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Bedtime and the Wild Mind

Where the Wild Things Are

By Lynn JordanPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

I was an only child and a lonely child, but I had my books. I was not allowed outside to play because I lived in an area my mother felt wasn't safe for a small girl like me.

I spent many hours reading whatever I could. I read dictionaries, encyclopedias, the Bible, books from other religions, appetite for reading could not be satiated.

While I read a lot, not everything stuck. My parents would read to me from time to time, and there was one book they both read that did and sometimes made me too excited to sleep. The book was Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

For a long time, I could not figure out what appealed to me about this book. Max, the lead character, was a naughty kid. I was a goody-two-shoes. My mother never sent me to bed without dinner, and looking at my growing belly and my swelling thighs, maybe she should have at least once or twice. I would never chase a dog with a fork. I had a fear of the dark and the creatures under my bed. At night, shadows on the windows would scare me sometimes, and I would shrink under the covers to sleep. So the monsters in Sendak’s book should have given me nightmares, but instead, I felt that I knew them. I thought I would feel safe with them.

While I may not have shared Max's mischievousness, his tendency towards costumes, and propensity for threats, I did share his imagination. I consider myself a very creative spirit with a poet's heart, and this book was one of the things that made me realize I could venture anywhere I could picture in my mind.

My parents separated when I was still young, and my father moved several states away. I had no siblings, and my few cousins did not live nearby. Also, I belonged to the first generation of latchkey kids, as my mom worked full-time, and the relatives we moved in with were at their day jobs. There was a lot of alienation in my life, and my imagination, my dream universe, made my solitary world a better place.

I would sit in my room after coming home from school and listen to the other children play. I would listen to them laugh, wishing I could be free like that, not trapped in an apartment, feeling sorry for myself and feeling responsible for my parents' separation, as most young children of separated or divorced parents often do.

So, Where the Wild Things Are began to resonate even more. Each monster became the big, protective father figure I no longer had. My room became the venue through which I could create all kinds of worlds. I often felt powerless and weak, so that moment of wearing Max’s crown, prancing in his onesie, telling powerful monsters what to do made me feel powerful too, even if only for those few minutes.

Dreaming of adventure and escaping in my boat, sailing rough seas, dodging water dragons boosted my inner pirate princess. Picturing myself dancing wildly in a jungle with no inhibitions when I came from a family that valued complete self-control gave me a freedom and physicality I felt I never would attain in real life. I would close my eyes and smell the sea, imagining what the bark of the trees and the texture of the leaves would feel like under my fingers. I could almost feel the coarse fur, the stiff feathers, and the sharp scales of the monsters I saw in the book, marveling at their colors, inhaling their wild funk. In this dimension, I made the rules, set the schedule, and came and went as I pleased to wherever I wanted to go.

By Javardh on Unsplash

But, like the ending of the book, I knew I would have to pull myself out of my imaginary world and return to the real one, and like Max, I would return to the ones that loved me. The love of my family was powerful; my mom’s kisses were everything. I knew I had my father’s love even though we were far apart. I was fortunate enough to have two awesome uncles, and it was great to leave my fantasyland and hug my Nana.

As time went on, I did not pick up the book much at all. I had discovered the power of making music, and I learned to play bass, guitar, and drums. I was still an outsider. I was still the odd kid, but I had my music and my dreamscapes. I may not have been the coolest kid, but I could always be Max. High school was the worst stretch of my life, and there were days I was not sure how I would get through it. But I did, sometimes using Max’s crown as a touchstone of what I could be if I put my mind there instead of the dark places my brain sometimes wanted to travel.

As I crawled into adulthood, I forgot about the book. Some memories would be triggered when I saw a picture of it, someone would reference it, or I gave it as a gift to my friends’ children. I did not realize the deep connection I had to Where the Wild Things Are until Maurice Sendak died. At that moment, I felt guilty that I did not stay as loyal to the book in those recent years that I had devoted to it as a child. A part of me went hollow.

There are times I reminisce about those days because, like most adults, you realize that adulting isn't all it's cracked up to be. Those days of having hours to create fantastic worlds, lingering in them as long as we liked with no consequence or responsibility, were the last bits of innocence and freedom you would genuinely have. Now, disrespecting your boss gets the same response as disrespecting your parents, only this time, losing a paycheck may mean losing out on more than dinner. Dancing wildly generally happens only when you're drunk. Your schedule is never really your own; it is consumed by work, chores, bills, partners, and children.

I occasionally still feel trapped by the shadows my mind brings to life. I cannot bring myself to dance wildly because I am too self-conscious, still so uncomfortable in my own body, so afraid to disturb someone else’s peace. I never had children.

But now and then, in the dark, I can close my eyes, be Max, and be wild.

By h heyerlein on Unsplash


About the Creator

Lynn Jordan

Gen X writer of published music reviews now putting my fiction, non-fiction & the occasional poem out there. Every piece I write, regardless of genre, is a challenge accepted, and crafted with care and love. Sit a spell & enjoy!

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