Is she a ‘Norphan, Mummy?
I find myself drawn to the books I read as a child. With time on my hands I should read all the novels I never got round to (and I will, I promise). But I often feel needy and unadventurous, so I pick up an old favourite from the days when I first discovered books, and the stories seemed so exciting, so vivid that the characters have lived in my head ever since. Ballet Shoes and the Painted Garden. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the Horse and His Boy. The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and JK Rowling (though I’ve always thought HP pales into insignificance next to these earlier giants). Plus, our current, rather lax style of parenting is also allowing for a great deal of movie watching, and I have been revisiting the Disney back-catalogue with O &I: Peter Pan, Jungle Book, Snow White, the Lion King. It’s probably because I’m feeling less robust than normal that I notice, notice, notice what the development folk call maternal mortality, and I just call dead mummies, or indeed just the absence of any parents. Being a rational student of literature, I know that the motherless child, or worse still, the orphan (or ‘Norphan, in the Gross household) is a literary trope designed to give the hero or heroine space away from the rules of adult life to develop their independent selves, a terrifyingly free place where magic can happen and the rules be tested and broken. But it is surely also a way for these grown-up authors to explore their own fears of leaving children behind, or themselves being abandoned.
As I sit waiting – yes, still waiting – to find out how far the Nuisance has spread and what can be done about it, I’m not afraid. Not for me, anyway. But I think about Oscar and Isaac all the time. How robust their little bodies seem, but how much they already understand (“Mummy, here is your tummy protector so we can jump on you”). How little we know about the future and what it will bring for them, for me, for Billy. And this is where what I read and watch seems give me an outlet for my worry, a cartoonish way to imagine the unimaginable of leaving them. Will I end up like Mufasa looking down over my little Simbas from the starry heavens? Will Oscar and Isaac turn out wild like Peter Pan’s lost boys? Or starved in an attic by some evil school master like Sara Crewe? Perhaps I could come back as the family Patronus (a lioness, natch) to protect the brood forever?
Before you all start to fret that I am sliding into some kind of dreadfully dark place, or only thinking the worst: worry not. I am honestly FINE. But we all need to think about the bad stuff, to try and process it in our heads, so we can live with the fear. Because as my own mummy always says (paraphrasing Kahlil Gibran, I believe) our sorrow is our joy unmasked, and we have to acknowledge the possibility sorrow to enjoy the joy. And this blog is not just for me to share my deep desire for luxury goods, but also what I hope and fear. Writing it, naming it, is a very cathartic thing for me. As I am sure it was for Frances Hodgson Burnett and the rest. But please, please, never mention Bambi. There is such a thing as too much.