Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Joy to Behold the Joy

So to keep my membership alive in the Exalted Society of Pseudo-Intellectuals, I have to ask: What is up with my posting -- almost against my better judgment -- of those sentimental photos of the trick-or-treaters who came to our house on Halloween?

Are the photos sentimental? Is my pleasure in them some offshoot of the Victorian "cult of the child," pushing the nostalgic notion that kids are other than us and better than us and to look at them is to look at something forever lost?

(That idea is the lamest of excuses, by the way: I'm all growed up and haired over; no wonder I'm such a bastard.)

When it comes to this self-accusation of sentimentality, oh I think not. The only definition of sentimental that I recall from grad school days is that one should talk of sentiment and of sentimentality. Sentiment might be defined as appropriate feeling, and sentimentality as bestowing on the situation more feeling that it can legitimately be said to merit, of indulging in the softer emotions for their own sake, making the moment all about you. Sentimentality is superfluous and misdirected emotion, emotion cultivated at the expense of the thing that prompted it, self love but never love itself. A little more than a little is by much too much, you know?

So those kid shots? Too much? Too sweet? A misrepresentation of horrible tough life as she is lived today? An editing, a false and misleading selection.

No. I think not. Most of the kids looked so happy, and (I think) were so happy, and why not? It was safe to talk to strangers. It was safe to ask them for free candy candy candy. God knows today there is candy everywhere, but O'Peep's -- other people's -- remains the best of brands, for beer and for the full line of Nestle chocolate products.

I am a candy bandit. You could see it in their eyes. So there was something impish there, too, a naughtiness subdued, the spirit of rascality modest and even coy, but still peeking around the edges.

Also, I didn't know how cute the pictures were until I looked at them. Most photos sink below the memory. But these were better than the hectic pleasure of the moment with the kids crowding around and the candy being shoveled out.

Cute is good. Cute is modest. Sometimes cute is even an insult, the lowest rung on the ladder of charm.

But with these kids? A perfect fit.

And if that is sentimentality, call it a genre and write a monograph.

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