Back in college, I loved watching the TV show Northern Exposure, a good example of one of my favorite genres, magical realism.
Well, in the episode Mr. Sandman, when the aurora borealis goes haywire, everyone in Cicely is swapping dreams, exposing each other’s secrets. Maggie O’Connell has Holling Vincoeur’s dreams about his childhood and his troubled relationship with his cruel father and loving, but rejected mother, and Holling develops a severe psychosomatic aversion to food. In true magical realism fashion, believing that the dreams that Maggie are experiencing have something to do with Holling’s problems, they turn to the town’s health care system, Dr. Joel Fleischman, for help.
In the end, more from Holling’s epiphany than Fleischman’s diagnosis, Holling realizes that his food aversion began with milk, a symbol of motherhood, and believes that his aversion to milk, and subsequently all food, stems from the rejection of his mother for being weak. Now, as an expectant father, he comes to terms with that rejection and realizes that he doesn’t have to follow the path of his cruel father when it comes to his own child. He tells Joel,
I have been so fearful of becoming my father, but it doesn’t need to be that way. No. I can be my mother. I can be kind and giving. I can be good to my child.
The impact of this scene isn’t because it strikes some personal chord about my own personal parental relationship, but rather it reminds that no matter what our personal baggage may have, we can always take the goodness of our parents and be better for our children.
All of my blogging, twittering, photo sharing and video production is to leave my daughter, McKenzie, a more complete picture of her father, a picture where I can be kind and giving.