Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bubbles

The Pie asked for bubbles this afternoon during the pre-supper push-and-shove scream-and-cry festival. Glad enough of a reprieve, I pulled down the bottle, breaking my own rule that bubbles are for outdoor use only. (I’m not sure why I made that rule. Was it concern that bubble film would contaminate my pristine kitchen floor? Unlikely. I may have feared – with some justice – that the demands for "Bubbles!" would become incessant and annoying.)

After two or three quick puffs, both children were shrieking in ecstasy and I had time to sit back and wonder – what is it with children and bubbles? The appeal to parents and caregivers I understand: bubbles aren’t expensive or messy, and above all they pop. It is impossible for siblings to fight over bubbles, impossible to hoard them or engage in impromptu and dangerous bouts of tug-of-war over them.

Bubbles, I realized, are pure Event. Their claim to existence is tenuous – they appear, and within moments they are gone. It is their transitory nature that delights and entertains – they burst into abundance and create a sudden madness of delight. Bubbles represent what C.S. Lewis referred to as Joy: they are about longing and desire, not possession.

My children are still young enough to live in the world of Event. They have some grasp of the concept of possession, but almost no understanding of the idea of ownership. There is "have" and "have not"; there is no "own." That innocence, I know, will be short-lived; before long they will be begging me to buy them toys, drawing distinctions between "borrow" and "buy." Eventually, they will become greedy and acquisitive like the rest of us. By the time I was ten years old, for instance, I was an avid watcher of The Price is Right; I would watch the Showcase Showdown and scoff at contestants who chose the trips over the furniture. Did these people not realize that after a few weeks their trips to Hawaii and Sydney, Australia would be over, but the glories of a brand-new dinette set would live on?

Things last longer than events, and to a ten-year-old that makes them better. It’s difficult to remember that things acquire their value almost entirely through the events that they enable or commemorate. A novel, the reader-response critics remind us, has value because it can be read – it comes into existence only in the act of reading, and the seductive glossy dust jackets merely entrap us into perceiving a book as object rather than event-in-waiting. We buy, we collect, we stack and dust and store – and we seek to understand what things are rather than paying attention to what they do.

Even world travel is susceptible to this impulse to convert Events into Things. We take photographs. We buy Bavarian beer steins and Venetian masks, hoping to stem the constant slippage of time into eternity. The longing for permanence goes hand in hand with impossibility of attaining it. Life, like a bubble, is shiny and incandescent – it enchants us precisely because each time we lift a longing finger up to touch it, it pops.

29 comments:

Catherine said...

This post is beautiful, well written...and so true. Thank you.

Julie Q. said...

Gorgeous flow of thought here! I love the imagery and philosophy you draw from a simple bubble session.

I've only read a few of your posts but now I'm officially hooked.

erin k said...

Thank you for this.

Let's all try to enjoy the Event, whatever it may be...

Kyla said...

The last sentence is perfect. :)

Beck said...

Beautiful post. I'm not a big fan of travel, largely because I'm such a snail-like hermit, but I DO like beer steins and glass bubble bath containers in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
Bubbles are banned from indoors because invariably they get spilled and then someone slips in the sudsy mess, falls, and cracks their head on the kitchen floor. Every time.

Jenifer G. said...

You have a gift for turning the ordinary into something so beautiful. This happened this afternoon and between now and then you were able to create this lovely froth of imagery and insight. So lovely.

When I posted about clutter the notion of trying to capture the Event by turning to Things was key. We want so bad to capture the Event, to cling to it really, that we try to recreate the feeling with Things. Our homes and lives become full of Things and our hearts are still looking for the Event in all that stuff.

I too have often wondered about kids and bubbles and we have the same rule - no bubbles in the house. While bubbles certainly are cheap in my case they are messy. My girls tend to get more on them and the floor than onto the wands.

Maybe one of these days I will let them loose in the house - that would truly be an Event.

**************
I loved Price Is Right as a kid and was so good at playing! I think that is why I can spot a bargain and remember prices so well now. I am a bit of a game show junkie, over the years I have been addicted to many.

slouching mom said...

For some reason, while reading this I was reminded of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: if you try to measure something, the very act of measuring changes it fundamentally and irrevocably. This, I think, is true for events (e.g., when we take pictures to try to commemorate travel) and maybe even true for life in general.

Mouse said...

I notice that I take fewer pictures on vacation than I used to. Part of this is a conscious decision to spend a little more time in the moment and let it become an impressionistic memory. This post helps me define and understand my impulses--both the earlier desire to try and own the Event and the current desire to relish it while it's present.

Beautiful!

kgirl said...

good post, b&p! good post! (sorry, that's family feud).
i try to see the wonder that is the world (or a bubble) through bee's eyes. it's a great place.

and, i used to think the exact same thing about the showdown - only chumps took the trips; the real winners took the appliances with bonus rolaids.

flutter said...

Oh that was just so beautiful

nomotherearth said...

I actually love the trips, because the memories of the trips, for me, outweighs the objects. However, I'm one of the few "non-picture takers" out there. I'd rather experience the culture, live in the moment, instead of spending the entire time behind a camera.

Christina said...

Beautiful post. And a good reminder for me to get the bubbles out to play with again.

Oh, and I was the weird 10-year-old. I wanted the trips from The Price is Right more than the furniture. For me, stuff was just stuff, but travelling was a chance to broaden my experiences and hopefully grow as a person.

Antique Mommy said...

Lovely, thoughtful and insightful -- as always.

Mad Hatter said...

I don't usually capture Event through Thing. I don't buy the concert T. I forget to take pictures. I do, however, try to recapture Event through Thing. I am a sentimental hoarder. That Kuahara mountain bike in the garage that has spent the last 8 years with only one gear and that was ousted by a better bike a good long while will get dragged to the curb over my dead body. There is too much memory in that thing. My discovery of my own independence is in that thing. The Easter Island statue mug that I drank my coffee out of every day for fourteen years and that broke yesterday morning is still lying in pieces on the kitchen counter.

NotSoSage said...

Beautiful. This is interesting in the context of the kind of music that Joe makes. His music is largely improvised, so it is mostly about the Event. Sure, you can make a recording of it, but you will never again hear it live the way that you heard it that day. What's interesting is that he has the freedom to do that because of the genre of music that he plays. In some ways, pop musicians are more constrained because their fans get upset or feel cheated if the musician tries to change things up a bit.

Not sure what this has to do with your post, but this is the direction it led me in.

Oh, and we were given a bunch of bubble solution where the bubbles did NOT pop. They would land on our cat's fur and stay there. We played with them in the kitchen one evening and when we came down the next morning, some of them were still there. We actually threw the bottle out, we were so scared. Gives new meaning to the horror film device, The Thing! :)

Em said...

Beautiful post. Just lovely.

Andrea said...

That was lovely.

(An aside: we dont' allow bubbles in the house because no matter how hard we try, we can't wipe the film off the floor, and end up with slippery spots for months. If you have discovered a secret for removing bubble film from hardwood, I'd love to hear it.)

Sober Briquette said...

Just what I needed this morning. Thanks for this great post.

We have bubbles in the house - perhaps it doesn't get slippery because none of them ever hit the floor? If children love bubbles, dogs love them double. Another indoor bubble idea is in the tub: sounds redundant, but the moisture helps them last longer and stick all over the tile. Fun.

Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday and she has been excited since...last year? It's hard for me because I am not an "event" person and I keep thinking she's going to be let down.

Suz said...

So true...and I love travel, I have a job that requires travel, because it's wonderful to be thrown into event.

Anonymous said...

So true!

Oh, The Joys said...

I am returned to the Event time of Bub and Pie when a butterfly lands on me. It doesn't last long and it fills me with wonder.

Mimi said...

Weird, I've been trying to get back into the event part of my life, deliberately trying to steer my focus away from things: I remember in 2002, going to the site of the WTC in New York, and all I could see where flashbulbs where you might expect people's faces. Photos, photos, photos, no one really being there in the moment. That was when it really struck me. The fleetingness of experience, our lack of trust in memory to serve us. I tried to smell, to hear, to taste, to see. Not to turn the event into a thing, but to get a sense of the event as something I could keep in my mind, at least.

Oh, and around my place, we call that time of day 'arsenic hour.' Fun.

Redneck Mommy said...

While I'm sure your essay on bubbles and The Event were not meant to prick tears into my eye and clutch my chest in a moment of pure grief, that is what your words evoked.

Bubbles were one of the FEW things that could bridge the distance between the Bug and I. They were the one thing that Bug loved and never tired of. They were wondrous and amazing and they never stopped inciting him to reach past his shell and touch his mommy's soul.

And that was The Event for me. And will remain that way, regardless of the passage of time, forever in my heart, and in my memory.

Damn it. Now I'm misty eyed and longing for some damn bubbles...I've got to get some kleenex.

Lawyer Mama said...

Ahhhh, another beautiful post, B&P. I find I have a hard time living in the moment (I'm usually the gal hiding behind the camera) and bubbles (and kids playing with bubbles) are a good reminder of that. Hell, I still love bubbles!

Momish said...

I use to have such anxiety when on holidays and such to take a zillion pictures to capture every second of the event. Then I realized I was limiting my experience by living everything through an eye lens! I now only whip the camera out once in a while. So true what you write.

Kelly said...

I know you've written a new post by now, but I just had to comment on this one.

Lillian, the notoriously difficult baby that she was, gave me her first belly laugh when I took her outside on a mild winter day, with the chief purpose of wasting some time. What should I do with you? I thought, and I got out the bubbles. There was no breeze, so the bubbles just kind of lingered there so she could see them. And she laughed. Really laughed.

And it was quite an Event. Thank you for the lovely essay.

bren j. said...

Husband is aghast that you or anyone would ever choose the dinette set over the trip. "You'll scrimp and save to buy the table and chairs because you need them. But you'll always put off the vacation thinking 'it's not really necessary; we can do that next year.' And then 'next year' becomes the next and the next and so on."
I guess we're Event people around here. Daily life seems to be just the means to an end...the rambling along waiting for the next big Thing to happen. In our case, 14 weeks of rambling left. Or in the grander scheme of things, how many minutes/days/hours, etc left until we really get to go HOME?

Sandra said...

Brilliantly written.

It is one of the biggest challenges in my relationship. I have always been someone who is about Events. I'd much rather spend on a trip or an "experience" than a thing. My husband ... not so much.

Bubbles are magical.

ewe are here said...

The transient nature of bubbles really isa lot like the best parts of 'living', actually living.

Maybe this explains why I've always been fascinated with bubbles. I keep a bubble pot in my car. I blow them for cats and small children to chase. It's just such a happy thing to do!

Beautiful post. Although, I always wanted the trips on the price isright... ;-)