My daughter and I started By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder tonight. We’ve been reading through the whole series (skipping Farmer Boy in favor of more Laura-centered stories). This one, so far, is a big downer. Within the first two chapters, Mary’s gone blind and good dog Jack has died of old age.
I spent a good twenty minutes comforting my daughter as she cried and asked me questions about pets I lost as a child and how long it was our two cats would live.
“They’ve still got several more years to live,” she said with confidence.
“I hope so,” I replied, with slightly less confidence; the one cat is fifteen and the other is almost twelve, but I didn’t feel it necessary to make a big deal about these facts at this particular moment.
After I comforted her, she went to her dad for more hugs and crying. When she was finally calm enough for bed, I tucked her in. Every night, she listens to a story or music. Tonight I suggested she listen to her lullabies.
“Those are pretty happy,” I said. “They might make you feel better.”
“No, Mom,” she said sagely, “Happy things just make me feel the sadness even more.”
She chose Charlotte’s Web to listen to tonight.
I have to wonder, is this something she inherited from me or is it something I taught her? I know we’re not unique in preferring sad things to happy things when we’re feeling down; blues music is based on the idea that sometimes you feel better singing about the bad rather than trying to make yourself feel happy.
But since we’re mother and daughter, I assume that there’s some connection between her desire to steep herself in sadness when she’s sad and my tendency towards annoyance when people try to cheer me out of the doldrums.
“The blues isn’t about feeling better, it’s about making other people feel worse, and making a few bucks while you’re at it.” – Bleeding Gums Murphy (from The Simpsons)