Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Sweetest Little Words


ll children grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, 'Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!' This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. 
~J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I read this quote today on this blog, and I couldn't help but feel a pang of nostalgia over the things my daughter has already lost to her babyhood as she barrels through toddlerdom and into the world of the child. Even things like learning the "correct" words and names for things-- like our dog who is now, once again just "Monstro", no more of the short lived but oh-so-sweet "Monji" that was our daughter's word for her beloved dog until last Sunday. (Consequently, although we had considered the sweetness of her toddler neologisms, the sentiment is more truly embodied in this blog.) 

Though I am struck by the simplistic beauty of JM Barrie's words on childhood, because the words are attributed to Peter Pan, I am also struck by other, more frustrating, words. Those of my mother. In the nineties when the movie Hook finally came out on VHS my mother bought a copy for our household. Every morning, as toddlers do, my baby sister (then, close to two) would view the film on a loop as the rest of us rushed to get ready for school thirty minutes away (we were chronically late, thanks to my mother allowing me to be her alarm clock) and work (much closer to home, my mom worked as a teller at a local bank-- something her mother had also done, and something I don't believe she enjoyed at all). 

But during those mornings, my little sister (we're seven years apart) would sit and dazedly stare into the 20" tube television as she watched the story of a grown boy as he attempted to save his children from the evils of Neverland, and in doing so rekindles the amazement and wonder of Neverland through child's eyes-- anyone remember the "Bangarang!" scene? Or, the feast?

The scenes that always stood out to my mother were Peter's scenes with Wendy, now referred to as "Granny Wendy" by Peter's own children (the adult Peter marries Wendy's daughter after deciding he too, wants to "grow up"). Frankly, I believe it was the power of naming that drew my mother to those particular scenes, and a stunted adulthood that drew her to the film itself. It was around this time my mother decided she would eventually be called "Granny Wendy" by her own grandchildren, my nine year old self thought this was wonderful. 

Fast forward eighteen years and my daughter was born. A week after her birth my father met with me to discuss my mother's hurt feelings. Hormonal, emotional, and a new mother, I obliged my walking a mile to the nearest coffee shop for what I thought would be some sort of health talk (my father is a known hypochondriac in our family) or at worst a serious talk about my mental and emotional health (I, like many of my family members, am prone to depression and my parents and husband were all on high alert in regard to my emotional state post-partum). 

At the time, the bombshell was much worse for a daughter who had, until then been a true "golden child" (or at least had been treated like one). It was at that moment, my dad-- in an effort to finally be supportive of his wife-- told me amongst other things that my husband is an arrogant, disrespectful asshole; and, that because of my husband's general failure as person, let alone as husband and son-in-law, my mother was so deeply hurt that she couldn't even bring herself to wear the locket he had made for her, inscribed with the words (from a country song) "I'm somebody's Granny". 

 Now, a year and a half (or so) later-- a period of time filled with plenty of therapy, spats, and even an embarrassing Facebook post from my mother, I'm still angry and saddened by all of this. Words cannot be undone, and my mother has made it clear that she sees no way in which any of this is her "fault". So, I am left with the task of forgiving and possibly being the bigger person.

But, no matter how I choose, I am still saddened by Barrie's words at the top of this post. Because, they truly are sweet little words that are utterly ripe with meaning and reflection that a mother understands best. They are words that I wish I could bring to my mother and happily, if nostalgically, revel in their sweetness. Unfortunately, I feel like I am left with only the opportunity to grieve over our relationship and reflect upon ways to find it within myself to be ultimately understanding and loving in the face of criticism and blame.   

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