It is night and I am sitting on the edge of my child’s bed, exactly where he insists I sit, in between the old cat laying by his feet and the team of stuffed animals encasing his body like a frame. I am about to read him The Three Little Pigs, one of his favorite books, and even though we have gone past bedtime into my time, he still insists and I comply because I am worn down and feeling both melancholy and appreciative of my gifts, which of course, he is one.
We have at least five different versions of the book. In some, the wolf gets eaten, in others he is merely boiled, and the kind gentler versions spare his life and allow him to run away with only a bit of singed fur. But in all, the message is clear, at least to me, life ain’t no fairy tale. In fact, I’m not sure fairy tales are fairy tales. Even the ones where the princess gets her man, there’s an awful lot of suffering involved.
It’s been a tough week in Suburbia. Not the usual ‘can’t get to my gym class’, ‘I stained my favorite shirt’ or ‘I need to make 50 cupcakes by morning’ tough. Real life tough; the kind that breaks down barriers and breaks your balls, that doesn’t care if your lawn is manicured or your nails, who you are or where you come from. The kind where children suffer and their parents suffer, where people die expectantly and unexpectedly and both are horribly shocking. Marlboro man tough, human tough.
It’s those times that make you wonder about life; want to rage and cry at the sky above, like it holds any power and say, ‘You suck! What is this? This is not okay!’ But the sky doesn’t care. And life doesn’t care. It just keeps on going and going like the wheels on the bus, showing off with its casual beauty thrown haphazardly about. Look at that snowcapped mountain in the sunset. Look at that wild haired child who can’t stop giggling long enough to blow his bubbles. Look at those skyscrapers soaring into the horizon, and the perfection of a rainbow.
So much magnificence, to say yes, there is suffering but there is also splendor to distract you; to mock the heart ache, but also to ease it a bit as well.
Life is beautiful, even though it is pain and death, and no one – not Hansel or Gretel, Snow White or the doomed gingerbread man – can escape unscathed.
We are all in this together till death do us part. We cannot out outrun life, even when the sky is falling, or a wolf is banging down our door.
Life is tough, meaning rough, dangerous and difficult, but we are also tough, meaning strong, sturdy and resilient.
We have to be.
Because there isn’t always a happy ending, sometimes there’s just the end.