Accent on Living

A READER in Florida was kind enough to send us recently the front page of a section in the Miami Herald captioned “For and About Women.”Dominating the page, upper right, is a five-column photograph of two children in wedding attire and a third who bears a small cushion, all grinning earnestly. Those who had thought that the Florida schools were falling down on the job will be reassured by the description accompanying the picture:

O promise me that one day you and I can spend a honeymoon on Mars, live on Saturn and retire on the Moon. Until then bride and groom Donna Schwartz and Blair Moore and their ring bearer Paul Eckman will have to content themselves with being fourth graders at South Hialeah Elementary School. Friday they’ll be principals in their class’s formal Tom Thumb wedding and reception whose east of 35 includes soloists, train bearer and flower girl. The bride’s costume is imported alencon lace over slipper satin. The ceremony takes place at 8 p.m. in the school cafetorium. Parents will be among the guests.

Lilliputian ism has long charmed a certain segment of the adult population, and its achievement of curricular status need surprise no one. It is what draws crowds to a Queen’s Dollhouse and fills the catalogues of scale model railroad equipment. The charm bracelet is a good example of Lilliputianism; a frying pan or a chamber pot, executed in gold and sufficiently tiny, becomes a “conversation piece” and as amusing as all get out. The citadel of Lilliput is of course Disneyland, where adults and tots alike can gape their fill at an industrial empire founded on littleness, with overtones of sorcery, the Epic of America, and talking mice.

Probably none of the miniatures can fire the imagination like the old-time flea circus, with its flea driver in his flea-drawn cart, the flea bride and groom, firemen, policemen, and other performers. Whoever would have thought that a flea had the intelligence . . . All of which raises the question: Is not Lilliputianism closely akin to, or perhaps a form of, anthropomorphism? And might it not be called anthropomorphic to deck out young children in the guise of adults and put them, in flea-circus style, through their paces in a marriage ceremony?

Incongruity is another ingredient in these preoccupations. Almost any Sunday supplement will provide the standard examples. One cycle of them will begin with just a cat, then the same cat in a bonnet with the ribbons tied under its chin, the cat wearing spectacles and looking grandmotherly, bride and groom cats, mother and father cats, and ditto in dogs.

Children are shown not in their own play and fantasy, but in elaborate incongruities devised by adults: children, on the occasion of their “graduation" from kindergarten, costumed in white academic gowns and white mortarboards, tassels and all; the richly caparisoned baby, whose plumed and preposterous hat calls to mind the Holbein portrait of Edward VI as Prince of Wales at age four (any weird enough outfit on a baby will draw ooh’s and all’s from female passers-by); the homunculus dressed “just like Dad,” with the effect of Pope’s line, “Each sire imprest. and glaring in his son"; small boys, organized and drilled by adults in “little leagues” in imitation of professional athletes. The grownups who esteem the picture of an English bulldog smoking a pipe or a poodle in a rhinestone choker and pillbox hat should turn out eagerly for the Tom Thumb wedding. (It would be good to know, incidentally, what the textbooks have laid down about teaching the Tom Thumb wedding, how to set one up and make it a success and the do’s and don’t’s for all concerned.) And if a Tom Thumb wedding comes, can the Tom Thumb divorce be far behind?

CHARLES W. MORTON