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Family and Community

Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Lax
Living Literature: Travels in John Steinbeck's Wake  -  Aryeh and Tziporah's Memories of the Sea of Cortez
By Andromeda Romano-Lax « Prev   Page 3 of 4   Next »

Two years have passed since our trip. Tziporah, now 4, remembers only a few images. “Dolphins, and a dog named Eco…” were what she could recall today.

When I asked her what she knew about John Steinbeck, she said, “I think of him as having a yellow hat.” After a few seconds I realized: she’s picturing the man from H.A. Rey’s Curious George — a book, curiously enough, published the very same year as Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez!

Aryeh, now 7, still remembers much, but overlaid with a mythic sheen, with certain stories — like that of his scorpion sting, which had no lasting ill effects — reinforced through multiple tellings.

“I’m a more cautious person, now,” he said.

Aryeh and Tziporah watch a slate-pencil sea urchin in a tidepool near Guaymas.
In my mind, the opposite is true: during our Cortez trip, I watched him take on new challenges, daring to swim and snorkel, paddle and sail (even with a cranky captain barking at him for days on end).

As for the scorpion encounter, I believe it had a totemic impact on Aryeh. After the sting, he became fascinated with poisonous creatures and more reflective about his health and strength — both conscious of mortality but also impressed with his own resilience. But his interpretation is what matters most. He will have to write his own story in the years ahead. We all shape anecdote and experience into a kind of self-mythology, which we use to explain why and how we came to be the people we are.

I’m convinced we underestimate most children, assuming they can’t absorb or retain elements from life or literature. My son’s own memories of the books we read aloud on our Baja trip — surprisingly sharp all these many months later — bear this out.

When I asked Aryeh about Steinbeck, he answered:

“I know he was a very famous writer and almost all the books he wrote are famous. He was accompanied by Ed Ricketts on his trip. There was a war going on, so that’s why he left. He and Ricketts loved collecting creatures, just like I do. Was he curious? I’m definitely curious. If I see something that even looks a tiny bit like a spider, I’ll check it out, and if it is a spider, I’ll try to identify it. We both like animals a lot. I remember The Pearl – there was a lot of tension: the baby getting sick, when the people were tracking them (Kino & Juana), people wanting the pearl. The message? Maybe it was: Don’t get anything too good or everyone will start wanting it.”

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Next page:   With Aryeh and Tziporah Following Right Beside Us Pages:  1  2  3  4 


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