I love watching “Once Upon a Time” with my children. My daughter calls it OUAT, an acronym that makes it seem as if we’re in some kind of top-secret, clandestine organization. (Any given Sunday night, you will hear her whisper: “Psssst, it’s OUAT time. Are you ready for it now? Or are we going to hold off and wait for later? Either way, I’m making the popcorn!”)
One of the lovely things about OUAT is that the world of fairy-tale unreality seems so plausible and possible. Both my children are approaching the age where impossible things are just that: impossible.
They are on the brink of tween and teenhood, where facts and data and proof come to matter more than imagination and pretending. They both want to know when did something happen, why did it happen, and will it happen again. That’s why OUAT is such a welcome weekly respite. We can sit together and watch Snow White perennially battle against forces of evil, and rejoice when her better nature always manages to pull her through. The performers on the show are all excellent in their roles, and they manage to make the modern-day dilemmas of a one-hook pirate and a dragon-shifting runaway foster child seem entirely understandable.
This is one of the reasons why I love fantasy bears and other plush critters. The world of fairy bears, plush pixies, delightful dragons, and other mythological beasts really resonates with me.
I like being able to see into the minds of the artists and wander around their inner musings. When an artist excels at making a make-believe character come true, it definitely appeals to my thirst for storybook lessons and picture-book philosophy. Get me in the right mood, and I can actually feel teardrops start to form when I hear “Goodnight Moon” read aloud. Again, it’s one of those rituals of childhood that get abandoned pretty early on. A 4-year-old will sit and let that simple text be read to him or her repeatedly. Try doing that with an 8-year-old! Good luck, moon!
Fantasy plush pals are a way to keep adult collectors connected to their younger selves, their more hopeful and optimistic selves. That’s probably one of the cornerstones for why I look forward to Sunday-night television. (You see, I told you in my last posting that Sunday is my must-see TV viewing.) OUAT allows me to stay in touch with my inner child while sharing quality time with my actual children. If you haven’t been fortunate enough to follow it, take out a Netflix subscription and binge watch the past seasons. They are addictive and will really keep you interested. (Watching with children is also a plus.)
After the kids are safely tucked away in bed, I can then watch the adult flip side of OUAT. That would be “Game of Thrones,” called GOT by its legion of devotees. (Acronyms are big with the fantasy audience, aren’t they?) While OUAT allows its characters to find redemption and to restore their faith in one another, GOT has pretty much handed out vengeance and god-awful fates to all of its protagonists. I recently accepted an invitation to my niece’s wedding, and I have to confess that I am a bit wary due to the comeuppance that the Stark family received in the “Red Wedding” episode. (If you haven’t watched “Game of Thrones,” find a streaming service and binge watch it. It, too, is addictive and will keep you interested. My only caveat: make sure no children are up and watching with you.)
Fantasy creations are powerful ones because they break through the strict binding of what has to be and come snout-to-nose with what might be or what ought to be. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a world where soaring dragons are capable of wreaking havoc with their fiery breath, decimating castles, crops, and citizens. I wouldn’t like that all! But I would love a world where dragons act like Puff to our gentle Jackie Paper selves. How sweet would it be to inhabit a world where we can visit our reliable, scaly friends and share “strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff” with them.
Yes, book me a ticket to Honalee, where Puff the Magic Dragon will always reside. I don’t want to hear the snarky comments that it’s a drug song (Puff! Drag on! Paper! Sealing wax!). I want to take Peter, Paul, and Mary’s constant public defense that it’s a love song to the ephemeral nature of childhood. It’s a brief time that we are children. Sadly, we grow up, grow away from fantasy, and grow old. Maybe if we all punch a ticket to Honalee and let our imaginations unwind, we’ll preserve a bit of our better selves.
Yep, like Snow White and her OUAT cast mates, we all have better selves that we could and should protect. Gravitating and embracing fantasy creations is just one step in the right direction.