Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fairy Tales

When I was a kid I loved to go the the museums and libraries in Chicago. That was when a kid could take the bus or get dropped of by a parent at the entrance and no one had to worry. I would spend hours taking in the exhibits of stuffed animals at the Field Museum or watch the stars projected on the dome at the Planetarium. But by far my favorite exhibit was (wait for it) the Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry (I know, big surprise.)

Now if you didn't know that there was a Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago let me enlighten you (stay with me - there is a point to this). This elaborate miniature house was created by silent film star Colleen Moore in the 1930s, and was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in 1949.

As a kid is was delighted with its tiny treasures—including murals and paintings painted by Walt Disney himself; chandeliers adorned with real diamonds, emeralds and pearls; the tiniest bible ever to be written, dating back to 1840; and ancient statues more than 2,000 years old. Horace Jackson, an architect and set designer who worked for First National Studios, created the floor plan and layout of the castle with the basic idea that "the architecture must have no sense of reality. We must invent a structure that is everybody's conception of an enchanted castle."

Moore also enlisted the help of art director and interior designer Harold Grieve. Grieve had designed the interiors for Moore's actual mansion, so he was a natural to create the interiors of her fantasy castle.

By 1935 more than 700 individuals had lent their expertise—including surgical instrument lighting specialists, Beverly Hills jewelers and Chinese jade craftsmen. The price tag for this 8'7" x 8'2" x 7'7" foot palace, containing more than 2,000 miniatures, was nearly $500,000.

The Fairy Castle is displayed behind glass, and the light, temperature and humidity in its environment are carefully controlled to ensure that the artifacts will be preserved for generations to come.

I am reminded of this wonderful Fairy Tale Castle because of two things that happened today. First I got a text from my somewhat estranged younger son. He still lives in Chicago. It has been over a year since I have seen him or talked to him. Prior to that it had been three years since I had talked to him. We had never gotten along very well during his teen years so it is no shock that he doesn't want to talk to me much now. Despite that I leave him messages most every week and I was delighted to get the brief text message where he said he loved me but he just didn't know what to say to me. I don't think his lack of interest in me has much to do with me coming out. I think he is still angry that I was tough on him as a teenager.

The other thing that happened was a very good friend got a ugly message from one of his children. His daughter blamed him for ruining their family.

This brings me back to my Fairy Castle. As LBG's (Late Breaking Gays), especially when we come out after our kids are grown, it is not unusual for kids to get mad at us because we are messing up their lives. Of course we aren't messing up their lives at all. In fact it is our lives that have been messed up for decades. We have hidden our feelings and our orientation in order to protect them. So now we come out of the closet to claim our lives and in so doing we deprive them of this fairy tale image of their parental unit. We are suppose to be, as my friend put it "Ozzie and Harriet." We are suppose to be their as the eternal parental figure that they have created in their own minds.

It is much like the Fairy Castle at the museum. If we did maintain that perfect parental image it would be "displayed behind glass ... carefully controlled to ensure that the artifacts will be preserved for generations to come.

That may be what some of our kids want but is certainly not healthy for us. You can't live or breath behind that glass. So live your own life, make your own story, even if it is a fairy tale of a different type.


  1. Maybe that ideal world that everyone saw back in the day should be behind glass, because it doesn't stand up very well to modern day scrutiny.
    The comment between us started at: Gee, how did YOUR kids handle your coming out? In my case, they had already had to deal with the death of their mother. I'm pretty sure that either scarred them for life or gave them a new perspective. It took a lot of work and love to try to make it the latter...

  2. Parents never stop being parents and your children never stop being your children, but children should stop "being children" at some point and become the fully realized, independent adults you raised them to become. You want to see your children grow to become the best they can become, so why is it so difficult for them to allow their parents to grow to become their best as well? One doesn't stop growing when one becomes a parent; heaven knows we'd all be dark-haired, wrinkle-free, and 20+ pounds lighter if that were the case! Growth by its very definition means change, so without change we aren't growing - we aren't really even living. I understand wanting to preserve that "fairy tale" image of the ideal parents, but doesn't becoming an adult mean leaving those fairy tales behind? Change is scary, but not changing, becoming stagnant, is even scarier. That isn't what we want for our children, so why should they want that for us? Other than by example, how do we impart that lesson?

  3. This is Morris's partner, Lenny.
    Since I don't really want to post a blog, at least I can post a comment to let people know how he's doing since the knee surgery. Basically, it was successful and we are looking forward to greater mobility.
    He came home Friday. I am probably not the world's best care-giver, but I have managed to keep his ice machine stocked and the mobility unit in and out of bed without killing him. (I DID want to kill him a couple of times, but I got over it.) We have support from family. (Thank God!) And we will rely on them during the week while I am at work and even have to go on a business trip. He should be back to posting in a couple of weeks.
    Thanks to all of you who have followed these thoughts and musings.

  4. Fairy tales are very important.