There was a sentence in one of the baby books that I read when I was pregnant that really struck me. The author commented, "The world may have become modern, but every baby is born identical to the cave babies of many millenia ago." I think the original context was attachment parenting, but in the last couple of years I have often thought about this idea as I have watched Lara become the city toddler that she is today.
What effect does city living have on babies? Misha and I laugh at the disjunction between city kids' everyday experiences and the insistence of almost all children's books on them learning about exotic never-to-be-encountered animals, or life on a farm. Lara could identify African savanna animals before she could point out a fire hydrant. Number of elephants she has actually seen? One. In the zoo. This seems to be a relic of our agrarian past, an attempt to hold on to time measured by sun rotation and space measured by horizon line.
Lara has never really seen the horizon. Bordering the playground? A fence, and cargo trains. I've become convinced that Lara's concept of space has been irrevocably shaped by our angular, gridded city life. The right angles of street corners, the squares of concrete tiles on the sidewalk, the rigid fences separating park from street, the curbs marking tree allotment - I link them to Lara's constant obsession with order, with the proper place of things, with returning everything "bahk" to its original form. A couple of days ago we were walking around and Lara crouched down to pick up a couple of acorns from the sidewalk. She studied them, showed them to us, walked away, and then ran back to put each in exactly the spot where it had come from - exactly into the divots they had made in the mud. At home she finds lint in the carpet, runs to give it to me, and says "guh gir" (good girl) about herself.
She is trying to bridge the modern with the Paleolithic, and frequently ends up with this:
The contained and carefully delineated wild space, the encroaching pavement of the city, the gadgetry of our century. We have made the choice to be city people, and she lives out the consequences of our decision. The future's so bright, we gotta wear shades.