Friday, June 14, 2013

We do stories at bedtime. We have always done stories at bedtime. But Mrs. Ditchman is better at it than I, as I have been doing the story for Keaton lately, and we have been reading Doomworld, which is a volume of old Marvel comic books that were created after the original Star Wars film, continuing the adventures of the young Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Princess Leia and their robot and wookie homies. They're awful, if you're wondering, and good bedtime reading they do not make. I never reconciled the cliffhanger thirty years ago, and had always wondered what happened. So I got the Dark Horse reprint off of Amazon. (Don't.) Mrs. Ditchman likes it less than me, for the record, but Keaton seems to enjoy it. I don't think he pays attention, really, but demand it he does, night after night. There are seven volumes. God help us.

Serena is reading the Magic Tree House series, which are proper books. There are about fifty of them now, and those crazy kids keep on climbing up into the tree house and finding somewhere in time -somewhere awesome and didactic- to whisk off to and explore, (while the author stays home and cashes in the millions.) But the little books are good, and the Little Ditchman reads them to us now, as it goes. Anyway, I like the history lessons, and it gets everything in school connected, as it should be. 

So tonight she asked me if the Magic Tree House books were "fiction" or "non-fiction", which was an excellent question. "They're fiction," I said. "But the historical parts are non-fiction, though they are fictionalized. Which means that the settings and the people were real, but what they did was made up." And then she asked me, "What does fiction mean?" and I realized we had to backtrack a bit. Sometimes we have the words, but we don't know what we are talking about. (I thought: This, kid, will never change, and you will encounter it all the rest of your days. But, never you mind. Anyway...)

"Fiction is not real. It's the stuff in your imagination. Non-fiction is real," I said.

"Oh," she said with an attitude that she already knew this. And she added, "The Star Wars comic books. Those are fiction."

"Yes," I said.

"And the Bible?"

And here we are. Already. She's seven. And, for what it's worth, I'm forty-three. I've got to have a good answer for this. The Bible. Fiction or Non-Fiction?

"Well, uh..."

I am not a Creationist, though I do believe in the literal power of the figurative word. And I find it easy to accept the historical accuracy of much of the biblical text, and yet it is a profound leap of faith -the most enduring of its kind- to accept that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, or that Jacob wrestled an angel, or that the Tree of Life was guarded by a flaming sword... And here I paused... (Which is a wisdom I have gained over the years.)

And the impatient child interrupted my ruminating with another question: "What about my mathbook?"

An easy one, at last. "Oh, that's neither fiction nor non-fiction. That's a book for learning. That's a textbook." And, here, I was handed the answer by my seven-year-old. 

"Like the Bible," she said with the Wisdom of the Ages.

And there we were.