They say that everyone has a story.
I guess someday I thought maybe I would write mine. But it turns out that a book has already been written about my life. Not just a book, but a set of them. They are called: A Series Of Unfortunate Events.
Unfortunate, a word which here means having or marked by bad fortune; unfavorable or inauspicious circumstances.
I have to admit that I was intrigued by the book title and who can resist an author by the name of Lemony Snicket? My favorite pie is lemon pie. That must be why he was chosen to write my story.
Book one is entitled “The Bad Beginning.” In the book the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and baby Sunny, who are from a wealthy privileged home, are suddenly orphaned. This is unfortunate event number one.
Then they are sent to live with their nearest relative who turns out to be the evil Count Olaf who is a member of a very suspect troupe of actors. His house is a horrible dilapidated place and he has a cruel streak, even slapping young Kraus across the face.
He makes the children do many tasks and one of the tasks he assigns them is to make dinner for his entire acting troupe. Given only a small amount of money the children head next door to the house of the kind Justice Strauss to read cookbooks from her library. Here they come up with the ingenious plan to make puttanesca, a recipe which consists of a sauce of sauteed olives, capers, anchovies, garlic, chopped parsley, and tomatoes served over spaghetti.
The children buy all the ingredients and make the dish only to have Count Olaf come home and tell them he expected Roast Beef. Yet another unfortunate event.
Though he might have wished me to reach this conclusion sooner, it took me till about the end of chapter five to realize the brilliance of Lemony Snicket. I understood then that he was writing a book to and for children who are facing the issue of child abuse and showing them he understood and empathized with their pain.
How does one write a book to children about that topic?
Snicket figured it out.
Maybe that wasn’t his aim. Maybe that’s just what I read into it. Maybe he just wanted to write a horribly unfortunate story with a horribly unfortunate ending and make a fortunate amount of money. I guess I will have to let the author himself weigh in.
Yet he describes very well many of the things abused children face: evil parents, verbal and physical abuse, squalid conditions, unfair demands, insufficient care, all with little or no chance to escape.
Snicket says: “I am sure you, in your life, have occasionally wished to be raised by different people than the ones who were raising you, but knew in your heart that the chances of this were very slim.”
So what do children do in these inescapable conditions? For the Baudelaire children “they figuratively escaped from Count Olaf and their miserable existence. They did not literally escape, because they were still in his house and vulnerable to Olaf’s evil in loco parentis ways. But by immersing themselves in their favorite reading topics, they felt far away from their predicament, as if they had escaped.” That so accurately describes how children cope the unbearable. They make a way of escape in their head.
It seems Snicket doesn’t give us a happy ending, or does he?
In a way he does by showing that the human spirit can still transcend. Life handed the Baudelaire orphans a lemon, and they made puttanesca.
The human spirit can escape the inescapable even if only figuratively. We can be trapped by terrible things, but we can still dream. The Baudelaire orphans would go visit Justice Strauss and lost themselves in the books of her library.
As Dickinson says “Hope is the thing with feathers- that perches in the soul- And sings the tune without the words-and never stops- at all-”. For all those children out there who find themselves in a series of unfortunate events please remember that there is always hope.
Hope, a word which here means, grounds for believing something good may happen.