Friday, August 29, 2008
the children of ghosts
Anette and I were laying in bed the other night when she told me that some friends had just gotten some bittersweet news. They are on the verge of meeting, for the first time, a baby girl who may become their foster daughter. That afternoon, they had learned that the child's biological parents had agreed to relinquish their custody of her and said they would not fight to get her back.
Hearing this, I felt the same mix of relief and sadness that I felt when we adopted Adinah and when we met V. I was disoriented: when you realize that your joy comes at the cost of someone else's great sorrow, you feel an ache like no other.
It made me think of an old Japanese horror film I've been attempting to watch, a little bit at a time, over the last two weeks. It's a very long, very slow film from 1964 called Kwaidan. It tells the story of a man who falls in love with a beautiful woman, who becomes his wife, then the mother of his three children. One night, as he gazes at his beloved, a trick of the light reminds him of a terrifying experience of his youth.
Then his wife looks at him and tells him that she is that ghost.
I should kill you now, she says, but we have three children. If they ever have cause to complain about you, I'll be back. Then she disappears into a black, snowy night.
The man is overcome with fear and grief, and he runs out into the dark after her. He knows she is gone, he knows she has killed many men, but already he misses her so much it hurts. Just that day he had finished making a beautiful pair of sandals for her. Now he puts them down in the snow--his last tender gift to her. He turns to go back inside, to his children, and the falling snow begins to cover the sandals.
Back in our time, in our bedroom, I told Anette about this scene, both because it moved me, and because it seemed relevant to a discussion about people who lose their loved ones.
"So many children," I said. "And so many ghosts."
"I love you," said Anette.