I can’t imagine sharing this moment with anyone else, so I take the kids out of school early to join me.
The theater lights go out and the first notes swell around us.
“It’s only forever.
Not long at all.
Lost and lonely.”
There are tears in my eyes as the digital owl swoops across the screen. My boy is happily shoving popcorn into his mouth and smiling. My girl grabs my hand and we share a mutual giggle of excitement.
It is a perfect moment.
The film unfolds in front of us, beautifully bright and with amazing sound, and I can’t stop smiling. It feels like sitting Christmas morning next to the twinkling tree surrounded by wrapping paper, warm coffee in my hand and the smell of freshly baking cinnamon rolls in the oven.
Yes, it feels that perfect.
To say I love the movie “Labyrinth” feels like saying I love my hands. It is a part of me in a way I find hard to explain or even separate from myself.
The story of Sarah, Jareth, Ludo and Hoggle has become as real to me as anything else. It feels more like memory than film. Like I can remember the time I fought my way to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that was stolen.
I can remember it happening to me as clearly as I can remember the time I crashed my tricycle riding it down the driveway with my best friend. I can feel the black eye and the scrapped elbow, and the hands grabbing me as I plunged into the darkness of the oubliette.
I have similar connections to “Goonies,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the original of course), “Princess Bride” and “The Muppet Christmas Carol”.
All of these stories have attached themselves to me in some way and helped shape how I look at the world, myself and my place in it. I find, much like my connection to music, I use these particular films as markers in my life and ways to reconnect with parts of myself whenever I am feeling lost.
“Labyrinth” is the one I turn to the most. Thanks to the talented and beautiful David Bowie (whose death I am not ready to talk about), it works on a visual and musical level to bring me back when nothing else will.
When I was in the dense darkness of depression, there was an intensity about me which I now find hard to fully recall. There was this sense of impending death and destruction which I wore close to me and it clouded every interaction I had.
It was in this place, I really leaned on my childish love of the Goblin King to save me.
I’m parked in front of my children’s school sobbing in the backseat of my minivan. Again. I’m crying so hard I can barely breath.
I want to either run away or die. I feel everything I have become is wrong and there is no way out of the darkness.
The Goblin King is sitting in his castle, much older now. There are wrinkles around his eyes, but his gaze is still fierce and intense. He is alone, the goblins no longer under his control because of the choice Sarah/I made. He is wearing layers of white and grey clothes, the silver and gold amulet sitting on his slightly exposed chest, the afternoon light through the castle windows making it appear he is glowing.
He is waiting for me to decide to call upon him again, so he can offer me his gift.
“I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”
In his left hand, he twirls three crystals slowly, a soft clinking sound filling the empty throne room and echoing off the vast stonewalls. In his right hand, he gazes into the crystal and watches me sob and clutch at my stomach.
He longs to wipe the tears from my face and save me.
“Say the words,” he whispers.
He sits on the edge of his seat now.
“Give everything up love. Surrender everything about yourself and I will take complete control. You won’t have to worry anymore.”
I sit up and consider giving myself to him. The words are on my tongue and I can feel his anticipation rising with mine.
Then the sounds of the playground break through and I’m dragged back.
I want to be here struggling in the real world with my kids, my family, my friends and my problems. I can’t leave them. I can’t give myself to him.
I dry my own tears from my face and stare straight ahead.
I say the words loudly and clear.
“You have no power of me.”
By the time the kids get out of school, I’ve crawled out of the complete darkness and am partially back to myself. I’ve refuted the Goblin King’s offer again to take all my burdens from me and I carry them once again.
I can’t tell you how many times this story has played out in my head as I’ve cried.
Whenever I’m in the place of utter despair, when I feel abandoned by God and love and everything good and decent in the world, I go there.
I picture him, my Goblin King, sitting there loving me, watching me and waiting for me.
It makes the darkness somehow more bearable and makes me feel special/separate/unique.
I’ve often judged myself harshly for these fantasies and told myself I need to grow up. Life doesn’t contain the magic you pretend it does.
But it does.
I’ve seen it.
My 11-year-old son running from across the playground at school to give me a hug and tell me he loves me, in front of his friends.
My daughter glowing with confidence and joy as she plays her keyboard in the early morning light, her hair looking like spun gold.
The smell of the pine trees after it rains as I walk inside the barn to a job with my best friend I can hardly believe is real.
Watching myself grow and become the person I’ve always wanted to be in ways I could not have predicted or imagined.
Is it really such a stretch to believe the Goblin King is watching me from his castle?
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours, my kingdom is as great.
You have no power of me.”
Last year I stumbled across this at the EMP Museum in Seattle. I may have cried.