The scripts we read from as grownups are written on the playground. And these scripts are often inherited from our primordial parents. Saint Nick and Valentine's Day have creepy pasts. And most of our fairy tales have passed through the Grimm filter where their brutality was either concentrated or highlighted.
But in the short term, most fairy tales are inherited from our parents. And in our family this happens rather unevenly. Our children, spending most of their childhood outside of the US, have gotten most of their "American-ness" from their parents. And it is a weird time-warp sort of America filled with Brady Bunch and Bonanza and Mork & Mindy. Sometimes we try to suppress things that we'd rather not pass on to them. In a strange bender on the normal genders, Hilary once started singing, "Beans beans the musical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot. The more you toot the better you feel. Beans beans with every meal." I stopped her at about "fruit" but that was enough for our scatological sons. They are unsure about the remainder of the rhyme but they can guess!
While Hilary is teaching the kids flatulant poetry, I have been passing on jump rope rhymes. The kids are all learning to jump rope. This is something that I now think is really cool since in high school I watched all those boxers in the Rocky movies doing all that macho twirling. But as a kid, jump rope was only for girls. Still, I remember one of the rhymes. So when I grabbed the rope and started hopping I couldn't do it without singing, "Cinderella, dressed in yella, went upstairs to kiss a fella. Made a mistake and kissed a snake. How many doctors did it take?"
Cinderella's name is derived from the word for "ashes." And encapsulated within that little rhyme is the entire Gospel. We have a heavenly "fella" who turns out to be a snake (the basis of countless Country Western songs). And the doctor refers to the Great Physician as well as Dear Abby. We don't think about such things when we're children. But I think they lodge in our brains and guide our destiny. Cinderella's granddaughters are trapped in boxes in the sidebar of Yahoo mail. Christina is always over there beckoning with her free video. Will she be freed by my visit or will I be enslaved? Such is the mystery of Grendel's mother. When Beowulf descends into the watery depths, how many doctors will it take to repair him from the wound of their encounter?
It's all myth and metaphor, I know. But somehow I think Mr. Brady has as much to tell us as Aristotle. Ben Cartwright's wives and Mork with his mixed emotions (with Mr. Bickley downstairs) are the fairy tales that constrain our happy endings. I'm glad my kids have skipped Bart Simpson and Seinfeld. When they return to America I hope they are able to improvise their own rescues like MacGyver with his Swiss Army knife.