On Being a Wild Thing

“I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more.” ― Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak is dead at 83. Rachel Maddow reminds us that the important thing is that Maurice Sendak lived; and for four decades I lived with him.

When I was four I read Where The Wild Things Are – a gift from my uncle, I believe – and wanted to be Max. There was a Wild Rumpus in my family’s trailer house every night before bedtime.

In third grade, in Catholic school, in Wyoming, classmates and I read In The Night Kitchen (somehow fear of an illustrated penis didn’t get the book banned from the shelves) and chanted “I’m in the milk, and the milk’s in me!” until Sister Kathleen threw us out of the library and sent us out to the winter playground to freeze the wild things out of us before math lessons began.

In seventh grade, a boy with wild black hair and green eyes stole my heart and never knew it. His name was Max, which is only a coincidence if you believe in such things, which I don’t.

I read Where the Wild Things Are to my baby brothers. I’ve read it to the children of friends. I read it to myself, at least twice a year. I want to go out into the library today and read it to the undergrads who are preparing for finals.

I’m sad today because a good man is gone, a man with whom I had some things in common, and who gave me things he never knew about: a love of rhyme, a feel for the darkness that adumbrates the forced brightness of modern childhood. I’m sad today because I feel I’ve lost a life-long friend who I never met, but who I knew, and who knew me, just the same.

I’m also full of joy today because of those things he gave me, and because this great artist’s work taught me that the Wild Thing your child-self claims is yours forever.

Let the Wild Rumpus start!



2 thoughts on “On Being a Wild Thing

  1. I love that you outline your personal history with Sendek’s work. It made me tear up to be honest. It’s changed so many lives and your personal story with his books is beautiful.

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