Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anthropomorphism

In Lost Edens, author Jamie Patterson struggles to save her marriage which may or may not be already over. Keeping her attempts a secret from her family, she attempts to mold herself into the wife her husband wants her to be. As a member of From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of this book for review. You can read other members posts inspired by Lost Edens by Jamie Patterson on book club day, October 27 at From Left to Write.

Though Jamie Patterson didn’t quite anthropomorphize her car, I was struck by how frequently and fondly she wrote of it. To me, her car became as much of a character as her abusive husband. In fact, it seemed to carry an aura of protection, which got me thinking about my own tendency to anthropomorphize, and the role of inanimate objects in my (and Sophia’s) life.

“Look mommy! There’s Green Car. He’s over there. Oh look he’s talking to his friend, Blue car.” Sure enough, our car was nose to nose with the same make and model, different color. And yes, they did look like they might be engrossed in conversation. Since we were at the JCC, it might have been along the lines of a little kvetching, “Oy! Are my gaskets leaking!” And, “You should see the color of my oil. Do you think she takes me to dealership for a regular change? NO! She’s too busy. Always on the run, this one.” I even felt bad for a moment at the prospect of dragging Green Car away from his new friend. Who was he going to bitch to about me at home?

I am a great anthropomorphizer, giving life to the inanimate, attributing thoughts and feelings to all things without a consciousness, and interacting with these objects as if they were real. Thus, Sophie lives in a world where, at any moment, say, while apple picking, the trees might snatch their apples back, give her a tap on the wrist and assert “Don’t you touch my apples!” Sophie reacts with surprise and giggles, still unable to separate reality from fantasy, she disregards that the voice of the tree is actually coming from my mouth. I love this.

Kevin just rolls his eyes and sighs whenever I endow the non-living with animate features. But there is a reason I do this.

My special things have gotten me through some pretty tough times. When I was a child, Doggy Dear, my life-sized stuffed animal was my protector. I made him sign a contract when I was in elementary school.

“I, Doggy Dear, promise to stay awake and watch over Melissa while she sleeps. I will not allow any harm to come to her—will fight off any monsters, intruders or otherwise unwelcome guests. In exchange, Melissa promises to let me sleep during the day and go everywhere with her. Forever.” Or something like that. At any rate, he still resides in my room, stretched out across the window seat, ready to jump to life when it really matters. I know he will.

And my cars have always has a personhood in my eyes. I gave them names, thanked them for delivering me safely, empathized with them when they got hurt. Granted, I never gone so far as to confide in my cars (can I really trust them not to share my business with other cars), but there is this tiny part of me that thinks they are listening. Believes that what I say to them matters.

And now, my daughter, who emulates all that I say and do, believes too. “Mommy, be snakey,” she begs, holding up her six-foot orange python. Using my best vampire voice Snakey says, “Sophia, my princess, dance with me,” and Sophia dances with the snake that has become her protector, her pal, her confidant. And I know that one day soon, I may be drafting the most important, most reassuring of contracts between the two of them.

I am very much in favor of whatever gets us through.

2 comments:

MAMA BRANDI said...

I really love this, and I can absolutely relate to "whatever gets us through". The other day, on the bus, it was raining , and the huge windshield wipers were swish, swishing together. My little one said, "Look, Mommy...they're kissing together!". That made my day!

Silicon Valley Diva said...

What a wonderful, unique & creative slant on her book. Loved your analysis!