As children, we were taught about comely things, exposed to a lot of rectitude and equity, led to believe that not a single scary thing endures around us. Hideousness was almost nonexistent in our undeveloped worlds— every thing was almost as easy as waking up in the morning with our parents greeting us with their wide, loving smiles. But that’s not the way it is at all. It doesn’t really mean that just because we possess soft and vulnerable hearts and minds, we also need constant reminders about how lovely what really is ugly and how wonderful what really is full of misery.
That’s why I’m grateful I met Maurice Sendak’s works in my childhood years. His stories— so interesting, engaging and thought-provoking. His words— so articulate, so beautiful, so meaningful. They contributed a lot to my way of thinking, to the growth of my being, to the unfolding of truth and reality in my fairy-tale-filled and predominantly utopistic life.
I remember reading his stories back when I was still young. I’d lie under the covers with a flashlight beside me and when my parents are already asleep, I’d sit down and read it. Where The Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen have always been my favourites. I’d read them over and over again until the stories fill my head and I know every single line by heart. His books utterly woke the sleeping flame up and opened a whole new level of imagination and perception in the innocent and naive me.
I grew up and had siblings. But his books were always there, lying on a shelf with hundreds and thousands more of their kind, just waiting to be touched and opened by a young and wandering mind.
When I’ve heard about the film adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are, I asked my little brother if he’d like to watch it, and he said ‘Yes’. Watching it with him was like viewing a doppelganger brother on screen, whilst the real boy, not quite so conflicted as yet but clearly aware of much more than a normal child, was sitting in the seat next to me. It was sublimely, furiously, humourously and bleakly beautiful. And to be honest, I was surprised by the themes within the film. It was so close to the book itself, and that really surprised me, reminding me of how it all used to be back when I was still that kid who stays up late to read the same book she read the night before. And then it seemed to me to be a metaphor for depression, and was inexpressibly dark— but poignant, appropriate and applicable too. So many of the fears of one with depression or any other mental disturbance, any adult or any human in fact, were touched upon: the fear of being obsolete, being an outsider, being without direction, being like "teeth in a mouth that fall out until you notice that there’s such big spaces between the remaining ones". Being alone, being misunderstood, being ignored, being useless, being in charge, being held accountable for things you are ultimately unable to resolve or control. Growing up, growing old, mortality. Never being good enough.
"If you’re not a King, then what are you?"
"I guess I’m just Max."
"Well, that’s not very much, is it?"
It was as if each of the Wild Things was a facet of a troubled being— parts of Max himself, the previously unspoken, unsaid, closed-off mature and yet incredibly juvenile and dysfunctional mannerisms and coping mechanisms.
More than anything else spoken or portrayed by the movie was Max’s ultimate question:
"How do I make everyone okay?"
I am scared that like me, my brother and sister will one day feel as they are obliged to find the answer to this question. That perhaps they too will view themselves as the fly in everyone’s ointment, an epitomal predicament, not worthy of all that they deserve. The one consolidating thought I can muster from this, though, is that if ever those feelings come creeping into their minds, I will most probably be the first to notice, and the one whom can most relate and help them. (Wow. Did I just write that?)
I got a bit off topic, sorry. So there goes my childhood now. Mr. Maurice Sendak will surely be missed.