Today is a sad day for me. Maurice Sendak, one of my favorite writers, has died.
He died from complications of a stroke he suffered recently.
A stroke is an injury to the brain, which can result in immobility in certain parts of your brain that connects to and/or controls certain parts of your body. When those parts of the brain are injured, those connected parts of the body suffer.
He never recovered. Today he sailed off in his private boat.
Mr. Sendak was a hero of mine. Of ours, actually. He wrote our all-time favorite-est, bestest book ever: Where the Wild Things Are.
Mr. Sendak created a world for an entire generation or, possibly three, where children were celebrated and portrayed as children: wild, free, heard and seldom seen. He taught us that it was and IS ok to be Who We Are. He taught parents who were willing to listen, that all children are and should be Wild Things.
I call you my Things 3.
In Dr. Suess’s Cat in the Hat two wild-haired, red-jumper wearing creatures, Thing 1 and Thing 2, were called to aid in the clean-up one afternoon the Cat visited Robert and Sally on a rainy day when their mother was out. Thing 1 and Thing 2 didn’t really help clean up at all. That’s a fun story too.
That’s one reason I call you my Things 3. But it’s not the real reason.
The real reason is because of Max, in Where the Wild Things Are. Max was his own mother’s wild thing. Max had his own identity and in that identity he had vulnerabilities, fears, loves, triumphs, insecurities and grace.
Mr. Sendak told parents it was OK to let their kids be wild; to count on it, actually. And for children everywhere, it helped them understand that parents will still be there when they come down.
Max loved to dress up. He went after the family dog with a fork and wore a wolf suit. He was so rambunctious that he got sent to bed without any supper after telling his mother that he’d eat her up. To his mom, bed without supper was punishment. To Max, bed without supper was an opportunity. Although his mother loved him, Max didn’t see it that way; he saw it as rejection and as a thought that his mother didn’t approve of him. So Max sailed off, through night and day, and eventually, he ended up in the place where the Wild Things were.
Do you remember that story? There are only 48 pages, all have art. There are only 339 words in the story. It’s a story that repeats a lot of words and phrases but they mean something different each time.
When he arrived, he saw that the native Wild Things were huge, I mean, like ginormous: imagine two smart cars (you pick the color) stacked bumper-to-bumper and standing up. Some Wild Things had scales and feathers, some had tails and horns, but they all had claws and big teeth and yellow eyes, so Max, who was luckily still in that wolf suit he wore when he chased the dog with a fork, had to convince them all that he was the Wildest Thing of all. So he sorta hypnotized them and they were afraid and agreed that he was the King of all Wild Things.
So far no one has gone to bed without supper here. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t cross our minds.
I have read that story so many times, I have it memorized and I will never tire of it. I can still recite it to you now.
You are my Things. My Wild Things. You make me proud that you are mine; but you’re not really mine, are you? You’re given to me and your dad by the Heavens to raise as best we can. To see you as the Heavens see you: as raw, smart, real, flawed, chemical and energetic masses with beautiful eyes, occasional sniffles, freckles, smiles, grimaces, grace and jealousies. It’s our job to let you be Wild Things and to honor that part of you which deserves celebration: your realness.
It is also my job to protect you as best I can. To explain to you that you are not the only Wild Things out there; and to trust me that there are bigger, angrier and scarier Wild Things than you might understand. There are more Wild Things than I know.
But life is not about being afraid of the Wild Things; life is about being your best Wild Thing and knowing when you need and don’t need your wolf suit and your boat. Sometimes, our suits and our boats don’t help. They only show the world a hurt stranger and take us away to a strange place and like the supper, the pains and fears we try to fight or escape will still be here, and will still be hot when we get back. Sometimes, it’s best to keep the suit on a hanger and the boat in the port and experience and deal with what’s happening here. To not sail away through night and day.
Your dad and I will be here to help you.
When Max had had enough of the snarling and gnashing Wild Things at the place where they were, he decided to give up being King and go (it didn’t say ‘home’) where someone loved him best of all. When he did this, he smelled good things to eat. So he got in his boat and sailed away. Where he ended up was home. Because that’s where he was loved best of all.
Now that Mr. Sendak has died, it’s up to you, my 3 Things, to carry on his legacy, with all the other children and Wild Things everywhere. To wear your wolf suits and chase the dog (but with a spoon instead so you don’t hurt him or yourself) and to howl at the moon, snarl, stare with your yellow eyes without blinking once and remind me that life is all about letting the Wild Rumpus Start. Can I have a Wild Rumpus too sometimes?
But you will sail away. So when you do sail away, over a year, I’ll be here with your supper and it will still be hot. Just be sure you come back, k? I could eat you all up, I love you so.