And now a confession: Being the heartless, irreverent teenager that I was, I made up a clever song about this new phase of life we were entering, to the tune of "For Unto Us A Child is Born" (and of course coerced my younger siblings to sing along). It went like this:
For unto us an other mother...
She is our mother
to have another
And the new one will do all the washing and the ironing!
And her name
shall be called
The mighty mom,
The everlasting mother,
The queen of clean.
Of course we were all laughing, even my mom.
We were totally joking around, and yet...
Years later I wrote her a letter. I sat up through the night and wrote to her with tears streaming down my face about how sorry I was for being disrespectful like that; for even hinting that we’d ever think of replacing her.
And what a sting of irony that carries, now that she’s gone.
But something made me think of that song again last week. In an even darker way. I read this book called Coraline. And true to the blurb on the back, it scared me half to death, this children’s fairy tale. I think it’s really written for adults. And the villainness is called the Other Mother. (Yikes! It sends a chill down my spine and a shudder through my shoulders just typing that.)
Whatever possessed me to pick up that book, I’m not exactly sure. If you recall this post, I am terrified of being scared. Almost to the point of phobia. In a nutshell, I believe this wholeheartedly:“God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.” But something about this book intrigued me. (Besides, Orson Scott Card was one of the endorsers, and he seems fairly trustworthy to me.) Honestly, I think the biggest factor in my decision was this interview I remembered between Kimberly and Rebecca Weybright, the creator of Noctober. There, Rebecca gave such an articulate and convincing defense of the whole genre of "dark speculative fiction." She said some things that made so much sense to me, including this nugget: "I find questions infinitely more interesting than answers, and I want to be left asking some provocative ones at the end of a reading experience." So, in the spirit of Kimberly's renowned risk-taking, I dove into a new book, and a new genre.
What I found, despite the frightening images, was a brilliant allegory, and one of the best depictions of evil (and how desperate it is to have us in its clutches) I’ve encountered lately. It shed so much light on being drawn in by curiosity. And even on how addictions can take hold of us, becoming relentless tormentors. It caused me to ask myself a lot of searching questions. It reaffirmed what I said yesterday: Life is worth the scary parts.
Anyway, the girl wanders into a counterfeit house, hauntingly similar to her own, with a seemingly-perfect Other Mother, who offers to play with her, fixes her favorite meals, supplies endless toys and a closet full of dress-up clothes. She looks surprisingly like her real mother. But has black, soul-less, button eyes.
As the story unwinds, the Other Mother becomes uglier, and her intentions more selfish, and her love wholly feigned. She begins to bear no resemblance to the real mother as she desperately reaches out to possess, to use, to control this little girl. And offers to give her — sew on, in fact — a pair of black button eyes.
Coraline realizes she wants nothing to do with this Other Mother, who doesn’t love her at all, despite her declarations to the contrary. She wants her real mother, who is often too busy to play with her and leaves her to explore on her own, who rarely cooks, but who loves her deeply. She wants her real father, who is distracted at work and who experiments with recipes that go awry but who is clearly kind. She wants her own room and her own clothes and her real life, including the boring parts.
And so do I. I never REALLY wanted an Other Mother. (But can you see how a chill gripped me when I read that, and remembered my silly song?) I want a mother with faults and foibles, and maybe even an irritable streak. But someone who is real. Who guides me to selfless truth. Whose love is real. Even now that she's gone.
And I want to be that real too. I want to know and love what is real; to seek "things as they really are." I want to teach my children to appreciate what is real...and to shun the world's counterfeits at all cost.