Cuento

The silence of my days is deafening. It turns the usual noise in my head to a roar.

The release of the updated Jungle Book film has me hungry–nostalgic for my childhood and the girl that lived.

In the farmhouse, my brother and I would curl up, as much as our tiny bodies could curl, with our respective comfort objects–my blankies, his robe-o — as mom read in her crisp, authoritative way from Kipling’s The Jungle Books (because, you know, it’s actually multiple little stories about Mowgli (mow like cow) and his dangerous, furry friends).

She was the best reader, I thought, and we were the best listeners. Still and quiet we would become. Rapt and attentive to her words. She didn’t really do voices, but we weren’t the type of kids who needed voices. Being together and being noticed, being spoken to, were enough for us. None of us could understand later how reading aloud didn’t have the same effect on my younger brother and sister. They would get bored or distracted or start jumping on the bed. They could not land in the magical sphere of words and imagination.

The story of The Jungle Books mattered to me and the animated film managed to capture that same essence. The story of a human trying to make sense of a world he does not belong in, a world he wasn’t built for (no claws, no fur, you vulnerable man cub!)–that resonated with me. Because it was a journey that mattered. Fighting for survival, fighting for his basic needs to be met–making sense of something nonsensical. That’s what stories should be about. Disney’s The Jungle Book became my favorite movie. I would watch it over and over and over again. I memorized the songs and the dialogue and the motion of the characters. I quoted it far into teenager-ness and clung to it even in early adulthood. Only Robin Hood came close to knocking it out of my affection zone. But that too, was a story focused on survival and friendship and beating the man. All things I, for some reason, could identify with as a young child. All I ever wanted was a good buddy (little John, Baloo) and some trees to climb, some waterfalls to find. All I ever wanted was a little adventure for myself.

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