The first sign of pregnancy with Kiddo#2 was that I cried during the opening credits of My Neighbor Totoro. You know, that sad opening song?
Hey let’s go, hey let’s go!
I’m happy as can be!
Let’s go walking, you and me!
Ready, set, come on, let’s go!
When not pregnant, I’m not a crier-for-stories. I’m not often a crier at all, to tell the truth. Not for books. For movies, only two (one of which is Dumbo, when Mama Jumbo sings “Baby Mine” through the bars of the cage.)
I’ve got no similar reservations about laughing out loud to something funny. A good comedy will have me laughing until I’m crying, unable to breathe. We should have one of those every few months to clear out the mental toxins.
On Wednesday, we drove back to Angeltown, so I picked up an audiobook from the library. They had “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and I knew Kiddo#1 had found it very funny last year; they read it at school, and he’d recounted most of it to me. As it played, I realized much of what he’d recounted to me was verbatim from the book. The child has a scary memory.
I also realized it’s not a good idea to listen to something quite that funny while driving, in case you drive off the road.
The other part of my brain, the part I can’t ever shut up, is the analytical writer part. While I was enjoying it, I kept analyzing how the writer managed to convey the sheer childhood of the narrator without ever talking down about her. The things the child noticed were things children notice. She had a sharp sense of observation but at the same time a keen wonder.
Since I want to write comedy too, I took note of how she made things so funny that I had to struggle not to drive under a truck.
On the way home, though, I realized something: the book wasn’t just about wacky hijinks. The book was about what you notice. How the narrator noticed things; how the narrator tried not to be noticed; how the Herdmans wanted to be noticed; and then, how you interpret the things you do notice. How we don’t see the things we’ve become overly familiar with.
It was dawning on me as the narrator discussed the actual unfolding of the pageant in the final chapter, how the character of Alice was critical and not noticing the goodness that was happening in front of her because she wanted so badly to take note only of the bad. And that’s when it happened.
Imogen Herdman started to cry. And so did I.
I was driving, so I fought it back. But it happened so fast and so unexpectedly, because here was a book that had made me laugh out loud several times and smile through the rest of it, and here I was in tears. And I couldn’t figure out why.
I still can’t quite figure out why, except that maybe it has to do with someone finally recognizing goodness. Finally finding goodness, and finding it in herself. Finding that even something broken and discarded can be chosen for blessedness.