“…a family that wanted to love you, wanted to keep you safe and sound, but didn’t know you well enough to do anything but hurt you.”
-Seanan McGuire, Every Heart A Doorway
There are many worlds in Every Heart a Doorway: fairy worlds, wild worlds, worlds of Logic or Nonsense or candy or Death’s quiet elegance. Sometimes children go to another world where they belong. Sometimes they stay there forever. Sometimes, willing or not, they come back.
This afternoon I yelled at my eleven year old brother. I was angry. I also wanted to help him, to teach him that such-and-such was unacceptable. (And I was wrapped in my own little ego of being listened to. Perhaps he refused to do as I said for a similar reason: the individuality of refusing). Looking back, I don’t think yelling helped. We learn some things from people being Angry With Us, but I wonder how often the lessons we learn are the lessons the ‘teacher’ intended.
At the beginning of Every Heart A Doorway, Nancy, a teenager, has come back to our world from the King of the Dead’s cold halls. She lived in those halls for years. She stood for days on end, still as a statue. In that stillness she was content, calm–full with the fullness of being. When she returns to our world, she is still the quiet, watchful, still person that she’s become. Her parents want her to “get better.” When they send Nancy off to a school for troubled youths, Nancy packs the clothes she wants: long, quiet clothes in subdued colors. Remembering a louder little girl, her parents replace these clothes with the colorful ones she used to love. And now cannot stand. They mean well. They want their older daughter back. And they don’t see the daughter, the changed, kind, quiet daughter who has come back already. They don’t see her. They send her away.
If we don’t understand, then perhaps even our attempts to love are crosswinds instead of winds to fill our loved ones’ sails.
This is a story with sadness in it, but I don’t think it’s a sad story. Nancy learns to love herself again, and to love others. My little brother told me that what I was doing didn’t help him learn. I wrote this, wondering if he’s right. He is, I think. I’m grateful he and I could talk about it. I’m not sure what I’ll do instead, but tomorrow I’m not going to yell. Tomorrow he can wear gray clothes or purple clothes or a Chewbacca suit (which is, perhaps, the most likely), and whatever it is, I’m going to try, again, to understand the him inside it. After all, I love him. Tonight we’re going to go look at the stars.