The first day of French class, everyone was speaking French except me. I managed to enter college without one day of a foreign language. The professor took a break and the girl in front of me with long, thick dark hair and large brown eyes turned to me and said, "Isn't he gorgeous? The class is full because he is so hot."
I never had a friend before who looked so great, talked so brazen and was also brilliant. We were all part of the "honors" group, a freshman cohort that would travel the halls of advanced liberal arts together. I hung on her every word as she introduced me to her friends and her world of books. The first new book was The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery, in French, in honor of the sexy French instructor. "You must read it in French," my new friend recommended, "or you won't feel the nuance of meaning."
"Reading the book in French" meant looking at the illustrations for me. I followed The Little Prince through his visitation on this planet and the philosophical uttering of his beautiful mind in the pictures that graced nearly every other page. The illustrations gave me context for the few French words I learned and used to pluck meaning and substance from the blur of print. I memorized the French before I had the translation in hand, fully understanding the story and its analysis of love, friendship, death and resurrection with my few words and pictures.
Later in life, when I would meet a new person and engage in philosophical meanderings of the mind, I would ask if they had read "The Little Prince." If I cared about them and it was a gap in their reading history, I often bought them the book. I was shocked to find it in the children's section, and most recently, in a pop out version of my favorite illustrations. Now, The Little Prince walks on a world globe across nations without borders. I sat right down among those tiny tables and chairs to admire this beautiful rendition of a book I loved from the first day my friend shared it with me in French class.
I discovered that acquaintances over time fell into two categories, those who thought The Little Prince was a silly children's book and those who, with me, contemplated "matters of consequence," being "responsible for what you have tamed," and looking at a wheat field or the stars or a garden full of roses that evoked new understanding of the richness of life, love and friendship. In many ways, I have remained connected with the latter over a lifetime. I still value the beauty in the universe more than material wealth and understand what makes a friend unique in all the world.
The Little Prince is in my stash of treasured books in French (that worn first copy), Spanish and English; in hard and soft copy; in the old and new translations to English. I am sorry that I did not spend the $35.00 for that beautiful pop-up book. In my heart are the many friends with whom relationships and philosophical conversations are mirrored in the illustrated pages of soaring single engine planes, to the perspective differences over a hat and an elephant in a boa constructor, to laughter in the night sky.
In 1974, I lived in S. Korea and had PX privileges. A Korean friend with whom I shared The Little Prince, asked me to take her and my son to a movie on the base, keeping the name a secret. There on the marquee was, "The Little Prince." I worried that it would violate my years of loving the illustrated book. The stars in the production were many, but I could not imagine the joy and emotional power of seeing the illustrations come to life in song and dance as though the pages were emptied onto the screen. I was so moved, tears came into my eyes.
Quite a list of close friends have shared the thoughts, illustrations and philosophy of my favorite illustrated book, The Little Prince. Many have disappeared from my life, but never from my memory or their special place in my heart. I wonder who will be next? www.dkchristi.webs.com www.swspotlight.com
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