500 Words on… Enchantment.
Enchantment and entrancement are both words I have always felt pulled toward. Maybe it’s because both tend to deal with what feels to me like a very personal, subjective experience.
So what is enchantment, and what value does it have?
Babies and very small children are very often enchanted – and enchanting to adults, although that is certainly not their intent. Their world is new, filled with discoveries, challenges, possibilities, and wonder.
They don’t have their world pigeonholed, yet. Without these defining labels, which place rigid frames around so much of the typical adult life, everything is fluid and ceaselessly changeable.
Nearly everything in a young child’s life is an adventure. If they are well-cared for and given as much freedom as possible, they will move about a wide variety of activities, and learn and grow from each.
Before memory is cemented and continuous, things can be surprising and delightful even when they’ve happened before, because they have been forgotten, and so are happening as though for the first time, never losing their joy. As an infant, Jeremiah went into the most delightful rounds of chortling every time I made farm animal noises. He was also incredibly enchanted by vacuum cleaners.
A little later, after memory is more reliable, a child will find enchantment, in , what Annalise used to call again and again and again and AGAIN!” She fell in love with The New Adventures of Little Toot the summer she turned five. She watched it hundreds of times. She asked questions about geology, meteorology, music, and animals.
She learned to sing all the music, and then choreographed dances. In order to get Jeremiah, who had trouble learning her steps when she demonstrated them, to dance with her, she drew a chart ordering the steps for him.
She gathered up an inflatable yellow dolphin, three stuffed dogs, three stuffed cats, a mechanical pelican, and a toy tugboat, and acted out scenes from the cartoon, then began improvising her own.
She became fascinated by the story of Little Toot, and, when we found a copy of the 1939 original by Hardie Gramatky on Ebay, we bought it for less than $10, and spent hours reading it together, Annalise’s understanding of English through history, geography, watercraft, and art blossoming.
Eventually, we added Little Toot Through the Golden Gate; Little Toot on the Thames; and Little Toot on the Mississippi. And we learned more geography, history, other cultures, a rich vocabulary, double-digit numbers, bits of other languages, and so so much more….
I might have been so busy with my own life that I didn’t notice the enchantment of my four-year-old. The length of the fascination was a single summer, and then, quite suddenly, she had absorbed all she needed from it, and moved on.
I would have lost so much joy and connection, if I had missed it.
Thankfully, I have always been enchanted by children and how they learn, and I was paying attention – and her life, and mine, are richer because of that.