Little Labors by Rivka Galchen

Tank _summer 16_books _15

Hardback, 96 pages
Publisher: New Directions (May 2016)
ISBN: 9780811225588
Language: English
Selected by Barbara Epler

“From just a sentence to a paragraph to a several-page story or essay, Little Labors’s shining, unpredictable puzzle pieces form a mordant picture of the ordinary-extraordinary nature of babies and literature. The 47 Ronin and the black magic of maternal love appear, as do babies morphing from pumas to chickens.” —Barbara Epler 


The crystal child
My mother tells me that people tell her, when she is out with the baby, that the baby is a crystal child1. Some people ask for permission to touch the baby, because contact with crystal children is healing. “You should research what it is, crystal children,” my mother, who has a Master’s degree in computer science and an undergraduate degree in mathematics, says more than once. From the moment my mother first met the baby, she found her to be an exceptional and superior creature; her ascribing of crystal-child qualities to the baby is part of this ongoing story.

I finally go ahead and research crystal children. On the Web, I learn that, unlike rainbow children, crystal children have a dicult time because they believe they can change the way people think in order to heal the world; rainbow children by contrast understand that people cannot be changed, they can only be loved as they are; rainbow children are therefore less frustrated than crystal children. Crystal children were born, one site explains, mostly in the 1990s, whereas rainbow children arrived, by and large, in the new millennium – prior to the generation of crystal children there was a generation of indigo children – and so maybe the puma is in fact a rainbow child, rather than a crystal child, or maybe she is part of an even newer generation, as yet uneponymised.

Maybe in the same way that children in the Middle Ages who were born with congenital hypothyroidism (as was common before salt was iodised because iodine is essential to thyroid development) had a certain look, and were mentally dierent from the mainstream, and were referred to as chrétiens – a term which unfortunately over time became cretins though all it meant at the time was Christians – crystal and rainbow and indigo children are terms used mostly if not prescriptively to refer to children who are unusual in ways most commonly associated with autism or Down’s syndrome.

Somehow I begin to believe in crystal children, and in the idea that my child has the special healing powers ascribed to crystal children. I start to believe this even though, unlike my mother, I don’t have a master’s degree in computer science, or an undergraduate degree in maths. When I read one day that Isidore of Seville, back in the seventh century, was already saying that the world was round, he somehow knew so intuitively, I decide this is relevant.

But I still don’t understand why no one has ever stopped me on the street to talk about crystal children, why they have only stopped my mother. And I don’t understand why my mother, usually so suspicious of any comments made by “others”, is so open to these comments. Someone important to me says, “it sounds like a way to love and value children who are dicult.” Sure, I say, that sounds true. “Maybe your mother is telling you that she is a crystal child. Or that you are.”  

[1] A New Age concept referring to a generation possessed of special and sometimes supernatural traits such as sensitivity, healing ability and telepathy.