Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Baby, The Big Sister, and the Baby Doll

I never realized what a packrat my mother was. Bea worked as a producer at CBS Radio in the thirties. "Children Are People" must have been her favorite job. She kept everything, including a pile of scripts from that period, hidden away at the bottom of a closet. Later, perhaps in the fifties or early sixties, Bea drafted a short script for television, jotting it down on a 4 X 6 inch pad of paper. She was in therapy by then, which may have served as inspiration:

Video: A shaft of light falls on a baby in a mother’s arms. A lullaby plays in the background. We start with an image of chromosomes.

Audio: “Everybody’s autobiography begins here, for the dramatic conflict starts with our genes. One child differs from another child in the same family. Each of us – brothers and sisters – inherits different chromosomes. Essentially, this is a virtue. Consider how dull it would be if we all had the same characteristics.”

Video: Paper dolls all in a row; Rockettes chorus line.

Audio: “But we are different and sometimes our needs conflict.”

Video: Image of group of boys off to play football and one boy at the piano.

Audio: “It begins for everyone the way it began for me, in the home, wherever that home may be. I am trying now to remember how it was early, very early in my life, the warm milk and the pleasure of sucking. My eyes begin to focus. Shining in the sun is my mother’s golden hair. I can see her eyes. These are good because they are part of that enveloping tenderness.”

Video: Show baby looking up.

Audio: “She is my world. I trust her and rely on her completely.”

Video: Baby goes to sleep. Mother puts baby in bassinette.

Audio: “But, one day I am hungry, and she doesn’t come right away.”

Video: Image of baby crying.

Audio: “This is terrifying. What can I do? Inside me, the emptiness hurts. I am helpless. She comes at last. I gulp the milk and begin to wonder how I can keep her here. How can I control my world so I won’t feel those pangs of hunger?”

Video: A small hand reaches out to hold the mother’s finger tightly. The mother laughs gaily but the baby won’t let go. Then the mother sings a lullaby until the baby sleeps.

Audio: “I am just gaining control of my hunger and understand that I don’t completely possess my mother when other people show up.”

Video: Father’s face looks into bassinet. Father picks up baby gingerly.

Audio: “This one, too, holds me tenderly. He makes me feel better.”

Video: Father walks and burps baby.

Audio: “But even these two (M & F) have their own world and sometimes they call each other away from me.”

Video & Audio: “Mary, where are my new brown socks?” “John, come for dinner.”

Audio: “There are other sounds and events that take them away.”

Video & Audio: A telephone rings; sound of another voice in the next room.

Audio: “There are other people who are not my parents, and some don’t entirely like me.”

Video: Show resentful look on Helen’s face as Mother plays with me. Helen looks at crib, pokes at me when nobody is watching. The baby cries. The parents come running and punish Helen.

Audio: “I feel apprehensive when they slap her. And with good reason for one day, when the mother isn’t looking …”

Video: Helen observes parents disappear through doorway.

Audio: “Helen strikes back – at me! This time her motive is clear – obliterate the competition. Her approach is direct, but sly.”

Video: Here we show a doll baby, not the real one, to whom it happened. The doll is pushed off the bed.

Audio: “The fall hurt.”

Video: Show baby on floor, crying. Mother rushes back in. Helen looks terrified.

Audio: “After that, I know how defenseless I am. In my dreams I live it over and over, trying to understand the experience. I need to work it out and not be afraid anymore because the fear makes me uncomfortable. It tightens my stomach and produces colic. My muscles tighten when Helen passes by, and, if she stays too long … I cry, even if she only came to look. But she doesn’t like it when I cry. So, I try not to.”

Video: Scared look on baby’s face.

Audio: “How to cope with Helen? After a while Mother’s friends come to see me, and Helen doesn’t like it when I get all the attention. She grows sad and goes off by herself, examines her reflection in the mirror. I crawl into the kitchen, even though the linoleum is cold, to be near Mother and smell the good things baking in the oven: biscuits and cookies and cakes and pies. My mother turns to the cabinet where there is a flour bin. You put the flour in the top and it sifts down as needed. Somebody had given me a little wagon with a doll driver. The doll broke off, and Helen climbed up on the kitchen counter one day when Mother wasn’t looking and threw my doll in the flour bin. I wondered about her life in the flour bin and imagined all sorts of activities.”

Video: Show doll sliding down the flour and finding a little room with a table and chairs, like Goldilocks. Doll sits there eating a little dish of flour. She goes to bed on a little flour bed and looks out a window at a flour landscape.

Audio: “Mother couldn’t figure out why I had become so interested in the flour bin.”

Video: Baby points and tries to explain without being able to speak.

Audio: “She thought it might be because I liked cookies and gave me one.”

Video: Baby accepts cookie but still tries to explain about the doll. Mother looks puzzled, shrugs and goes to do something else.

Audio: “I was glad to have the cookie, but it was hard not to be able to make her understand. Maybe the doll wanted to get out of the flour bin …”

Bea has created a remarkable story of sibling rivalry at a very early age.

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