If you’re hoping I start this off by saying, “They’re in my heart, where they’ve always been. Just like Max,” then, sorry, I won’t, and this won’t be a total cheese-ball fest (if that sort of thing exists).
For those of you who have never read Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, it was my book when I was youngin’ and I highly recommend it, just for the illustrations alone. The next time you’re in the children’s book section, pick it up. In short, the book is about a young boy named Max who gets sent to his room without supper for sassing his mom. His imagination takes hold and he is transported on an eye-opening adventure. He befriends some beasts, yet also gains an appreciation for his mom (*sheds single tear*) before returning home.
Revisiting the work made me temporarily question why I used to love this book, besides the lively illustrations, of course. In all honesty, I have always been incredibly self-aware, even in my younger years. I can’t tell you how old I was when this book posed a challenge for me.
Upon rereading the book, I was immediately reminded of my distaste toward Max. I remember thinking he was a punk back then, and I still feel this way. Granted, I got sent to my room on a few occasions when I was younger, too, one of which was because I was in a fit after visiting my mom on her lunch break at the Gap (I know, could I be any more 90s?). For some reason, I thought I would never see her again. I remember thinking my crying was illogical back then, but it was just one of those weird things I couldn’t control. Feelings, man. My dad and Memé sent me to my room to sort myself out, and I did. I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old.
It was in situations like this one that makes Where the Wild Things Are so applicable. Instead of sorting through his feelings methodically (because not many young children can), Max instead dreams up a him-centered world where he has to exert bravery and cunning, yet have fun and cause mischief, too. He injects himself into an alternate realm wherein he learns that dealing with unruly creatures (like how he was acting toward his mom) is difficult and taxing.
As kiddos, and even as adults, I feel I’m correct in assuming that we’d all love to escape reality to the extent that Max did. Imagine the headlines: “Corporate tax evader escapes to exotic private island.” Well, OK, maybe that’s not that far-fetched.
Where the Wild Things Are is a prime example of one of those self-realization stories where the subject just seems to figure things out on his or her own. There’s great beauty in teaching yourself something, especially when it results in a heightened appreciation for someone or something else of value — or just life in general. I’ve spent 21 exhilarating years doing this (but had plenty of long talks with Mom, too). Thanks, Maurice, (because I feel like we’re on that level). And thank you, Max.