What Today Brings
“Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself one of the family. We've taken to you so strong. It's clear we're going to get along. Consider yourself well in. Consider yourself part of the furniture. There isn't a lot to spare. Who cares? Whatever we've got we share!” – Lionel Bart
What is it about Oliver Twist that hits us at such a gut level, such a primal level, even at age of four or five before we have had the opportunity to experience life at all. An unprotected innocent is, I believe, what tugs at us so strongly so we see it in literature, films and fairy tales over and over. Oliver Twist’s mother died giving birth, so did Snow White’s mom, as well as Catherine, the heroine in Wuthering Heights who was placed on earth bearing the same conundrum. Charles Dickens, Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm and Emily Bronte all knew how to hit us where we live… which is how we came to live. Recently, Donna Tartt chose to begin her brilliant, Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Goldfinch, with the death of Theo’s mother, leaving the narrator and protagonist alone in a whirlwind of hoodlums every bit as decadent and entertaining as the characters found in Oliver Twist.
There are stereo-types because they exist. Many of us have encountered one form or another of Fagin, the hustler teaching children how to live out on the streets, “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” Some unfortunate souls have encountered and in many cases had to live alongside pure evil like Bill Sikes. A lot of us can point to someone that reminds us of vivacious Nancy, who may have a less than desirable job in a saloon and be seen as a ‘trollop’ in the eyes of society but we know she is the most courageous with the biggest heart. Anyone who has started a new school in an unfamiliar town knows if the popular kids don’t take to us immediately, we might gravitate toward someone like the Artful Dodger and find out what real laughter, camaraderie and safety from a family born out of necessity rather than blood feels like.
No matter the circumstance, real or fiction, there is an internal, deep understanding about a babe in the woods without a mother. A young person ripped from safety and thrown to the wolves to fend for themselves. I do realize that some mothers are the ones a child needs protection from and this heartbreaking scenario is a whole other animal which makes my bones hurt for anyone without even the dream of a good mother gone too soon.
That tragic state of affairs aside, I believe what these tales teach us is that we do find our way. They teach us to recognize our saints, those human angels that hold the torch, lighting our way, are often the farthest off the beaten path. Therein lies the adventure. When a person feels most alone, singing through bars of a basement, “Where is love?” the best thing they can get is a slap on the back and a skip down the street with somebody saying, “Consider yourself, one of us!”