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Monster Love

werewoofSchuyler loves monsters, and always has. She even makes a place for the “little monster in her head”, as she calls her polymicrogyria, although I don’t think she loves it, exactly. She tolerates it, and she tries to understand it. The older she gets, the easier, and the more difficult, that becomes.

She began referring to her polymicrogyria as her “little monster” a few years ago, when she began having seizures. She already knew that I used the metaphor of a monster in the book I wrote about her, so it was probably natural that she would pick it up herself. She’s older now, but it remains an imagery she feels comfortable with, both for her own disability and those of others, so her brain malformation in all its subtlety and complication remains her “little monster”.

Schuyler has loved monsters since she was a baby. Someone gave me a model of King Kong years before she was born, and Schuyler was fascinated with it from the beginning. She knew he was a giant gorilla from the tiny little Fay Wray figure that stood on Kong’s pedestal with him. He wasn’t cute, at all. Kong was fierce and powerful, caught in a moment of rage, but this never bothered her. She never doubted that given the opportunity, she and Kong would be best friends. When Peter Jackson’s movie came out, little five year-old Schuyler was there in the movie theater, several times, cheering him on when he burst out of the jungle to save his girl from dinosaurs, and sighing sadly when the airplanes appeared at the end. (SPOILER: They kill him.)

She loves monsters, big and small. She adores sea monsters, whether they be serpents or the Kraken. Her favorite movie of the summer (and a possible rival to Kong) was Pacific Rim, which we saw in the theater an embarrassing number of times and which I now suspect will stay in regular rotation in the DVD player for a while. Her list of go-to movies on nights on the couch are predictable. Cloverfield. War of the Worlds. The Nightmare Before Christmas (We sing the “Oogie Boogie Song” together). Coraline. King Kong (the Extended Cut, naturally). Years ago, she invented something called the Grass Monster, and created an elaborate ritual for keeping him at bay, mostly involving pouring part of a beverage on the grass and saying “There you go, Grass Monster!” And on nights when a full moon is partially obscured by clouds, she calls that a “werewolf moon”. It is the finest thing you can hope to see in the night sky.

I’m sure there are a great many reasons that Schuyler loves monsters so steadfastly. Monsters are outcasts, but they aren’t powerless, even when they lose. Monsters are different, in ways that are usually instantly clear. Monsters make great friends, especially if the world feels overwhelming, or unfriendly, or even dangerous. Monsters sometimes want more than to eat your city. Sometimes they want love, or at least a place in the world all their own. All of the above, and probably more. I don’t think Schuyler could even tell you why she loves them so much.

A few months ago, Schuyler began to ponder what kind of monster she would like to be. She always gravitated towards vampires, although not weepy, sensitive hipster vampires. Schuyler’s vampires are old school. They will mess you up, and they’ll look good doing it. She’s not interested in being the kind of monster that’s unhappy about its lot in life. Schuyler seems to believe that if you’re going to be a monster, you should have fun with it. Go big or go back to the graveyard.

In her quest to determine the best kind of monster one could choose to be, Schuyler asked a lot of people. Vampires got votes, although the whole nighttime limitation was obviously uncool. Sea monsters and mermaids were also very tempting choices, although having to stay in the water can obviously cramp your style as well. When she asked me, I gave her an answer she hadn’t heard yet.

“I’d be a werewolf,” I said. “It’s super easy. You only have to work a few days a month, and only at night. It’s the only monster that’s a part time gig.”

She liked that.

And so it was that when we went to the Halloween store over the weekend to scope out costume ideas, she went past the “Li’l Hooker” costumes (whew…) and eventually decided that we should be a werewolf family. Halloween won’t fall on a full moon, of course, but we can consider it an overtime shift, with holiday pay.

Schuyler will transform, as most kids will that night, into something fantastical, something unreal, and she’ll have fun embracing the role (minus the horrific bloodletting, but absolutely with plenty of howling). And like the werewolves of legend, she’ll return to her regular form by morning. Schuyler’s human form is very different from the rest of ours, even if her outward appearance conceals it. Her little monster will remain, unmoved by her wishes or our hopes or the phases of the moon.

And that’s okay. Schuyler knows how to cope with monsters. She always has.

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2 Comments
  1. Meg
    October 21, 2013 | Reply
  2. BW aka Barbara from Boston
    October 21, 2013 | Reply

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