Today is the birthday of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, most famous to most of us for his work The Little Prince. Would we call him one of the first generation of airline pilots? Yes, I think I would. He loved extreme places: the airplane, the skies where the airplane took him, the desert.
But it's with The Little Prince that he's left a mark on the world. Ah, the classic tale of a traveler longing to return to his home planet! I seem to be bumping into that theme frequently these days (Super 8 is the example that stands out most; I could also argue that the political wrangling that goes on in DC these days is about a longing to return to a home of sorts, a time when the world was safer and deficits were smaller and the future looked brighter).
I first read The Little Prince the summer after third grade. It was the first time I was away from my parents, at Lutheridge. I'd been to that camp before, but always with my parents. I didn't really like the camp experience that year. I remember feeling sad and lonely and not like the other girls--a feeling not unfamiliar to me some days, even now, and I suspect most creative types continue to feel this way throughout life.
My mom had slipped this slim novel into my suitcase as a surprise for me to find. I loved the book, and I still feel fondness for it because it got me through a rough patch--again, a familiar feeling.
Later, I would read it in French class, both in high school and in college. If third graders can read it in English, then it's easy enough for first or second year French students!
I seem to recall a film version, with Gene Wilder as the fox.
Ah, that fox that wanted to be tamed, that fox who showed us that the problem with loving is that we are likely to lose the ones we love--except that we've never really lost them, as long as we have our memories.
Here's a nugget of wisdom from the fox: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye" (p. 87).
May you only tame the things/people/characters/symbols for whom you want to be responsible!