Shelter'd Under Paper
I was four and I had stumbled into my father's workshop. My father was a puppeteer, a master of wood and silk and string. I had seen all of his shows, the dance of shapes and styles, the characters of mâché and feathers come to life. Now, I was in the room where the dancing had stopped.
My mother was mortified. She had heard anecdotes about children who had been scarred by encountering such a sight, friends and animate educators dangling, motionless, lifeless, powerless from hooks upon the wall. She had heard of children damaged for life, concepts of life and death, of reality and fiction trounced, compromised by a casual stroll into a puppeteer's work space.
In fear for my future sanity, she made my father take each one down and show it to me. The Dogon-inspired puppets he turned inside out so that I could see the control rod and the slot for the operator's arm. The rod puppets he would hold low and manipulate so that I could clearly see him animating the head and arms. The more complex characters with machinery of his own design he carefully dis-assembled and demonstrated. Over the next week he had me sit with him as he carved, stitched, painted and practiced with an entirely new creation.
I'm told that, when some people meet me for the first time, they experience a sort of disconnect, a feeling that I am not of the same culture as they are, as if I were born in some far-flung and alien land but had no accent. I understand this feeling; I simply do not share the concerns of most mundane people. I'm not interested in the same things. I don't approach the world the same way. Perhaps this is part of why.
When I was very young I rarely had a crib. I slept in road crates as my parents' company performed. My mother never worried about bumps and bruises as I played pop-warner sports nor that I would be bullied on the playground. Rather, she worried that our livelihood would become a toddler's house of horrors. Others had fathers that would play catch with them when their friends weren't around. I had a father that could conjure them from scraps of wood and cloth.
So, yes, I imagine I do seem a bit different, but at least I'm not emotionally scarred.