“Carrot cuddling cuckoo,” I hear him mutter as he trudges to his room. A smirk emerges on my face. My four year old is quoting a book. And his quote is quite astutely applicable in the current moment.
Berkeley Breathed, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of comics Bloom County and Opus, has also written a book called Mars Needs Moms. (Seriously, go look at those links. You’ll have no regrets.) The title may sound familiar. Current Hollywood trends have been to take children’s books and turn them into full-length feature films, this being one of them.
However, I do confess I haven’t seen the movie. I am not sure I want to. The book is so perfectly succinct. The rhythm and timing are fabulous. And don’t even get me started about the illustrations. Berkeley makes me wish my gifts were in creating visual images instead of verbal ones.
As the story goes from the point of view of a little boy, Milo’s mom is a tyrant. She makes him do all sorts of terrible things like eat vegetables and take out the trash and work in the garden. Then, of course, she is shown to have no sense of humor what so ever when she cannot see what is funny about Milo dyeing his sister purple.
Milo’s mom looses her cool. She yells. At least that is what I am led to believe by the capital letters. My boys like to point out at this particular point in the story that Milo’s mom and their mom are kindred spirits. I don’t always take kindly to it. Which of course only proves their point.
But when we read the book recently, I realized there is truly no offense to be taken by their paralleling me and Milo’s mom. Because the end of the story is so heart warming and wonderful and saturated with love.
The best, most mysterious part of Milo’s mother – the part that was missed by both the Martians and her own little boy – is poignantly revealed on the planet Mars.
I believe the right word for this turn in the story is redemption.
All too often I associate redemption with larger than life, out of this world moments in books like this one. I struggle against a belief I don’t want to hold but can’t seem to shake that people only change when they are characters in books.
Then I discover small moments like this when I find myself smiling at my son’s mumbled quote. Characteristically, I should be fighting the urge to erupt into a volcanic fury fueled by my need to defend myself as a mother.
But instead I land in a moment of honesty and self-acceptance. A moment when a very human, perfectionist mother lets go to see the humor and brilliance of her son’s grumbled words taken from this beloved book.
Maybe people do change outside of literature. Maybe redemption isn’t always in galactic-sized moments. Maybe it dwells in smallness, too. Maybe even in me.