Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wild Rumpuses I Have Known

"It doesn't have to be like this."

I heard those words clearly as my own name as I looked through the book for the first time. The beautiful illustrations that seemed to be plate engravings of the flora and fauna of some fantastic world. The little boy swinging through the tree with beautifully hideous monsters with severe yellow eyes. Who nonetheless held a glimmer of mischief in them and their upturned mouths. All on a strange island were the forest ran to the sea.

"It doesn't have to be like this."

I could feel that cool-warm flicker of electricity up my spine, that way when you're reading or watching something life changing. I read it again, paying attention to how the boy's room slowly turned into the jungle. How at the end he sailed across the sea right back to it to find his dinner waiting there. And I began to understand.

I began to see that my life didn't have to be drab. It didn't have to be sitting in uncomfortable dresses in the Kingdom Hall on Sundays. Nobody could put a limit on my mind or imagination without my agreeing to it. And I was no longer going to agree to it, especially the more I looked at those monsters.

They had claws, horns, and fangs, but they were kind. They seemed to be outward manifestations of what I'd already known, that sometimes the things that go bump in the night are your friend, and that there is nothing more monstrous than someone who looks normal and wears a nice suit, but whose smile never touches his eyes.

The boy's island was a safe place, and more than that it was a place for safekeeping. I or he couldn't stay there all the time but we could go their when we needed too. I could hide treasures and ideas I wasn't allowed to say out loud under the tall trees, marking their place with a stone. I did not have to be afraid all the time, and with that, I was never going to be truly afraid again.

"It doesn't have to be like this."

No it doesn't, or didn't, or will. Rest in peace Mr. Sendak.

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