THE GIFT OF LIFE
All Original Written and Photographic content is Copyright MEL BIRNKRANT
Can an inanimate object be “Alive”? That is the question that the objects I create and collect attempt to answer. Legends of man’s creations, coming to life, creep inconspicuously through the cracks of history. From the Myth of “Galatea and Pygmalion” to “Frankenstein”, such tales are relatively rare. But those that have survived never fail to fascinate. In the original story of “Pinocchio”, the hunk of wood, from which he was carved, began to talk and berate his maker, even before he was half done. According to the author, Collodi, who reportedly, did not like children, Pinocchio was a despicable little demon, who among many acts of mischief, squashed Jiminy cricket flat! Later, in the Disney version, a much nicer Pinocchio proves himself worthy of being loved, and thus, becomes a “Real Boy”. Along the way, the Blue Fairy recites the memorable line: “Little puppet made of pine, Awake! The Gift of Life is thine!”
Like the Blue Fairy, children have the power to grant their toys "The Gift of Life" at will, and in an instant take it back again. They know, deep down, that those objects, to which they choose to give that "Gift", really are “alive”, for a brief moment, and at the same time, they know that they are not.
How convenient it is, Click- "ALIVE", Click- "NOT"; The Gift of Life can be turned on like a switch, whatever seems appropriate at the time. But, whatever position the switch is in, a certain "something" remains that tells them that this chosen object, whether "alive" or "not", needs their Love and affection, and in return, will Love them back again!
I wrote the words above twelve years ago, and how prophetic they have proven to be. I see them come true every time I spend time with my 5 year old, grandson Sammy. He and I have a group of small stuffed animals that we play with together, endlessly. Sammy thinks of them as my toys. I think of them as his.
Foremost, in order of affection, is “Mookie”, he was the first, a small bedraggled cat who has seen better days. Next is Mookie’s little buddy “Pee-Pee”. Pee-Pee is a catlike creature, who once was yellow, and is smaller still than Mookie. Although, Pee is now dirty gray and insignificant, in many ways, he has a sprit that makes him big in Sammy’s eyes. These are his favorites. The entire repertoire company consists of at least twenty more, and is growing, all the time. All are strays, two monkeys that Sam found abandoned on a playground, and named,” Peppy” and “Todo”, a plain, but feisty, cat named “Scrawny Butt”, and “White Kitty” who always feels neglected, and always is, a fat hamster named “Chubby”, “Fluffy, a cat as cute as her name implies” and “Sock Monkey”, who also happens to be a fortune teller, etc. The cast of characters goes on and on, each has a different voice and personality. But Pee-Pee and Mookie remain his favorites.
Sammy’s first words, upon seeing me, are always, “Do Pee-Pee and Mookie, Pop-Pop!” And for two or three days every weekend, we do just that. The games that he creates with them are increasingly complicated, often involving mixed up and interchangeable identities. Sammy can always keep track of them; I cannot. And any object we find around the house, Sam transforms into an infinite number of things. He is a far better toy inventor than I will ever be. A plastic bowl becomes a boat, a house, a tent, a bed, a car, etc., and ultimately a flying saucer, on which Pee-Pee and Mookie take off into Outer Space, and inevitably encounter a Meteor Shower.
And, finally, when we have explored every possibility, we’ll settle down to watch TV, which means, me watching the news and Sammy on the couch beside me, with my left arm around him, while Pee-Pee and Mookie, one on either side of him, watch him play Angry Birds on his mother’s pocket sized computer, which is called a Cell Phone. As long as the cats in my hands keep moving, to show they are paying attention to the game, Sam is happy. If I get too engrossed in the TV and fail to animate them, he will remind me, “Pop-Pop, do Pee-Pee and Mookie!”
The other day we were doing just that. I was watching TV. Sammy was playing Angry Birds. And Pee-Pee and Mookie were watching him. Sammy turned his head to one side and said, with heartwarming sincerity, “I LOVE YOU”. You could tell he really meant it. I replied “I love you too, Sammy”. To which, he answered, guilelessly: “Not You, Pop-Pop! I was talking to Mookie!”
Earlier in the day, I said something to the effect that, maybe, he shouldn’t, say something or other,” Because it might hurt Mookie’s feelings”. He looked at me, like I was crazy, and replied, as if he were surprised: “Pop-Pop, he’s only made of fluff!”
So there you have it, the Gift of Life is his to give, or take away. Whatever path his life might follow, I know that Sammy will always have a warm place in his heart for these small creatures made of “fluff”, long after, they, and I, have gone away.