The Right Lie

Owen ran into the kitchen tonight, eyes bright with the beginnings of tears, lower lip quivering, on the very edge of crying. He was frightened.

I was making supper and, while I cooked, I was letting him watch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s a bit too old for him, but he seemed to like it. I had watched a bit of it with him and had explained that the mean queen wanted to hurt Snow White but that it would be OK in the end. Snow White would be happy. She would, of course, live happily ever after.

Owen was really taken in by the scene where Snow White, seeing the Dwarfs’ messy house, concludes that they don’t have a mother. Owen caught on right away: “Maybe her can be their mother? I love Snow White. She can be my friend?”

Something in the film scared him, though. I think it was the transformation from the evil stepmother into the old crone. He kept saying that there was a mean lady queen and a mean man queen and they made him scared. He said this over and over again.

I reassured him as best I could. I said that the mean queen would hurt Snow White but that Snow White would get better and it would be OK. I told him that the mean queen (man or woman) couldn’t hurt him. That they had to stay inside the video. I told him if he got scared we could just close the computer. I told him I wouldn’t let them hurt him. I told him I wouldn’t let anyone hurt him.

That last one, of course, a little white lie.

And as I held him to me, reassuring him, kissing his little cheek, I was aware that I was lying, aware that it was the right lie. I will not willingly let anyone hurt my little boy, but I won’t be able to prevent him from being hurt. We all get hurt, repeatedly, relentlessly, even in the most mundane of lives. Even in lives full of love and good intentions. Still, he seemed soothed by my promise. “You won’t let anyone hurt me?”

“No, of course not, Owen. Of course I won’t.”

World Lullabies

When Owen was just born, my friend Irina, who is Russian, sent me a link to a series of animated lullabies created by Metronome Film. I had forgotten about them for a while, but since Owen is now officially addicted to YouTube, I’ve discovered them again, and they are so lovely – as much fun for me to watch as for him. I can’t understand the language in most (I can sing along to the French lullaby and the German one, and can guess at the lyrics in the Yiddish lullaby, but some, like the Turkish one, escape me). Still, this film speaks for itself:

Apparently, the lyrics do have something to do with chasing cows out of a vegetable garden, but I just love how the mother is wishing and waiting for a baby, and then one appears in the cabbage patch – only narrowly saved from marauding hungry calves! I tried to find out more about the baby in the cabbage patch legend and have come up with nothing. There are the infamous Cabbage Patch Kids, huge in the 80s (mine was named Mildred Fritzie and I immediately sent in the name change certificate, horrified that a child of mine could have such a name. Who calls a baby Fritzie, anyway?); there is the French expression chou-chou (which I have also heard refers to cream-puff); and there is this video. If anyone knows more about this, please tell me, since I am kind of fascinated, apparently, with finding babies among the cabbages. There’s also that great and vaguely poetic line from Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain: “Il dort dans les choux-fleurs.”

Another lullaby I love is this one, and I don’t even know what language it’s in. I love how winter is made to seem kind and hospitable (with snow as coats and blankets keeping the trees warm):

And finally, here is a Chukchi lullaby, which I don’t relate to as much as I did, but which I found hilarious and extremely relevant when Owen was a newborn. Warning, screaming baby… may cause shell shock if you’ve been there:

If you follow the links from these, you’ll be able to access many more, or as Owen would say, “Mo? Mo? Mo?” …