Sunday, July 12, 2009

Girl at the Museum

It was a sunny early Spring day, but the tea party in the garden with her favorite dolls was suddenly, and quite unfairly she thought, canceled. They were going to the museum for the day. It was to be her first time going, and not a time for fun, she was told, but for learning. So off they went to wait for the bus.

She asked what she might be seeing at this museum, but her father only suggested that it was just too much to explain. She was glad to be off the bus, and as they quietly made their way up the long drive to the entrance, she saw her first clues as to what might be inside. Two saber-toothed cats watched her approach, debating whether or not she should be allowed in. As the family walked closer, she felt smaller and a little nervous. She clasped her hands tightly in front of her as she always did when she felt this way. It was odd for a child to hold herself like that, all tight and proper. But that is how she had always been.

Her father wanted to use his new camera. She was ordered to stand on the steps with her mother and not to make even the slightest movement. On the steps she squinted in the sun and watched as he walked farther and farther away. Finally he turned around. He could get it all in now. He yelled something to them which she could not hear. Her mother told her to stand up straight. She was feeling warm now, in the sun with the big cats eyeing her. Her mother did not hold her hand or put an arm around the girl for the photo. She was not that kind of mother.

Her father walked back to them. Now, they could go in. Through the big doors and into a light-filled circular space. She stepped cautiously and looked up to where the sun streamed in. Dust danced in the light as she heard her mother whispering something to her father about mismatched cuff links. The girl looked at him and he made a funny face, quickly.
He studied the floor plans and they began.

A bookish man, her father lectured her at length about many things: the pressure gemstones had to endure, the patience required of fossils, helpful hind legs, and the convenience of being a stick insect.

But, for the first time in her young life, she was not listening.

Her mind raced, her imagination blossomed, and as if she had drank a psychedelic drug, she found herself walking amongst massive beasts. Insects buzzed everywhere, and heavy tropical scents made her almost dizzy. She held cool sparkling stones in the palm of her hand and felt the softest of feathers brush against her neck. She flew though the sky nestled on the back of a huge black bird, holding tight to a rider who looked to be from an entirely different universe.
Creatures she could not have imagined approached her with wonder.
They eyed each other. Then smiled.

As they left, she felt not sad, but exhilarated. Her mind and imagination was full to bursting. She knew she would be back again and again and she felt...different. Bold? There was, she now knew, so much to see in this beautiful world.

As they walked back down the long driveway, her father felt inspired to take a photo with an artistic angle of the the museum. He asked them to pose again as he started walking backwards away from them. He tripped once and decided that was a good distance. "Don't move" he said.

But this time, the girl took a slight step forward, away from her mother.

She was on her way.

If you are ever in Buenos Aires, you should make the effort to go to the Natural History Museum in La Plata-it is amazing! I went just once, but could go back "again and again". When I did go, I was so excited to get in there, I forgot to take pictures of this impressive building. Luckily, I found these two photos at the flea market in San Telmo, intertwining the memories of my trip with this little girl's.

No comments:

Post a Comment