Monday, January 11, 2010

Play is Serious (part two): The Hospital

A couple months back, Trinity had to spend two days and a night in the hospital. Nothing too serious, but whenever she gets sick she has trouble breathing, and this time they wanted to keep a closer eye on her than usual. She found herself surrounded by nurses and doctors and ladies bringing her meals on trays. She loved every minute of it. She even told the doctors knock knock jokes like this old chestnut:

Knock knock.
Who's there?
Banana who?
Banana eyeball.

(No, it doesn't make sense. She's only three, remember?) Anyway, the experience showed me that, for Trinity, "the play's the thing." By that I mean not only that there is a good measure of theatrics in the way she socializes, but also that, for her, the theater of sociability is pure fun. Those weren't nurses and doctors and lunch ladies: they were her audience. Not the common rabble of her audience at home, but a new adoring set of fans who often stopped in just to see her because, not only is it fun for her, she's damned good at it, too.

While Trinity held forth from the little positionable stage of her hospital bed, David was at home staging a drama of his own. This one included a small hospital that I helped him construct out of paper, and a number of animals whose legs were bandaged with yarn. They were taken to and from the hospital in the back of a little truck, and the "doctor" tended to each of them with great care.

It strikes me that artists also perform these kinds of "operations": they take what is mysterious, maybe scary, and they find a way to think about it that is their own. They create worlds around what they don't fully understand -- Picasso's Guernica, Hopper's Nighthawks -- and invite us to take up residence, however briefly.

The hospital is still, occasionally, in use. Just last night Batman and Robin were rushed in following a fierce battle with the Penguin while Trinity, our little troubadour, related the incident in song.