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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Taken as a Child

The walls of Huron Park Grammar School were dull beige subway-tile with grout-lines worn smooth by boys like me who'd glide a finger along the joint each time they idled down the hall. So on this day when I was six, and the three first-grade classes lined up to follow our teachers to an assembly, I was especially glad that our class was along the wall so I could trace the grout-line as we walked single-file to the gymnasium. The year was 1962.

In the gym the noise level rose only slightly as we joined the other grades and were taken to the front near the stage to sit on the floor "Indian style" [which was not yet forbidden to say]. I saw my sister Kathy in the fifth grade section; my brother Paul in the fourth; and Dave in the third. I waved, but only Kathy saw and waved back. She always looked out for me. It was her job to take me to my classroom door each morning; meet me there after school; and notice me whenever we passed in between. I was a happy but insecure little kid. (I'm not sure when that changed, or if in fact it ever truly did.)

Many times I was taken as a child with other children, single file, to P.E. or library or music or art. But on this day I was not be taken to art but rather by art to another world. This day I would see Paris for the first time. No Eifel Tower, no Arch de Triumph, nor any other land mark, but "Paris" was among the words I heard the principal say before he warned us not to talk or wiggle in the dark.

The stage curtain was opened just wide enough to show a white movie screen with the side edges curled in slightly. My rump was already going numb against the cold floor when the lights went out, and haunting "Oooooos" whispered round the room, prompting a "Shhhhhhh" from chairs along the wall, and all was silent.

Then from the back of the room came the mechanical chatter of a movie projector. I was new to such anticipation, the magical sound of clicking cogs pulling plastic ribbon through pulleys and pins as the big reel on the front shared its treasure with the empty wobbling wheel on back 'til finally the darkness parted in stumbling spurts and flickering numbers counted backwards on the screen as the image came into focus and the warbling music found its tune.

In this case it was a song I'd never heard before, an overture of sorts as credits played. [Back then the credits came first.] Even now that unfamiliar tune takes me to that time and place when I sat eyes wide and watched a boy about my age, wearing clothes that seemed to me too soft to wear to school. He strolled down streets and steps and alleys, past walls and windows, older than any I had ever seen.
I wondered how he was so brave to walk alone down cobblestones as grown-ups jostled by. My sister and brothers and I walked to school in clumps that grew and split like cells as others joined from porch to porch, but this boy was alone until... well...
you've seen the movie.

Or have you? If you were born between 1950 and 1968, you may recall what I've described. If not, you can watch it now. Come join us Boomers as we relive the first time we were taken as a child by film:

That day in 1962, I was drawn into a story told without a word. I did not understand the political implications, considering the film was made in 1956 (the year I was born) barely ten years after German occupation of Paris, with parts of the city still in ruin from the war. I saw no symbolism of regimes that snuff out joy. Nor did I see the religious theme that some see as the story comes to an end.

This short film by Albert Lamorisse and his son Pascal had already won all sorts of notable awards--including an Oscar for best screen play (though scarcely a word is spoken from beginning to end). Notice how often the scene unfolds in an unmoving frame, like a painting come to life. None of this occurred to me at the time. I was simply taken as a child by art and drawn into a compelling story about companionship, loyalty, loss, and restoration.

[This 32-minute film is time well spent, but if you were not prepared to watch it now, hit your "refresh" button at the top of your browser to turn off the movie window. Listen at least to the opening song and see if you hear the notes of the timeless playground chant "Nah, Nah, Na-Nah Nah" hidden in the score. If you must use the fast-forward slide bar, be sure not to miss minutes 17 through 20. If the window above does not work try this movie link.]


Blogger the walking man said...

OK Tom,
You caught me, ha ha ha. Walking through in the wee hours and here I came and stopped for...

for what, a break?
a sight beautiful, a look at drear and light?
a chance to capture 32 minutes of my day and carry it with me throughout the rest of my waking moments?
a sign that yet another spirit has woken to the need for redemption and power?
a lesson easily forgotten if not re-enforced in an ongoing way?
a drink of the water that heals as i move on jogging towards my goals?
just a bit of calm in the choppy seas?

No matter why I, I stopped, Tom it was good.



30/4/08 4:28 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Wow! I don't know what to say. It's early but your comment made my day!

30/4/08 6:11 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

My self diagnoised ADDHD has never allowed me to pay attention through the entire 32 minutes of this movie. When I was a child, I would just daydream, squirm, sing silently to myself, fold my legs a different way, watch the birds outside the window, or anything else I could think of to entertain myself... without getting into trouble. I thought my adult maturity would get me through this movie today but noooooooo..... I had to move the fast forward bar several times before the little boy floats away. Thanks TOM, for this stark reminder of "the affliction" that has followed me all of my life! hehe

30/4/08 11:49 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Here’s the thing…
If you read between the lines of this post you’ll see that I was a boy who dragged his finger along the grout lines as if it were a bobsled run. Back then, of course, we hadn’t come up with labels, but I’m sure some would call my tactile interplay with everything around me as a kid “ADD.” I just called it imagination. As for daydreaming, the only difference between us in regards to this film, is that I daydreamed INSIDE the film and you did it outside. I was drawn in to all the details and wondered about those cobblestones or if I would have climbed the cast-iron lamppost the same way he did shinnied up it like a tree. I daydreamed about different things in every scene.

So I can relate to what you’re saying. By the way, at least one editor must have agreed with you, because I have seen a shorter “cut” of this film that moves the plot along more efficiently.
PS. I think many fine, imaginative, creative teachers were the kind of students that would today be labeled (properly or not) ADD or ADHD!

30/4/08 3:19 PM  

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