“Man I’m gonna miss this guy.” This was the overwhelming thought dominating my sleep-deprived brain at 2:16 am this morning. But it goes deeper.
Normally and historically, I consider myself a healthy sleeper. I can usually be counted on for 8 hours or more, no problema. But that bedrock trait apparently experienced a seismic jolt somewhere in the after midnight hours of November 8. With unpleasant and unwelcome regularity, I now find myself perusing news sites bathed in the flicker of my iPhone’s screen. Stretched out on the living room couch. Wrapped in a hodgepodge of whatever undersized throw blankets my sons have not smuggled off to their bedrooms for the evening. Shaping and pounding the couch pillows that are not made for sleeping into something more closely approximating pillows that are made for sleeping. And there I lie, calm and with a heart rate in the mid 40s. Burning through one after another well-written article published in credible and long-standing news media outlets.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for while ensconced in these strange, lonely hours. Information, to be sure. Turns out my brain craves it, and turns sclerotic without a steady flow of it. But I suspect I search for something more. Something meaningful. Something on which I can seize to regain my equilibrium. To hoist above my head with both hands as a means of clinging to what I hope is a healthy perspective. Something that will justify an authentic show of optimism to my sons in the morning about the state of the world. Something that makes me not sound like (or write like) a fool when I posit, “Things are going to be OK.”
So in the three-hour Witching Hour of last night/this morning, I gobbled the latest information from the usual suspects. Somewhat guiltily nibbled on a couple op-ed pieces (I always do so with a grain of salt, even if said pieces are preaching to the choir in which I stand nodding vigorously). And then I stumbled on the photo above, depicting President Obama reading “Where the Wild Things Are” to school children a few years back. The image struck me. I brought my finger-scrolling and all other voluntary bodily movements to an abrupt halt. To study the image, let its comforting familiarity wash over me. Feel it sink in and take hold.
I know this book. Our firstborn son is named Max, and the book’s author unknowingly bequeathed us with a gift by naming his main character, “Max.” Our copy was gifted to us by close family friends when our Max was born. They penned a thoughtful inscription to our day-old baby on the inside cover. I can’t even begin to guess how many times my wife and I held open these pages for our Max in our lap, reading the narrative aloud and absolutely reveling in it. Contorting our faces, stretching our voices, and sprinkling in scene-appropriate hand gestures here and there. And making that exact same face, with that exact same claw hand, as President Obama evidently conjures up in his own rendition. Pretty simple, yet pretty profound, this newfound, very human connection.
Mr. Sendak’s book has sold something like 20 million copies. That’s a lot of people reading and overacting to a lot of children half-asleep on a lot of laps. I wonder whether any of them felt the same visceral reaction as I when they saw this image published in The New York Times. A gut feeling that somehow, some way, everything is going to be, in fact, OK.
Well then, let the wild rumpus start!
Thanks for reading. (And thanks, Frank and Noel — and Mason — for the gift 15 years ago).