Monday, October 19, 2009

Howl of the Wild

The Bungalow Bunch participated in a rare family-wide cultural excursion last night -- an opening weekend viewing of the film version of Where the Wild Things Are, easily the most beloved book of the Bungalow Babies' respective and collective childhoods, a book I read so often I can recite it by heart, even now, at least a dozen years after I last held it in my hands.

With Big Babe living in Berlin, Middle Babe living at college in Maryland, Little Babe and me spending two-plus months every summer at the bungalow in Monroe and the general peripatetic pace of our lives - not to mention an 11-year spread between Big and Little Babe - we tend to take our culture in clusters, bunches and a variety of configurations and geographical settings.

Because I was in New Orleans last week, HOBB put himself in charge of the family's social life over the weekend, suggesting Where the Wild Things Are for Saturday night, a plan I enthusiastically endorsed. With Big Babe visiting for a month due to an NEA fellowship, Middle Babe popping in for a long weekend and Little Babe forming our only source of resistance ("I hope it's not a baby movie!" ), we wanted to create an indelible family memory, revisit a moment in our history, bond over the cinematic interpretation of a favorite book.

We had the magical experience of meeting, en masse, at the movie theatre -- Big Babe fresh from dinner at Alouette with the NEA fellows, me walking uptown after my workout and art lecture at the JCC, and HOBB, Middle and Little Babe coming, via taxi, from our apartment.

We had the further surprise and pleasure of meeting friends inside the theatre, playing quickie catch-up with them, showing off our kids.

And then we settled into our seats for the film to begin...which is where the family togetherness ended.

Two of us loved the film, two of us hated the film and one stated that he was "confused" by the filmmaker's intentions.

Two of us were enchanted, two of us were bored silly and one sought to articulate his problems with the film in a measured, nearly academic manner.

Such was my hatred for the film that I found myself chomping at the bit, then blurting out my assessment before the credits even stopped rolling.

"Omigod, I HATED this movie! I could not wait for it to end!! What did you guys think!!!!???"

To which Middle Babe snapped, "Stop being so negative!" and Little Babe high-fived me. "I know!" he groaned. "It sucked!"

HOBB looked surprised by his youngest son's reaction. "Really?" he asked, stung. "I loved it!"

"Me too," said Middle Babe, narrowing her gaze at the alliances being formed. All eyes instantly fell upon Big Babe, the family culture critic.

"So," I asked, holding my breath. "What did you think?"

Big Babe looked pained. He cradled his chin in his hand. He tilted his head slightly to the side. "I was confused by what the filmmaker was trying to do," he finally said.

"Did you hate it?" Little Babe asked avidly.

"Nooo," Big Babe said, thoughtfully. "I'm just disappointed. It didn't work for me."

"I loved it," repeated Middle Babe, tossing her hair. "I think it's not nice to diss the movie when dad planned this and bought us all tickets."

"We're not criticizing dad," I protested. "We're just debating the film's merits."

"But you were crying!" she stated, accusingly."I saw you! You cried when Max had to leave."

Middle Babe was right. When Max leaves the island, causing Carol the Wild Thing to let out a wrenching howl, I sobbed at the sound and the sight of the awkward creature expressing his grief. That howl pierced me and held me captive to its honest sorrow.

That howl reverberated all day long; it still echoes within the chambers of my heart. It has the texture of unadorned loss. It is a primal wound. It might be a small or negligible or even forgettable moment in the film but for me, it is what remains.

Now it is late, so late that my eyes are closing as I finish this post. In her room, Middle Babe is Skyping a friend and I have heard every word of her animated conversation. Next to me, Big Babe is grumpily writing a classical music review -- an assignment for his fellowship.

Little Babe is asleep now for nearly two hours and I suppose that HOBB is reading or went to sleep without saying goodnight.

Now Middle Babe is singing. Big Babe is still typing. With my fatigue comes a grace of sorts, or at least a reprieve. My sadness feels less central to my definition of self. This new thought forms the boat that delivers me to the shores of a new workweek with this dislocating day finally coming to a close.

I hold tight the magic of my family gathering on a Saturday night in October to watch a new, much-heralded movie -- two young adults, one teen, one parent newly turned 60, the other caught in the amber of forever waiting for her real life to begin -- lured by the romance of revisiting cherished memories from points in time both distant and forever at hand, by the irresistable offer of putting on a wolf suit, making mischief of one kind or another and joining Max as he sets sail for the place where the wild things are, knowing that the only way to survive a wild rumpus is to have a home where someone loves you best of all.

No comments: