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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Even Betsy-Tacy And Tib Can Reach Real Wounds

So, I wrote about Betsy-Tacy and Tib, and their hair-cutting adventure. The children I read to, as I said, all had many, very funny stories about children cutting hair. 

And then, we talked about why they were cutting the hair--because they were afraid they might die, which happened a lot in those days. And the kids talked about someone they knew--grandma, grandpa, cat, dog--who had died. And one little girl, bright and eager, tall for her age, in her hijab with the sparkles on it, raised her hand and cheerily said, "Yeah, about losing people. We only lost twenty family members in the war." 
Not her, but looks like her.

I know this little girl's mother. The family came here as Somali refugees. They are smart and caring and terrific parents and their grief is written on their faces. That child and her sister intimately know family loss once-removed, as my children know that family loss twice-removed, through hearing family members who survived the Holocaust. They talk of their experiences and choke with grief for those they lost--parents, grandparents, children, siblings, cousins. 

Those of us in the west no longer live in a time when graveyards are lined with small stones for an entire family killed by typhus, or diphtheria. Yet, children, all children-- still need a gentle, loving way to cope with fear and grief and loss. The great children's classics have those losses. In Betsy-Tacy, (the very first book) Tacy's small sister, Beatrice, falls sick and dies just before Easter. An entire chapter is dedicated to her death and how Betsy helps Tacy grieve.  

Hurray for literature. 

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