Monday, December 22, 2008

Making Christmas...slightly morbid

Since Nora can’t read yet, I think it’s safe to write about one of her Christmas presents. We bought her a Jack Skellington plush. She loves The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s her favorite movie (and by favorite, I mean she’s so obsessed with it that she wakes up in the morning asking to watch it, and she carries the video case around the house with her and gives us a panicky “Where’s Jack?” when she’s misplaced it somewhere, and at night she throws a fit because we’ve only let her watch the movie twice instead of the 17 times she’s begged for it). Yes, it’s an odd choice for a two-year-old’s favorite movie, but we’re all a bit macabre around here.

Nora wants me to sing “Jack songs” to her at bedtime. This has proved difficult since the lyrics are extremely tricky and even now that I have finally looked them up, I’m not sure they make the most soothing lullabies:
I am the one hiding under your bed
Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
I am the one hiding under your stairs
Fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair
But Nora loves Jack. And frankly I think it’s a great movie. We try to watch it every year between Halloween and Christmas. But only once.

My sister told me this week that her daughter Juniper also loves The Nightmare before Christmas, so now I’m wondering what it is about the movie that appeals to children. You’d think it would scare the bejeebers out of them. I’d like to suggest that we all have an innate taste for the macabre, for the images of death and gore. Cases in point: the inevitable rubbernecking at freeway wrecks, the popularity of horror movies, the fact that every time I turn on a news channel lately, I’m met with photographs of Caylee Anthony’s skeletal remains. But honestly, I suspect Nora has no clue what the movie’s really about. She certainly doesn’t have a clue about death. I think she just likes the music. And Jack.

Detail from Brueghel, Triumph of Death
I’ve decided that The Nightmare Before Christmas is the modern equivalent of Pieter Brueghel’s Triumph of Death. You’ve got the dancing skeletons. The corpses. The morbid themes treated with a twisted sense of humor. It’s all there. I remember being fascinated by this painting in the Prado when I was a little girl. I also loved Bosch’s gruesome hell scene in his Garden of Earthly Delights. They were just plain cool. Of course, I had very little appreciation for the concept of death at the time. Now that I have children, I fear death in giant, parental proportions. But I also have such a respect for the reality of death that the painting amuses me more than scares me. I know that death is not likely to show up at my kitchen table with a lute in one hand, an hour glass in the other and an army of friends behind him. I also suspect that death doesn’t have a pinstriped tux, a bat-shaped bowtie and the voice of Danny Elfman.

So as Jack would say, “what the heck!” I can let Nora enjoy the movie despite its darkness because she sees only the light. I still think it’s better than the other syrupy, sparkly drivel out there marketed at preschool girls. And when requested, I will attempt to sing “Making Christmas” to my daughter without worrying about the fact that the melody comes from the Dies Irae, the medieval chant for the dead.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

my favorite email ever

deer mom I luve you thaeck you for getting this meshij luve gabriel.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Did you miss me?

Hi. It’s Gabie here. I know you haven’t heard from me in a while, but that’s just because my mom’s a total slacker. She says she’s been too busy to write and she doesn’t know how November slipped away from her. But I say she just needs to refocus on her top priorities. Like my blog.

Here’s what I’ve been up to. While my mom was busy grading papers, I came up with an Ingenious Solution to keep people from bugging her. I set up my Ingenious Solution on her door. I’m not allowed to tape anything to the door because it might ruin the paint, so I used sticky notes and then taped my mechanism to the sticky notes. This was very tricky and it took over a whole hour to make and I had to ask Mom for more tape and then some yarn and then some scissors to cut the yarn. Then the weight of the whole Ingenious Solution made it fall a few times and I got really frustrated and cried a bit and then Mom said she would help me because she wasn’t getting much grading done at that point anyway. But at least when it was all finished, it was an Ingenious Solution to the grading problem. The best part is that the message “Do not Dastrb Mom” can be blocked by another paper attached with a string that can be wound up on its spool when Mom finishes grading. This still hasn’t happened yet. I think she’s always grading.

My big problem lately is my little sister Nora. I hate sharing a room with her. Nora’s a total brat. She gets into everything. I leave “Do not Dastrb” signs all over the place but she ignores them. She climbs on my top bunk and messes up the way I arrange all my pandas and penguins to be facing each other so they can have a long talk while I’m at school. Nora wrecked my CD player. She lost my teeth that the dentist had to pull and I was saving. She scribbled on the wall. She scribbled on my dirty clothes hamper. She squeezed toothpaste all over and messed up the way I put all the toothbrushes in a criss-cross pattern when I cleaned the bathroom. She changes her clothes like 20 times a day and leaves her dresses all over the floor. I’m not allowed to say I hate my sister, but sometimes I say it anyway.

This week I put up a barrier so Nora can’t get up in my bed. It only took one roll of masking tape and half the Sunday newspaper. So far it’s working. Mom’s wants to know if she’ll be able to access the closet again anytime soon, but I say that’s the cost of a little privacy.

And finally, I have started leaving notes for myself every night on the white board above my pillow. This is so I won’t forget important things while I’m sleeping. Here’s the note I left yesterday. Mom laughed all morning when she saw it, which is a bit strange since she’s the one who wants us to eat better.