Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crunchings and munchings for all

Perhaps in all the hubbub over Jerry Falwell's death last week you did not hear of the passing of Lloyd Alexander.

I read Lord of the Rings for the first time in first grade, and was skipped past second grade, so in fourth grade I was placed in an advanced learning program. Since it was such a rural school district, the program--known as "TAG," for the "talented and gifted" students--had to bus us smartypants together at one school; there weren't enough of us at any one elementary school to justify creating programs at each school. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays a little van would pick three or four of us up from Tenmile Elementary, swing by Lookinglass Elementary for Rachel, Michael, Guion, and Gerard, and deposit us at McGovern with the other smartypantses already there.

We studied Spanish, built little engine-driven machines out of something like Erector sets, kept journals, and spent a lot of time in the library. Alas, aside from the Spanish, I have forgotten much else of what I'm sure was a pretty good program for its time and place. Aside from the daily trauma of playing four-square on the playground--even among the other nerds, I was a standout loser at four-square--my most vivid memory is of reading Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles that year. In fact, one day in the library I became so engrossed in the tales of Taran, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Dallben, Gwydion, and the unforgettable Fflewddur Fflam that I somehow managed to get myself left behind in some corner of the library. I missed the van back to TenmiIe, and thus the bus home. I think Dad had to come pick me up on his way home from work. I'm pretty sure the incident had no effect on my absent-mindedness, nor on my ability to tune out the rest of the world when necessary. However, now that I work in a small office with someone whose job requires a lot of peppy phone calls, this flaw has redeemed itself a bit.

I've re-read the Prydain books several times since that first enchanting encounter in the library in fourth grade, and every time am re-charmed by the strength of the myth and character and humor in them. So, Lloyd Alexander, I lift a glass for you tonight. As you said, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.