I thought I should make my first post to my new-look blog soon. I thought it would probably be some sort of reflection on closing norlonto.net down and all that. But I’ve been down enough recently to feel compelled to look forward without glancing back over my shoulder—to give it a go at least.
I’d pondered my admiration for controversy-monger Jim Goad‘s recently-resurrected post-a-day discipline. Not too deeply, just one of those dangerously fleeting tingles in your brain that whisper, "That sounds like a good idea." I thought, "Hey, it’s the 1st September soon, maybe I could post every day in September?" All sorts of ideas. Writing something for each blog category, rotating through them one by one… Dredging my swampy memories when the present is all-too-parched… Fleshing out some of those mad scribbles in my notebooks…
So I crashed about two hours ago, but got totally absorbed and fired by Eleanor Coppola’s fantastic book on the quasi-legendary Philippine shoot of Apocalypse Now. A thought spilled onto a page in my notebook, and I caught myself. "Do it! Do it now! Join us!" chanted the gnomish hordes who shovel the musings of the vain ceaselessly into the furnaces of the blogosphere… And here I am. It’s not technically 1st September anymore, but you don’t care about that. And I might not post every single day in September—but it’s possible I might not take a dump every day either. Same difference.
So, (draws deep breath, teeters on the edge before leaping) here goes…
Yesterday, Sofia lost her first tooth. . . . She kept calling me, asking me questions: "Does the tooth fairy have blond hair?" "Does she have a crown?" "Why do fairies have crowns?" "Maybe because a kid might think it’s his parents leaving the present."
Finally she went to sleep and I went out to the Chinese grocery store to see what I could find in the way of a surprise.
I’ve not got kids, and I never really had any issue with these little parental myths as a kid—believing them, then realising the truth. But I’ve always been a little dubious about the ethics of lying to kids—the whole Santa Claus thing seems too much like that Christianity codswallop.
But Eleanor Coppola’s vivid little portrait struck me sideways. Isn’t it just like initiation? I’ve never been part of a magickal group, but reading about the process of hoodwinking followed by revelation has always seemed to have its own inalienable logic, a logic that I can map onto my own spontaneous experiences, one that teaches you about life in a way that clear, upfront honesty can’t. The potential for abuse is there, and is surely part of the logic, too. Initiation without risk seems nonsensical.
Without real social initiations, what more intimate, important and powerful initiation is left besides these little parental conjurations? I’m not trying to set anything in stone, least of all any kind of parental structure—but as long as adults are raising kids, these things will probably persist.
There’s the usual gulf between ideal and reality to bear in mind, but surely deceptions like the tooth fairy and Santa implant a real sense of mystery… and pave the way for dis-illusionment. Whether the latter manifests in its mundane sense of disappointment and betrayal, or the more interesting sense of "pulling back the veils"—whether you get the demystification of The Wizard of Oz or the revelation of The Holy Mountain—or really, how healthy the mixture of the two is—depends, I imagine, on the love and creativity of the parents.
I went home and wrapped the package and put it under her pillow. Then I went out to the set to see how Francis was doing. When I came home, Sofia was really excited about the tooth fairy’s visit. She showed me each thing, looking over it carefully. She said, "You know, Mom, I think she was a Filipina fairy with short black hair."