For Christmas, my lovely mother in law gave me a set of Roald Dahl’s best captured flights of fancy. She bought the books months ago (a prepared gifter if ever I met one) but the timing of the giving couldn’t have been better.
By December 25th, my dad was on his seventh day of chemo. Every moment was spent at the hospital or wishing I was at the hospital and each one felt like something outside of time and place and purpose. Christmas morning was all lights that weren’t bright enough and feelings that needed dimming. The girls didn’t notice and they danced in the wrapping paper with toys that whizzed and sang and sparkled. These books were my only gift under the tree and opening them felt just right. I have read through most of them in the past few days. They sit with me at meals, become specked with water in my baths and have hidden under blankets on mornings when I wasn’t ready to see the sun.
I met Roald Dahl’s characters when I was still in elementary school and took my leave of them well before I reached junior high. They were my companions when I was very small and everything else in the world seemed so very big. Mr. Dahl understood children. He understood that all of the monsters under the bed and things that go bump in the night are really the way children articulate how powerless they feel in a world that has very real threats. In each book Dahl gives his sketches of childhood their power and they vanquish the giants and cruel grown ups and witches that would gobble them up.
And here I make a confession…
Sometimes, just sometimes, the circumstances of the last few weeks make me feel small again. And I think that maybe, just maybe, the monsters under the bed have claws that are sharp and perhaps, just perhaps, I hear the sound of the things that go bump in the night grow louder and louder.
Then I read a few lines from James and the Giant Peach and in that moment, I am not so different from the eight year old me who read it all curled up with blankets and dolls. And I am trying to learn now what I learned then…
Just because you feel small doesn’t make it so. There is great power in each of us. And whether today or tomorrow, the things that growl and howl and gnash with their big long teeth will be subdued. And the things left standing will be me and you and everything that is good, bright, colorful and full of that great, big hope that sparks even in the nights that have forgotten the taste of morning. I feel it. I know it. I promise it.
PostScript: Tomorrow I promise to write only happy things. Not one mention of hospitals or things that growl. No, not even one.