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This is Where the Wild Things Are

Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose mother wouldn’t let her read Where the Wild Things Are.

Wait, scratch that.

Once upon a time, there was a woman whose husband wouldn’t allow her to see the movie Where the Wild Things Are.

One last try:

Once upon a time, there was a person who had people in her life who loved her dearly and knew how easily her imagination could be led into troublesome areas and therefore kept her corralled from the world of wild things.

Until she encountered Tzippy in a shuk in Israel, somewhere between an olive cart and the fishmonger.

*******

My mother would never let us own a copy of Where the Wild Things Are, possibly due to the fact that even without the book, I’d sit in my closet and imagine the wall between my sister and my room melting, leading the two of us into our own specially designed Wonderland (because really, when kids fall into magical lands, aren’t they always designed to teach that particular kid an optimal amount of life lessons?). And I’d cry when it didn’t happen after three hours of sitting crouched underneath my pants and dresses.

I was the type of child who closed herself into wardrobes, opened my door each day hoping to see a magic tollbooth or looked for rabbit holes. I didn’t just want to join storybook characters in their worlds; I wanted to be a character in my own world. I would ride my bike three streets over and sit inside the tangle of bushes someone had planted in the center of the cul-de-sac and wait for the ground to open so I could fall into my adventure.

Therefore, you could hardly blame my mother in wanting to spare herself late night visits from me while she tried to watch Dallas by closing off one of those possible worlds; especially one with nightmare potential in the form of monsters gnashing their teeth. While we had the book in the school library and I saw it at friend’s houses, Maurice Sendak’s drawings never darkened the corners of my bookshelf.

*******

When I was fourteen-years-old, I went over to Israel without my parents. Our rabbi was going over there and he offered to take a handful of kids with him and somehow I convinced my parents that this was a fantastic idea even though I had never traveled without them.

On the first night, after being served a sad meal of asparagus soup, my roommates bonding without me down the hall, I sat alone in my hotel room and cried. I was halfway across the world, jet lagged and alone. I made a collect call home and my sister answered, somewhat confused as to how I could be this homesick under 24 hours from when we last saw each other at the airport. It is hard to be away from home and know that life is continuing comfortably on without you when you are stuck in a land you don’t really yet understand.

Towards the end of the trip, after I had hooked up with a not-yet-baking Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes (as well as…cough…a few other boys on the trip…cough), survived Masada, and snorkeled in the pouring rain in Eilat, I had built up enough swagger to tell my new friends that I was going to haggle in Shuk Ha’Carmel. I set my sights on a copy of Where the Wild Things Are–Eretz Y’tzoori Ha’pehreh–the perfect book to sum up my false bravado leaving for the trip, what I encountered once I reached my destination, and how that love drove me back home.

I walked by the table and looked at the book for a moment, thumbing through the pages and holding it casually from my fingertips as if I couldn’t tell whether I wanted to buy it or chuck it at the stall owner like a discus. “Kamah?” I inquired about the price.

When he told me the number, even though it was incredibly inexpensive for a picture book, I blew my bangs up in mock surprise and dropped the book back on the table. I walked away from the stall. Step one.

The man called out to me several questions and I ignored him, waving my hand over my shoulder. Step two.

I bought something else and walked back past his stall so he could see that I was obviously happy to spend some money even if I wasn’t happy with his prices. He called out to me again and this time, I walked back to the table and started the true haggling, getting the book over under half of what he had asked for it the first time.

As I carried my book away from the table, I felt like Max calling for the start of the wild rumpus.

*******

When we finally had a pregnancy progress beyond the first few weeks, Josh would lie in the bed with a stethoscope we had borrowed, trying to hear the twins’ heartbeats. He listened to my food digesting, the flow of blood through my veins. He wanted to read them stories, play them music, not because he wanted to give them a leg up intellectually, filling their developing minds with Beethoven or Shakespeare, but because he wanted them to know us. Parents who go through infertility know there is always a chance that the time you have with them may be the only time you get to have with them. You don’t waste it waiting for the future.

So he read to them in Hebrew, from the copy of Where the Wild Things Are that I haggled for in the shuk, his mouth centimeters from my injection-bruised belly, his voice cracking as he told them: “oh please don’t go–we’ll eat you up–we love you so.”

*******

I was posed the question recently which character in the book I would most want to be trapped with and why. I picked Tzippy, the wavy-haired wild thing who reaches her hands out with frustration as Max escapes in his boat. Not only could we trade hair tips for our equally long curly locks, her teaching me how she tames the frizziness and me teaching her how to twist it in an elegant knot, but because I understand that stance, of watching someone go, unable to stop their departure or bring them back.

When I look at the book head-on, I see a tale of a boy who is pissed at his mother and pretends that he is anywhere but there, but realizes as he skates too close to independence, that it is a scary world and we all simply want to be home, with a warm meal waiting for us despite our behaviour.

But when I look at the text and pictures out of the corner of my eye, I see the wild things–I see infertile men and women who have waited so long for a child to come and start the wild rumpus, only to see the person they’ve waited for disappear. Or not come at all.

The wild things, after all, are terribly misunderstood. They don’t gnash their teeth and roll their eyes out of hate. They do this out of love. Out of a love that comes from an enormous well of pain because life–as well as our love–is so deeply out of our control. If the wild things actually had the power to stop Max, they would have. But like too many of us know, we can shake our fist at the world all we want, and it can’t bring back what is missing; what has never come.

*******

Despite my daughter’s over-active imagination–one that rivals mine from childhood–we read to them from Where the Wild Things Are. And, as my mother predicted, we have dealt with the middle-of-the-night wakings of monsters roaring their terrible roars. Yet during the day, as they flank either side of me on the sofa, it feels worth the nightmares at night.

We recently took the twin to see their first movie, Ponyo, an anime version of the Little Mermaid. Before the movie began, the preview for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are came up on the screen. And even though there is nothing sad in the preview, even though I was there in the theater to see a movie about a fish-girl with the twins, I started bawling when the words flashed across the screen: in all of us is hope. And truly, without that hope, how could the wild things keep going after Max is gone? Isn’t hope the energy that keeps us putting one foot in front of the other rather than throwing ourselves into the ocean? And how incredibly grateful am I for hope when I see where I am now?

Josh rubbed my arm, mouthed to me that there was no way he was going to let me see the movie if I reacted this emotionally to a two-minute preview. But honestly, closing that door can’t keep out the wild things. I’ve learned that lesson well enough by now.

55 comments

1 HereWeGoAJen { 10.03.09 at 8:58 pm }

I cried when I saw the preview too.

2 Jen { 10.03.09 at 9:02 pm }

Mel, I think this is one of the beautiful posts I have ever read. Thank you.

3 a { 10.03.09 at 9:22 pm }

Now I’m going to have to get that book…

4 jill { 10.03.09 at 9:49 pm }

What a wonderful post.

5 Natalie { 10.03.09 at 9:53 pm }

Wow. I’m going to have to get that book, too.

6 Trinity { 10.03.09 at 10:34 pm }

Gorgeous post, Mel. ๐Ÿ™‚

7 Annacyclopedia { 10.03.09 at 10:44 pm }

Mel, I don’t know how you keep surprising me with your eloquence and your insight, but you do. Truly, this is one of the most lovely posts I’ve ever read and I will remember your words every time I read that book, which is often and will be even oftener once my own long-awaited little one arrives. Thank you.

8 Luna { 10.03.09 at 10:56 pm }

Just lovely. Love the book, the preview, this post.

9 Krystal { 10.03.09 at 11:20 pm }

This is absolutely beautiful! You are an excellent and gifted writer. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us!

10 N { 10.03.09 at 11:29 pm }

This has made me cry, much like the preview for the self same movie.

11 Hyla { 10.03.09 at 11:44 pm }

This is one of the most amazing posts I have ever come across. I love the way you have interpreted the book for your life.

Thank you for sharing

12 Quiet Dreams { 10.04.09 at 12:10 am }

Love this. I love the way your mind works.

And I can just picture you, all fourteen years of cocky buying your book in the shuk. I think I need you with me next time I try to bargain. I always get taken.

13 S { 10.04.09 at 12:28 am }

That was beautiful. I love the book and anticipate the movie. I just received a fresh new hard copy for my girls. After your post, I will always remember all of “us” each time I read the book.

14 Hevel { 10.04.09 at 5:23 am }

The first time I read Where the Wild Things Are was when I read it to my then-4-year-old-brand-new-son 6 years ago. Then he was reading this book to his little brothers, who now take turns reading it to their baby cousin. Now in Hebrew.

Would it be okay for me to add your blog to my blogroll?

15 Angie { 10.04.09 at 6:50 am }

An amazing post. Thank you.

16 salma { 10.04.09 at 8:06 am }

Great great post…never read the book, but now I want to get it.

17 edenland { 10.04.09 at 8:07 am }

Crying.

The book is my all time favourite, and the reason why I named my son Max. I cried during the preview too .. for lots of different reasons. Letting go. Being allowed to be angry. Stomping. (I was never allowed to stomp, or show any anger as a child). Having fun, having friends, having hope. All of it.

XO

18 Heidi { 10.04.09 at 8:26 am }

“Parents who go through infertility know there is always a chance that the time you have with them may be the only time you get to have with them. You donโ€™t waste it waiting for the future.”

This is the most beautiful statement I have ever read.

19 Half of a Duo, Raising a Duo { 10.04.09 at 9:25 am }

Wow, you and I are totally sympatico about Where the Wild Things Are… when you queried about characters in children’s books the other day… I immediately thought about Max.

That was my favorite children’s book of all time and the illustrations are amazing.

“I see infertile men and women who have waited so long for a child to come and start the wild rumpus, only to see the person theyโ€™ve waited for disappear. Or not come at all”

Wow. That sums up infertility and barrenness (the total inability to have children, there is a difference – with infertility you can try IVF at the very least and ICSI) in such a succinct way.

I love your blog.

Hoping to bring Glee and hope to people’s Sundays today:

http://micrimas.blogspot.com/2009/10/dont-stop-believin-gleeful.html

20 Delenn { 10.04.09 at 11:05 am }

One of my all time favorite books. Recently my husband pointed out that a mutual acquaintance said I have a “dark side” (my reaction was, well “duh!”). I think that book is the dark side for children. I love how you parallel infertiles with the Wild Things. Thanks for bringing another meaning to it for me.

21 mrs spock { 10.04.09 at 11:39 am }

I think many of us have had that same moment, whispering, “Stay with us, we love you so” to our as yet unknown children.

22 nh { 10.04.09 at 11:39 am }

Amazing words and thoughts. I loved ‘Where the wild things are’ when I was younger, and I think I need to buy myself a copy now.

Thank you

23 Katie { 10.04.09 at 11:56 am }

What a beautiful post. Thank you.

24 Carrie { 10.04.09 at 12:09 pm }

I love that book and always wonder why it doesn’t seem more sinister to my three year old.

I cried during the preview, most likely due to the Arcade Fire cover the plays throughout the trailer. Oh, and pregnancy hormones?

25 Traci { 10.04.09 at 12:30 pm }

It has always been one of my most favorite books. The illustrations are beyond the best of any imagination. I don’t allow any children’s books in my house as my heart would break any time I would see them…but hopefully some day. This post is both heartbreaking and inspirational. Thank you so very very much.

26 Amy { 10.04.09 at 12:44 pm }

I cried at the previews too. My sister & I loved WTWTA (she even bought me a copy in Spanish when she was visiting Central America three years ago). She would’ve loved the movie. We would’ve seen it together for sure. And the story means more to me now that my sister is no longer with us. I don’t even know where I’m going with this comment, really, but I’m just saying that I’m surprised by how many people find real, true meaning in the story, beyond just a childrens’ story.

27 Another Dreamer { 10.04.09 at 2:06 pm }

What a wonderful post, and how insightful. I teared up about him reading it to the twins in-utero. Really beautiful, what a message.

28 Tiffany { 10.04.09 at 3:04 pm }

I cried when I saw that preview too. But I was never quite sure why…but this makes so much sense. I would have never related that to IF, but you’re so right. I love your insight! Thanks for another great post!

29 Alana-isms { 10.04.09 at 5:23 pm }

Lovely, lovely post. I appreciate the connections you made between the book and IF.

30 Mommy Someday { 10.04.09 at 5:31 pm }

Incredible, Mel. That was absolutely beautiful. I know I am in an emotionally fragile place right now, but you made me cry!!

“If the wild things actually had the power to stop Max, they would have. But like too many of us know, we can shake our fist at the world all we want, and it canโ€™t bring back what is missing; what has never come.”

Wow.

31 B { 10.04.09 at 5:37 pm }

Beautiful post Mel.

B

32 Wishing4One { 10.04.09 at 6:01 pm }

Not only this post, YOU are so beautiful my friend. You inspire so much in me when I read what you write. Hope is definitely what keeps us from going off the deep end or into that hole in the ground.

33 Somewhat Ordinary { 10.04.09 at 8:20 pm }

I love this book and can’t wait for the movie. I never thought about it in terms of infertility-I will never look at this book the same now. This was a beautiful post!

34 Sunny { 10.04.09 at 10:30 pm }

You have forever changed the way I will watch the previews, and someday the movie.

35 Bleu { 10.04.09 at 10:40 pm }

Oh my strawberry friend, your words stir my soul. You have such a gift. The tears came down as I read.

So I am still with dial up and not caught up, and I try to read some every so often but I keep the few blogs that are dearest to me saved in my reader because those few extra special ones I want to give time to so I postpone those. It is backwards somehow how I put off the ones like saving the best morsel of food for last to savor and enjoy it best, but here is the thing.
I am , after reading this post today, 132 posts behind on your blog. I am so sorry, and feel so badly. But then I read one and am brought to tears and am assured of how potent your posts will be when I get to them, soon.

Much love my friend, I miss you soooo much. I miss feeling in the loop with you and your life.

36 Lavender Luz { 10.04.09 at 10:56 pm }

Gift is right.

There is something in this story that is so primal, so universal.

You are amazingly eloquent about it (for lack of any original words).

37 Kristin { 10.04.09 at 11:11 pm }

Oh Mel, this post just grabbed my heart and imagination and wouldn’t let it go. Absolutely beautiful!

38 Annie { 10.04.09 at 11:59 pm }

This is so beautiful. I’d never thought of the story that way, although there has always been something about it that spoke to me very deeply, but your thoughts just give it so much more personal meaning for me. I’ve been very excited to see the movie when it comes out and now I might have to bring a few tissues with me as well.

39 Blanche { 10.05.09 at 9:29 am }

Beautiful!

40 Melody { 10.05.09 at 10:26 am }

How strange. I actually read this book to my long-awaited much loved 8-month old daughter last night and surprised myself by breaking out into wild sobs at the line “We’ll eat you up! We love you so.”

41 Kir { 10.05.09 at 10:52 am }

I love how you tie everything together, how you make us see things that are so evident but were so hidden. This was a gorgeous post with beautiful thoughts and a feeling in my heart that feels like HOPE. ๐Ÿ™‚

42 Kitty { 10.05.09 at 11:04 am }

Okay, now I’m crying!

Thanks for the wonderful post, Mel.

43 Io { 10.05.09 at 1:02 pm }

Damnit, I never would have made that connection. Now I’m all teary from READING about the preview (of course, it’s your interpretation that makes me cry).
Also, am totally impressed by your haggling ๐Ÿ™‚

44 JuliaS { 10.05.09 at 1:50 pm }

From Natalie’s blog post from the 3rd (that I am just now getting around to today) I followed a couple of links. One – to John Lennon on You Tube singing Real Love and two, to this post about one of my favorite books of all time, right up there with “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. I have multiple tabs open and as I read your beautiful post about a beloved book, I am listening to a gorgeous song. Wow. Thank you (and to Natalie as well) for such a treat today.

45 KLTTX { 10.05.09 at 3:19 pm }

Wow, gorgeous post. I can’t wait to see this movie. I really want to like it and hope that it does the book justice.

46 Sprogblogger { 10.05.09 at 6:33 pm }

I never teared up while reading the book. Until now. I never considered going to see this movie. Until now. Sitting here with tears in my eyes – the good kind that come from reading something beautiful and wonderful and true. Thank you.

47 Kate { 10.05.09 at 7:18 pm }

Lovely post – I’m not sure how I feel about the movie (some things deserve to stay non-Hollywood-ized and in our imaginations), but the softie in me welled up during the previews too. : ) Hope indeed.

48 Lin { 10.05.09 at 7:57 pm }

Mel, you left me in tears this Monday afternoon! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a beautiful post, a beautiful story, and a beautiful reminder that hope reigns supreme.

49 Faereyluna { 10.06.09 at 9:46 am }

I cried too but blamed it on hormones. Hey just because I don’t have the right mix of hormones to get pregnant doesn’t mean that they don’t serve some purpose. ๐Ÿ™‚ May as well make the best use of my hormomes as I can.

50 Elizabeth { 10.06.09 at 1:23 pm }

Beautiful! It’s seems like very little can make me cry anymore, but it’s always wonderful to let go for a lil while

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