of finding the “just for me” place where they can’t be seen. Without a corner to build a world apart, they can’t plant what Diane Ackerman calls “the small crop of self.” Without freedom to play, they can’t be King of the Castle or shout “I win!” because no one found them. Without time to incubate, they can’t find their niche. Secret spaces may be found inside, outdoors, or in the middle of nowhere—in a tree fort, snow igloo, or beneath the stairs. But seeking getaways, like Crusoe’s bower or the bridge to Terabithia, is essential to putting things together for themselves and becoming who they are. ELIZABETH GOODENOUGH 3 The various and universal quest to construct secret space is considered by Edward O. Wilson a “fundamental trait of human nature” of “ultimate value to survival.” Although architects, city planners, sociologists, and urban historians research adult behaviors in public and private spaces, much less is known about how children explore the outdoors, make imaginary friends, or find havens from violence. What causes them to gravitate to certain locales in quest of comfort, excitement, self-awareness, or beauty and avoid other areas? Conceptions of childhood past, present, and future have been organized around such issues as innocence and deviance, safety and abuse, contemporary kinderculture or the “disappearance” of childhood. But understanding how collective experience, animism, or a child’s sense of injustice yields empowerment or liberation, in what D. W. Winnicott calls “transitional spaces,” is a far more complex endeavor. The diverse contributors to this volume build on child-development research on cognitive, linguistic, and spatial skills. But because physical, psychological, cultural, and social processes combine elusively in the volatile domain of play, this collection also enhances our understanding of the enchanted language of interiority, as it is experienced from place to place. Although many writers take us to rather far-flung places—whether it’s a squatter camp in South Africa or a Victorian dollhouse museum in Los Angeles, cyberspace or the open road—the lure of secret spaces finds its first fulfillment in the local, somewhere within or just outside the safe matrix of home. Locating a place under the bed, the bedcovers, or the dining-room table is the primal discovery of self-ish space, a site detached from the ongoing, intimate relation with siblings, parents, or other adults. However humble the container, this site endures in memory as a receptacle of the growing imagination, which needs to feel protected as it expands within safe boundaries. Just as the secret of childhood lives “in nobody’s story,” as Nancy Willard’s poem suggests, the range of responses in this anthology underscores the fact that childhood is everybody’s kingdom, regardless of nationality, religion, age, gender, race, class, or sexual orientation. Whether they look to the past, inside themselves, or closely at actual children, all the contributors gesture toward a fleeting domain expressive of emotional 4 SECRET SPACES OF CHILDHOOD paths trodden throughout life. Although the hearts and minds gathered here approach the same topic from entirely different directions—some standing on the outside, clarifying and surveying complex issues; some from the inside, probing and inventing intricate metaphors—all the voices speak of an unseen site from which every attempt to make sense of the world derives. Together they demonstrate that children aren’t the only ones who need secret spaces. Humans of all ages must reenter this gnomic, elusive ground if they want to nurture real children or escape role and rote existence for the voyage of self-discovery. The six parts of this volume show that, however humble, our first getaways and solo vantage points live on in memory and imagination. The vignettes, poetry, fiction, essays, and visual art collected here urge us to preserve sanctuaries for free play and to consider issues of environmental justice. How societies use land and create spaces for children—day-care centers, schools, theme parks, video games—determines how the next generation will see reality. Those who design software for kids or play areas at fast-food restaurants replicate some mental picture of users’ joy. Yet in our highly programmed, commercial world, downtime and away space are elusive. Children need the space and time every day to do nothing, so that who they are can grow. Riddle poems ask “Who am I?” Before they can reply in language, the young must take possession of a circle where they are at the center. Then, when a song steals into being, the smell of sweet fern is savored, or a doll’s bed is built, a ritual of desire commences, and life gets propelled forward like a canoe. When this place of discovery is outdoors, Americans like to imagine that kids still find that the best things in life are free: sand, air, trees, animals, water. Too many of our assumptions about childhood reflect romantic ideas of the past, not the white noise of today’s advertising and mass media, which assault children with labels and “lifestyles.” Fewer than 2 percent of this nation now grow up in the country. The highrise housing projects of the 1950s offered playscapes of asphalt, metal jungle gyms, and concrete towers. Today the relentless destruction of vegetation and the malling of recreational spaces indicate how little adults sincerely care about children’s contact with living things or the social isola- ELIZABETH GOODENOUGH 5 tion of the very poor. Land use attracts public interest and debate. Yet architects, real-estate developers, and city planners remain half-blind to the ways the young relate to their physical surroundings in less structured settings. Rarely do they consider the needs of low-caste children or of those for whom home is not safe. Assumptions made often run counter to the actual needs of kids growing up on a scary street, without a backyard, bike path, congregation, or community barbecue. Researchers have found that in the last twenty years, the “average home range” for American suburban children has shriveled from a radius of one mile to as little as 550 yards. As vicarious pursuits, virtual pets, and synthetic playgrounds take over, should we worry that a world where children have minimal engagement with plants and animals might be threatening to nature itself ? As our sense of endangered survival on this shrinking planet becomes acute, children are our last frontier. They represent 20 percent of our population, but 100 percent of our future. Carl Jung wrote that “the child is on the one hand delivered helpless into the power of terrible enemies and in continual danger of extinction while on the other he possesses powers far exceeding those of ordinary humanity.” To the degree that we can envision children as triumphant go-betweens or heroic survivors, they shelter the imagination and sustain the hope of adults. Childhood is thus both a chronological stage and a mental construct, an existential fact and a locus of desire, a mythical country continually mapped by adults in search of their own subjectivity in another time and place. Since I conceived this project in 1997, much has happened to make secret spaces of childhood an urgent and timely subject. Inner cities have become increasingly rundown and poor, while the ever-expanding ring of suburbs has resulted in more isolated homes, schools, and businesses. One-third of children are now overweight. Cuts in public funding and welfare, called by journalist Mickey Kaus the “umbilical cord through which the mainstream society sustains the isolated ghetto society,” have altered lives. Scientists, surprised by the rate of growth in the brain tissue of infants and toddlers, have found evidence of new cells developing later in life, where memories are first formed. In this era of global terrorism, busy adults can’t be blind to emotional wiring, bottled-up rage, and 6 SECRET SPACES OF CHILDHOOD scarring events that sink the self. While fifteen children in the United States are killed daily by firearms, juvenile violence jarringly refracts the lesson learned early that, as Brad Davis puts it in these pages, “to kill well is to win big.” Historians on the Learning Channel voted a di...
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