Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Color of Hunger

Two days ago was my son's first real Halloween-- though even that may be hyperbole. At 1 1/2 he did seem amused at being costumed, ran with bated breath every time the doorbell rang and was quizically interested when we took him to two neighbors' houses and they put all sorts of colorful little packages into his pumpkin bag.

Yet, he's 1 1/2. He doesn't know he's getting candy. He doesn't know the kids are all running around out of their minds in anticipation of a massive chocolate-and-sweets binge. I've tried to construct what his perspective might be, and I'm bluffed. What kind of meaning can you string together from these events?


So my son was a pumpkin for Halloween. My reasoning being that this is perhaps the only Halloween when I alone will have a say in what he dresses up as. Given his predeliction for all things automotive and truck related, lord only knows what we have in store for us once he starts talking and asserting his will backed up with the specificities of words.

It's interesting to me that universally it seems that small babies are dressed up as food or food-related items. Let's not forget that the pumpkin is in fact a vegetable. Then you have the babies dressed up like pea pods, carrots with tops, hot peppers. Of all the stinking cute animals in the world as resources for costumes out the wazoo, I beg of you, why dress him up like a vegetable?


Probably the same reason we find little babies so delectable. Did it ever strike you as odd that one of the first ways that many people "play" with babies is to act as though they are eating them? Have you ever felt the twinge or desire yourself to nibble on an opportune little ear or stray toe?

Though it may all have somewhat cannabalistic overtones, I think the truth of it is probably much more honest to come by: feeding is the most essential activity of nurturance for a small being. In a NYT article from Valentine's Day this year there was a fascinating discussion on where the idea and practice of kissing comes from. The most compelling explanation in my eyes:

A few anthropologists have suggested that mouth kissing is a "relic gesture," with evolutionary origins in the mouth-to-mouth feeding that occurred between mother and baby in an age before Gerber and still takes place in a few parts of the world today. It can hardly be a coincidence, they note, that in several languages the word for kissing is synonymous with pre-mastication, or that "sweet" is the epithet most commonly applied to kisses.

So kissing is a kind of feeding and a kind of feasting. Children are the apples of our mouths.