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A Personal Reflection

by Katherine Leisen

I often wonder what role children will play in my life.  Some of my friends do have children and also choose to live an unconventional life as artists. They make me feel heartened about life. Their experience says that there are endless definitions to creativity and love, that there is time for things like my music and self-improvement, and for sharing time with a more simplistic mind – that of my one-and-a-half year old neighbor Eva.

Several years ago I was a nannie for my sister and her then 8-month-old baby Lilja.  It was by far the hardest job I ever had – and I’ve had some questionable jobs.  Some of my favorite memories are from the ways I found to make her laugh. The thing she liked best was to have me run a flag, or a bright piece of cloth over her body and head, whip it around so that she was in a whirl of color, texture, and movement, and oh would she squeal with delight! In my time with Lilja and my sister, my sister told me that there was no good baby stuff to do, that it’s all museums for kids and babies just don’t understand that.  We talked at length about this, and I decided that there is a gap in our cultural activities.

Imagine going into a room, like a store off the street, and into a chamber where there are holes in the wall with bright pieces of cloth billowing out of them (suppose they are air-driven) and these holes are all at varying heights and placement, and the room is pleasantly dim, and there is good music playing (babies love music – have you noticed that?) and then you go into the next room, and it’s bright and there are streamers coming down from the ceiling, and you and your baby walk through it and around it and dance inside of it, and your baby is laughing and building new pathways in his or her cute little brain, and suddenly you realize, “Wow I like this too.  This is art.”  It’s a sensory experience and it makes you aware of the physical world and your physical body and the connection between the world and your perception of it through the mind and body.

When I had those first intimate experiences with my niece Lilja, it made me realize how disconnected my own experiences had been from children.  I have often thought about how disconnected life in general seemed from art, and in the same way that I seek a life that more fully integrates art into my daily life, and a life that embraces children and all their crazy energy and perspectives.   I want to go to a puppet show that doesn’t dumb down to kids, and I want to see a rock n roll band with 12-year-olds in the audience.

Is this world possible?  I think so.  I think there are a lot of folks like me, and that we as cultural participants have the power to continually remake and redesign our culture.  I don’t need to know exactly what role children will play in my life just like I don’t need to know exactly what role art will play in my life, but I know that they will both be there shaping my perspectives and activities in unexpected ways, and that is a comforting thought.

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