When I mentioned to one of my professors not long ago that Marta was pregnant and we were about to start a family, she said: “Oh! You’re going to love it. You get to relive your childhood.”
Yeah right, I thought. You’re just being sentimental.
But then last night, Marta and I came home from a day-after-the-Fourth-of-July BBQ and I looked in the bag of children’s books she’d picked out from the library for Nico and there….was….The Story of Ferdinand.
Perhaps one of my favorite books EVER when I was a kid.
And, I kid you not, I semi-hugged the book. Which, because we’re trying to read to Nico in Spanish, was a Spanish translation of the original English book. Which is ironic considering the original book is about a bull in Spain. His name is Ferdinand (or Ferdinando in Spanish) and he would rather smell flowers than bullfight. And, if you are 5, he is the most perfect peaceful creature in the world. It also makes perfect sense to you that he doesn’t want to bullfight even if you are, indeed, 5 and have no idea what bullfighting is.
The interesting thing about replaying your childhood when you are no longer a child is that you get to do so through an adult’s perspective–and with the help of Wikipedia. So, after reading Nico the story of Ferdinand, I put her to bed (a post coming soon on how she actually sleeps now) and went to investigate.
I found this out: The Story of Ferdinand, though it was published just before the Spanish Civil War, came to be known as a pacifist and anti-Franco text. It was banned in several countries, including Spain and Nazi Germany. The first Spanish translation publication was in 1964, some 28 years after it was originally published, so I am assuming it was around then that the ban in Spain was lifted.
It’s author, Munro Leaf, was said to have written the story in less than an hour, mostly as a way to highlight the skills of his friend Robert Lawson, who illustrated the book in black and white drawings that take place in the Spanish city of Ronda and, later, in a Madrid bullring. Lawson was known for his playfulness and sense of humor. In his drawings of the famous cork tree that Ferdinand liked to lounge under, Lawson drew the tree as sprouting actually wine corks.
Oh, and in 2010 Seth Rogan gave a reading of Ferdinand on stage with a musical ensemble in Los Angeles and in 2017 it will be released as an animated film. It was an Oscar winning film by Disney way back in the 1940s. Though none of these reproductions, I can assure you, match the experience reading the book as a kid. Or having it read to you.
Reading the book to your child is also fulfilling, but in Nico’s case I think most of it went over her head. It was late and she had just eaten. She’d also gotten used to the rhythms of the previous story I was reading her about a penguin named Hielito who can’t stand the cold. The rhythm of El Cuento de Ferdinando was a wee bit different. Or maybe it was the tremble of nostalgic excitement in my voice. And, of course, the fact that Nico is only 2 months old. She can’t even recognize the word mama yet, let alone toro or flor.
No matter. I was pleased that her infant state allowed me to regress–if only for a second. Though, truth be told, reading Ferdinand now is a far cry from reading it way back when, before I really knew about civil wars or bull fights or dictators or book contracts or Seth Rogan. My professor was only partially right, I think, that having kids lets you relive your own childhood. Kids let you remember it, which is really nice. Reliving your childhood would require way more than just having a child. Lots of LSD, maybe. Or a lobotomy.