I love books and stories that are purportedly for children but, to adults who might read them, reveal darker layers that we might have missed as kids. Then again, I think we don’t give kids enough credit. They might not be writing essays on the portrayal of parent-child relationships in Coraline, but they certainly understand the concepts.
Slightly sinister, overtly terrifying… give it all to me. I gobble it all down like No-Face, never wholly satisfied and always looking for more, more, more. I was a child who cut her teeth on Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid Of the Dark, Mary Chase’s The Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House, and the enduring nightmare-inducer Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I grew into an adult who loves Neil Gaiman, got married on the property of a haunted house, and thinks that a stroll through Historic Oakwood Cemetery is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. I’ve got an enormous Southern gothic playlist on Spotify. I have a Flannery O’Connor tattoo. You could say that I’m super into the delights of the scary, the unsettling, and the just plain weird.
My most recent obsession is the 2014 Cartoon Network miniseries Over the Garden Wall. The feel of the series evokes, for me, the cartoons I watched growing up. It exists somewhere between the polish of Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the eerie darkness of literally any Don Bluth film. Of course, that the opening song slyly references these “golden memories; the loveliest lies of all” doesn’t hurt. I do love bouts of meta in my media. I’ve been known to listen to the soundtrack repeatedly. Sometimes at night I’ll end up humming the songs as G drifts off to sleep.
It might be its association with my son that’s strongest, or at least explains why I so persistently dig into the brief yet profound story of Wirt and Greg and their journey in the Unknown. I didn’t watch OTGW when it first aired, you see. I was a few weeks postpartum last October and was still getting nap-trapped by G on a regular basis, which led to watching a good bit of TV while he snoozed. Rewatching Outlander only took me so far, so I went poking around on Hulu. “Ah,” I said when I ran across OTGW. “That’s the thing I meant to watch years ago and never did. Well, why the hell not.”
Why the hell not, indeed. It turned into near-obsession that’s endured far past its seasonal appropriateness. Here we are on the cusp of spring and I’m still thinking about pumpkin-headed skeletons and forlorn woodsmen and opera-singing Beasts. It’s finally begun to sink in that I want to share this slice of weirdness with G. Actually, I want to share the entire weirdness pie. There’s so much magic in the unsettling, and it’s through this magic twist of storytelling that I’ve managed to keep a better footing in reality. And even if he doesn’t take to it, I’ll still have the golden memory of the dream. I may even write a story of my own, for him and for other weird little kids in this world.