The Wild Rumpus Never Ends

A simple memorial to Maurice Sendak at the Bookshelf, downtown Guelph

I found out yesterday that Maurice Sendak – author of the beloved children’s book Where the Wild Things Are – died on Tuesday May 8, 2012.

To say that Where the Wild Things Are was/is/will always be one of my favourite books would be an understatement. It would also be a disservice to the masterpiece that I discovered when I was really young.

You see, this book has always been more to me than most other books because it was the book that instilled in me a love of reading. That is no small statement. Who I am today has been very much shaped by the books that I have read. They have taken me places that I never dreamed possible, they have fostered my curiosity, they have provided comfort, and they have pushed me to always strive to be a better person.

And it all started with Where the Wild Things Are.

Naturally, hearing about Sendak’s death struck a chord. In an instant I was back on the island with the Wild Things, wearing my crown and living in a world free from responsibilities, and chores, and going to bed early, and doing homework, and eating my stupid stupid vegetables. I was once again the six-year-old kid that first discovered the book that would be forever my book. 

And then reality hit and it dawned on me that this creative man who gave the younger-me the greatest escape from reality that a child could have – an imagination – was gone. Forever. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, and suchlike. Now clearly I didn’t know the man personally – so I didn’t feel a sense of loss on that level. But I did feel as if a small part of my childhood had just vanished.

And so I took a few moments to mourn that loss. The memory of me as a kid running to the library to find my book flashed through my mind. I remembered the feeling I had when I would hold the book. I remembered dreaming about the island, about the Wild Things, about the freedom. I remembered my crown, and how I would make up all the rules. But I realized it was more than just this. You see, I not only remembered these things – I was reliving these things. It was at that moment that I realized that mourning was not appropriate. It was then that I realized that I should instead be celebrating the life of a man who essentially shaped my early years.

So instead of focussing on the loss, I’ve opted to sit down for a few minutes this eve to reread my book; to return to the island that I found myself visiting so frequently as a child, to visit with my old friends the Wild Things, to wear my crown and demand the start of the wild rumpus, to let my imagination run free. That was his gift to me, and to not do so would seem more than just wrong, it would seem insulting. It also feels like the most appropriate thing I can do to honour a man who gave me some of the grandest adventures a young-me could have asked for.

Rest in peace Mr. Sendak.

The wild rumpus.

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