Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Seven year olds are literalists. At their tender young age, things like metaphors, similes, and symbolism escape them. This fact often makes it difficult to listen to the radio when Maggie is around. Maggie has reached an age where she listens intently to songs and wants a very specific breakdown of what each song means. She often asks, “is that real? did that really happen?” She demands an explanation for songs from everything from wayward lovers to newfound love.

A few days ago on the way home from school, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” came on the radio. After a few moments of intent listening, she asked how that man singing got ringed by the fire, and wondered how badly he got burned. I tried my best to explain to a seven year old that this song is actually about two people who fell in love with each other but were married to other people at the time and wanted to be together but couldn’t. She listened quietly to my explanation, and then thought about what I said for a moment as she continued to listen to the song. Then she asked, “Did his wife get mad because he liked someone else and she set his ring on fire?” I sighed, and said, “yes, something like that.”

Clearly, symbolism will have to wait awhile.

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