I am not melancholic. At least not in the definition of some of the ancient and not so ancient philosophers and physicians who described in various ways…

Its victim behaves like a rooster and cries like a dog… (Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi)

…an immense sadness, a note of despair and a fashionable sense of suffering and deliquescence at the approaching end of times [which] suffuses court poets and chroniclers alike. (Johan Huizinga)

I bring up this term for two reasons. First because of the movie I’ve just read of which I can’t wait to see which is titled, appropriately, “Melancholia.” Ethereally beautiful.

My second reason is that I do, I suppose, fall into a small part of the definition of melancholia, not in its lycanthropic hallucinations or in its black bile-inspired hopelessness but in the shimmery cape which coats its darker symptoms: wistfulness, or “a sadly pensive longing.”

Longing for that curly haired angel with the deliciously chubby fingers who grew to be a man and now is ready to find his path, eighteen years from that day he emerged from my womb.

My friends asked me if his turning eighteen saddened me, and I quickly answered that it did not. But then I sat down to write him a note, and as is oft the case, in writing the truth emerged. As my brief but heartfelt words spilled onto the paper, telling him of how proud I was of the person he has become and how with excited anticipation I would watch him as he followed the paths and journeys that he would take, I did indeed feel wistful. In my reverie I was longing for that moment when I could hold him tightly and keep him safe. When I could make him happy with the simplest acts and gestures.

That was, in the end, the advice I gave him in this fleeting bout of melancholia: be safe but not too safe, be happy but do not deny your sadness, be strong but expect moments of weakness. Life is sweet, my boy, and I will always be here for you.


4 thoughts on “melancholia

  1. I didn’t know melancholia was contagious! I found myself a bit wistful with this piece too. Maybe because my post today is about saying goodbye to preschool…but my sadness is because I know the 18th birthdays are not too far away. I liked this post a lot! MMF

    1. oh… I don’t want to give anyone a case of melancholia!

      It is bittersweet to see our kids grow up. But we grow with them, and life is everchanging, so there are always new experiences and reasons for smiles and tears. And remember too that your baby will always be your baby!

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