08 May 2012

This one hurts

"Where The Wild Things Are" is probably my favorite book, ever. It was written right around the time I was born, so I came into a world that had never seen that book, and I've grown up never knowing a world that didn't have that book.

I recall learning how to read for myself around age 4, and I recall all the Seuss books for their silly word fun, but it was Sendak's wild phantasm that totally swallowed me like some great wild beast. The world of that book was wild, dark, and somehow both dangerous and enticing at once. I recall spending long afternoons as a small child just staring at the pictures-- focusing on the tiny droplets of ink, as if somehow the pixelation itself might reveal another even more magical amazing world hidden between the colors of every frame, every graphical element.

Because magic is real, if you really want it to be.

I remember trying to imagine a world where such beasts might be real -- what might possibly explain their form and anatomy, their odd traditions, the geography of the ocean and forests. I owned a pair of cotton footy pajamas which I wore and secretly pretended gave me the power to travel, like Max, to the land of the Wild Things.

The book was, for all practical purposes, my first love affair. I recall marveling that "there's this guy named Maurice Sendak, and he just sat down and made this up. How cool is THAT?"

Pretty cool.

I carried the book with me through college, and it survived on through to marriage, and then, eventually, to the arrival of my own children. And when I started to have kids, each of them got their own copy of Wild Things. It was not a fact that I specifically ever explained to anyone -- at no point did I ever sit any of the kids down and say "and here's your magic book, and I hope it serves you as well as mine has me." That kind of overt sentimentality would have been totally counter to the Wild Things, to Sendak. Instead, I just gave them their book, and we'd then read it nightly, and we'd do the faces and make the growls and show our terrible claws and roll our terrible eyes, and then, like Max, every night we'd return to the world of the Real. And there was soup, and cake, and milk, and all was good.

For almost ten straight years, this was a nightly thing in my world, as each of four kids drifted through that young age where this book could fascinate and amaze and dazzle. Thousands of nights where I and some strange wild thing that carried some portion of my DNA would sail off through night and day
and in an out of weeks
and almost over a year
to where the wild things are.

And again, that book proved to me just how real magic might be.

And today I wake and find that Sendak has left this world and sailed on to another, and all I can think is Oh please don't go -- we'll eat you up -- we love you so!

And I wish I could wear my wolf suit and make mischief of some kind, and say "thanks."