Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Les Petites Filles

Eloise and Skipperdee having a stare down.
Last week when I wrote the post about Bringing Up Bébé, I thought I would illustrate it with Madeline and Eloise until I realized that although they had similar "lifestyles," both wore shiny black patent Mary Janes and neither one had a doting maman. (As their stories reveal, quite the contrary.) But since the entire point of the bringing up bébé story was about mothering techniques it was obvious these little girls didn't fit the profile.

Eloise, who as you know, lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York, rarely saw her globetrotting socialite mother. She shared a luxurious suite with her aging "rawther British" Nanny who was sweet, dotty and in over her head. Thus Eloise was in a way completely on her own in a world of grown-ups which allowed her to create her very elastic boundaries and inventive amusements.

Madeline had more structure in her life, but no less spunk as she coped with the strict routine of life in a Catholic boarding school. While Eloise had Nanny, Madeline had Miss Clavel and although she may have been confronted with more rules and regulations, she too found ways to circumvent the establishment and forge her highly independent expressions of rebellion and fun.

Madeline with Genevieve.
Eloise with Weenie.
Both had dogs as companions Eloise's Weenie, and Madeline's Genevieve. Being housed under more swank circumstances and of course her mother knew the manager, Eloise also had a raisin eating turtle named Skipperdee. Nanny wasn't always a laugh a minute after all. She often chided Eloise by telling her "being bored is not allowed." Clearly Eloise took her at her word.

I'm not really "going anyplace" with these musings (ramblings), except to say both had an irrepressible joie de vivre, a remarkable resilience, staunch independence and a soupçon of healthy naughtiness that made them  irresistible. It also made them perfect role models for generations of little girls.

I'm sure, had they been more than delightful children's story characters, Madeline and Eloise would have been fast friends. Doubtless Eloise had French lessons -- after all we know she visited Paris -- between sessions of harassing room service at the Plaza and Madeline was certainly required to learn English from the minute she was sent off to school.

I warned you I was rambling but my fuzzy point is that I think from what I've observed in France, children possess that same delicious cocktail of independence, resilience, insouciance and good manners that Eloise and Madeline demonstrated in their captivating caprices and adventures.

Isn't it interesting that both authors, Ludwig Bemelman for Madeline and Kay Thompson for Eloise chose to create stories with only fleeting glimpses of parents?

"And that's all there is -- there isn't anymore." *

*I'm borrowing Madeline's famous quote, because as you can imagine it's quite difficult to conclude a story that makes little sense.

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