“Are you ready to hold your baby boy?” the nurse asked the exhausted new-mother who sat slightly upright in the hospital bed.
Her eyes, although tired, sparkled as she held out her hands. A tiny blue bundle was placed in her arms, and it was as if he was made to fit there. He peeked up from his soft cocoon, much like his mother’s womb, and he gazed up to see a woman that he already loved, although he did not quite know it.
“Hello, my little Max,” said his mother, and she smiled into his little face even after he had fallen asleep.
It’s too late for this, thought Max’s mother. Her son was wearing his wolf suit again, even though she had asked him three times to take it off and get into his pajamas. Most days, he refused to wear any other type of clothing around the house. He was attached to his suit, a gift given regrettably one Halloween long ago.
Max had always been a rambunctious child. The moment he could crawl he began to cause all sorts of unwanted stress to his mother. The wolf costume was a new addition and it matched his wild behavior. But, despite his occasional monstrous behavior, Max’s mother still loved him as she did from the first day she held him.
Tonight, she was having a hard time being overly loving to Max. She was tired and had cooked a hot meal for Max, including all of his favorite foods. She was even going to let him have chocolate milk with dinner, instead of plain milk.
She was getting tired of the night’s antics. To start, Max was refusing to take off his wolf suit, but unfortunately that happened on the regular. Tonight however, he nailed up a tent to play in, using a hammer as a tool and leaving holes in the freshly painted walls. He was pretending that it was his castle, a castle that he would rule for the duration of the night.
He also decided to run around the house, jumping on and off furniture, chasing after their poor dog with utensils, thrashing around and refusing to settle down. Max’s mother couldn’t take it any longer. Supper was on the table and was ready to be eaten, and Max couldn’t care less.
Finally, she had to do something. She rarely raised her voice, thinking that it didn’t do anything to calm down a child, but she didn’t know what else to do.
“WILD THING,” she yelled at him, hoping he would stop and settle down.
Max looked at her with angry eyes, like a wolf ready to attack. He held up a spoon that he had been carrying, waving it at her with force and ready to throw a tantrum.
“I’LL EAT YOU UP,” he screamed, waving the spoon in front of her face.
That was the last straw for Max’s mother, and she was through with how he was acting and how he was treating her. She figured a cruel punishment would have to serve as a lesson. She pointed towards his room and ordered for him to go to bed, without supper.
Max stormed off and obeyed, and locked himself in his room. Max’s mom went to the kitchen and made herself a plate, looking down with dismay. She hated to yell at Max. She loved her wild son with all her heart, but she couldn’t understand why he was acting out, behaving like some sort of animal.
As she picked at her supper, she heard him clanging around in his room. Probably creating another “castle,” she thought. He had such an imagination at such a young age. Always dreaming of far away places with creatures and monsters and other wild things. He was always telling her these stories, in between the fort-building and rumpus-making, but she listened and smiled all the while.
Sometimes she would read Max stories before he would go to bed. He curled up in her lap in her arms, in the spot that was made for him, and she would read to him before he fell asleep. Since Max was always bouncing off of things in the house, he always came to her with a teary-eyed face and scratches on his arms. Max’s mother always had Band-Aids and kisses ready for her restless son.
And, every Mother’s Day since he could write, he would scribble a homemade card for her on construction paper, with unsymmetrical crayon hearst and “I love you” written all over the inside.
Although Max spent most of his time daydreaming, she knew her song would always come back to her, because in her arms there was always a warm place where he could endlessly be loved. She knew in her heart, that her Max loved her just the same.
Max’s mother finished her supper and went over to the stove where she put food on a separate plate. It was still warm. She walked quietly to Max’s room and walked over to his nightstand. He was collapsed in his bed near his make-shift castle. His wolf costume remained on and his face was flushed and peaceful.
She placed the warm plate of supper on his nightstand and dimmed his lights in his room. She crept to the open door and turned to where Max was sleeping. Before leaving she whispered goodnight to him, even though he was fast asleep, off in some jungle with vines and monsters and little boys without supper.
“Goodnight, my king of the wild things.”
This short story was written for my mother. The inspiration is from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, a story about a boys adventurous mind and a mother’s eternal love. Max’s journey and realization that he always has a place at home is just one reminder of all the things a mother is and always will be.