WORK IN PROGRESS – Guests at a dinner party

Margaret Wise Brown the author of Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny and many other childhood favorites. This choice may seem odd when compared to the other guests at this mysterious dinner party but she possessed a quality that drew people to her. It was more than charm and more than her highly regarded beauty. She was a study in contrasts, a devoted author of children’s books that struck at the very imaginative heart of the emotional complexity of childhood but rarely surrounded herself with children. And when she did it was to study their reactions to a particular story and make changes to suit their wants. In fact she seemed to view children somewhere between co-equal collaborators and laboratory mice for the literary set. She loved the city and all it offered, enjoyed shopping and parties and “hobnobbing” with interesting people. She was extravagant with her money and very generous but lived in a tiny 4 room cottage hidden in the shadows of two Skyscrapers which she called Cobble Court. And when she wasn’t at Cobble Court she was living on nan Island called Vinylhaven in a shack she named “the Only House” that lacked electricity and running water. Brownie as her friends knew was indeed complex. She craved for the attention of older women and sought them out to become her mentors and friends. It is doubtful that she had any real Lesbian or Bi-Sexual leanings towards these women but she was engaged in a florid affair with Michael Strange (a woman despite the name) that while certainly sexual seemed to be more an extension of her need to be under the wing of a strong mother figure. Aside from Michael Strange M.W.B. enjoyed a brief affair with Juan Carlos, the Prince of Spain and an unrequited love for her lawyer. Her death at the age of 42 was a great tragedy and left all who knew her reeling from the loss. But her legacy not only remains but has never diminished. Her books are still beloved by children and parents alike. In fact many children are being read her stories by parents who first heard them from their parents who in turn heard them first from their own parents. She is on my list for another reason also. I would love to close out the evening by having her recite the closing lines from her most well known books Goodnight Moon. The last few stanzas are startling, almost frightening and evoking death symbolism and yet have within them something of a ritual cadence that is almost magical those words bring on the little death that sleep is. What child does not look upon sleep with hesitation? What adult does not recognize this in their own children at bedtime. Margaret Wise Brown gave the world a magical incantation that draws those who invoke the words into the embrace of slumber while also providing protection from the primal fear that we will not wake up. We are protected because we know that beyond the veil of sleep is the quiet voice of the old lady who can be none other than the symbolic mother whispering to us in the dark.

And goodnight to the old lady
whispering “hush”

Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere

And with those words the dinner party comes to an end and the guests return to the ether whence they came.

In composing this it occurred to me that each person on my list was dead. I removed a couple of names and replaced them with others and realized they too were the names of the dead. With the exclusion of my parents, wife and son and a few select others whom I frequently eat with already every name I considered was a name from the grave! Mark Twain, James Murray, My great grandmother Ora Azalea, my Nana and Papa all dead. What does it mean when you would choose to dine with ghosts more than with the living? When all your heroes, all those you admire, all those who for some quality draw you to learn about them each have had their bones laid to rest on the alabaster stones. One would think that I have a morbid fascination with death and yet the truth is far from it. I loath death with a rare and special hatred, refuse to speak of it, refuse even to acknowledge it at work in my life or the lives of those around me. And yet here I am at a dinner party with the dead.

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