Monday, 13 August 2012

Reunited with the grandsons...

They grow like cabbages... that's a small joke lifted from the Amsterdam Museum (formerly the Amsterdam Historical Museum) which has a short rhyme painted above one of its gates; the museum was once the city orphanage, home to children whose parents had been special citizens of Amsterdam. In a plea for charity, the rhyme explains how the orphan boys grow like cabbage and require more and more food and clothing... Seeing my grandsons I am reminded of this. They are now aged (almost) five, and two-and-eight-months. The elder, Isaak, is tall for his age, very bright, and interested in all kinds of things, keeping a little home-made diary in which he writes up the science experiments that loving grandpas conduct with him, and where he draws illustrations of the things he has seen that caught his interest -- like the leaning Tower of Pisa.
We have most interesting conversations: I tell him the moon is faintly visible in the afternoon sky, a white ghostly shape. And explain about waxing and waning. "Wax," observes Isaak, "is a material like plastic." "Well, " I agree, "you're right about that, it's the same word and you write it the same way, but it means something different." Isaak is starting to read and write, so he's very aware of how you write/spell words. I find it fascinating to listen to him, telling a story about his self-created country named "Babyland" which has its own words, alphabet (he wrote some words for me in what looked faintly like Thai) and a curious social structure -- I believe Babyland is peopled by humans of a very young age! It sounds slightly like a Topsy-Turvy land -- but I need to acquire more info from Isaak...
The two boys do quite a lot together and the relationship seems fairly harmonious... Nathan now discovers words, and pronounces them with wonderful distinctness: especially things like "fire engine", "helicopter". One afternoon David built a fire for the barb-a-q and the two boys helped pile charcoal in a small pyramid. Nathan rejoiced in the new colour of his hands, declaring delightedly and repeatedly, "Black!!"

Here he concentrates on his transformed skin colour ...
He is very young still, only two and two-thirds!, and I realize how his world is bounded, is filled with the immediate. When he watches a video of Winnie the Pooh, I wonder what images are forming in his wind -- different from those I created through reading the book, with the delicate intricate black-and-white illustrations of E.H. Shepard.
Absolutely fascinating, the workings of the mind, the recordings of memories.

Isaak and Nathan have a wonderful example in Shula (aged 11) who spends a great deal of time curled up comfortably, buried in a thick book. So far she is reading only Dutch, but her spoken English is impressive, so we'll soon persuade her to venture further... Since arriving in Pisa airport has now read three Harry Potters in Dutch... But she also spends time with the boys, which is delightful for them -- a big sister!

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