As I sit here, at the kitchen table, I find myself in a similar situation to that of one of my teenage cousins. For homework over February break, her English teacher had given the following assignment (paraphrased):
Write a short story on any topic of your choice. The story must be at least 1 and ½ pages long, but can be longer.
Choice? The freedom to choose is a good thing, right?
I recently learned that I have been dubbed, “the writer in the family”. As such, my cousin requested my help with this particular assignment. Specifically, she needed assistance with settling on a topic. Now, I’m not up-to-date with what teens are interested in these days—or what they find inspiring—so I asked her:
What was the last book that you read? What kind of books do you like to read?
Personally, I find this assignment—despite its simplicity—a little overwhelming. It’s extremely similar to the process of penning a blog entry. There is a plethora of topics that I could write about, could share…and, yet, when it comes time to write, I’ve got nothing. I thought, that if I asked myself the questions that I’d asked her, maybe I’d come up with a subject for this entry.
The truth is, I haven’t read a book from cover-to-cover in a very long time. I’m currently reading my way through three different books (a guide for writing Christian Fiction, a novel by Janet Evanovich, and a tome that leans toward cultural anthropology).
My cousin listed books that I’m unfamiliar with…yet another indication that I’m behind the times. I tried to play it cool, disguise my lack of knowledge, and asked:
What was the last TV show that you watched?
She replied, “The Vampire Diaries”.
I’M FAMILIAR WITH “THE VAMPIRE DIARIES”! In fact, I was in LOVE with that show circa 2010-2012.
She listed some other television shows, too…but I had no idea what they were/that they even existed. I think she sensed that I was clueless this time, as she quickly explained, “they’re all about love”.
Love. We were sitting beside the window in our grandfather’s hospital room. There were at least 10 other family members in that room—all there to visit Grandpa.
Grandpa is not doing well.
Nearing the end of his life on this earth, actually.
In a month. In a year. The date doesn’t really matter. Death is imminent for all of us, but closer for him.
Love. Love brought us there. Love inspires us to help one another (even with impossible English assignments). Love prompts us to share our experiences with others.
The God that I believe in, is love. He is hope. He is merciful. And, when we lose Grandpa, He is going to be right there, with all of us.
“What about a Hallmark movie?!” My cousin gasped, excited. “I could write something like a Hallmark movie!”
“Yeah,” I smiled, agreeing with her, “that’s a good idea.”
Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here today. Your prayers, love and light have (and still do!) mean so much to me. May you feel loved and appreciated today and every day.
If you were a kid in the mid to late 1990’s, and you were lucky enough to be home from school on-time, you may have watched a cartoon entitled, “Gargoyles”. If you were anything like I was during my late-elementary school years, you would have fallen in love with this show!
I mean, what’s not to love? It was the perfect blend of science and sorcery. And, the characters! They were amazing and so memorable! I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to be fierce like Demona, flying away with a haunting screech and glowing, scarlet eyes?
For those of you who were not 90’s kids, and missed out on this cartoon, gargoyles (according to the show) were an ancient race of mythical beings that had wings, talons, tails and immense strength. The clan that the cartoon features originated in medieval Scotland. There, the clan protected a human castle. Although ferocious and nearly invincible at night, the gargoyles turned to stone during the day—a change that left them vulnerable. This was more than just an inconvenience or a commercial break; being stone during the day, when humanity was wide awake, made the gargoyles easy targets. A sledge hammer, a catapult, a mace…any of these tools/weapons could shatter a gargoyle and end its life.
Defending and protecting the castle by night would make one think that the castle’s inhabitants would return the favor and guard the gargoyles by day. Sadly, the humans were no match for a Viking raiding party and the conniving plans of a traitor among their own ranks. After the destruction and loss that they endured during the Viking raid, the remaining six gargoyles were turned into stone for 1000 years by the Magus (read: court sorcerer).
The gargoyle’s tale doesn’t end there, though.
The gargoyles—and the castle’s ruins—were airlifted to New York City by a multi-millionaire, David Xanatos. Xanatos is intrigued by gargoyle lore, and the spell that could not be broken “until the castle rises above the clouds”. When the spell is broken, thanks to Xanatos’ efforts, the gargoyles must learn how to survive in a modern, and fast-paced city.
That’s a lot of backstory, right? In the writing biz, that’s called, “backstory/information dumping”, and you should NEVER, EVER do it. So why am I doing it now? Well, Dear Readers, you know me well enough to know that when I break writing rules, it’s to make a point.
Despite the constant danger/possibility that I wasn’t going to be home from school in time to watch “Gargoyles”, my infatuation with them continued to grow. In fact, between episodes, I started making my own gargoyles out of discarded cardboard.
Some of these home-made gargoyles were modeled after the cartoon’s characters, but I didn’t stop creating them after I replicated Goliath, Hudson, Bronx, Broadway, Lexington and Brooklyn. Oh, no. I created my own gargoyles—over 100 of them. And, for every gargoyle that I made for myself, I’d make an identical one for my brother.
Turning cardboard into gargoyles was so much fun!
It is in this hobby, I think, that my roots as a writer can be found. The creative process went well beyond drawing a gargoyle on cardboard, coloring and cutting it out—it also included naming and developing a unique backstory for every single one of them.
I am sad to say, that as it often goes with the pastimes of childhood, my cardboard gargoyles are no more….
Thanks to Disney+, though, I can re-watch “Gargoyles”!
In viewing these episodes again, I have learned a bit about my memory’s capabilities and its limitations. It surprises me, still, when I can randomly recall the next scene or the entrance of a new character. My opinion of the cartoon has not changed; I find it amusing and even educational. As a child, I was oblivious to these carefully constructed lessons, as an adult viewer, however, I’m in awe of them and how seamlessly they are incorporated.
As the cartoon series begins, the gargoyles decide that NYC is their new home. As such, they must “serve and protect” the city’s residents. It is, after all, the “gargoyle way”. This philosophy conjures visions of hard-working police officers, yet, it’s also something that we each aspire to in our own lives. To help family, friends, and the communities that we live in, isn’t that important?
Now, the gargoyle’s new community—a fictionalized version of the Big Apple—is riddled with violent business take-overs and high-tech weaponry. When not out on patrol, some clan members enjoy watching TV. Unfortunately, the clan soon finds itself in direct combat with the television personalities that they have come to adore.
As spoken by Hudson: “Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything that we see on the TV”.
In the beginning, neither Broadway nor Hudson can read. They don’t think they’re missing out on anything—they do have a television set, after all. After the kerfuffle with their favorite celebrities, and chance encounters with other humans that convey how precious the written word is, both Broadway and Hudson decide to take the plunge and learn how to read.
By the second season, a new theme emerges: cultural preservation. The importance of honoring one’s traditions and culture is highlighted in Goliath’s travels to Japan. There, our hero meets Japanese gargoyles who are trying to preserve their belief system, BUSHIDO, by teaching it to their own young as well as to the humans that they protect. This belief system values honor, fairness, and like Goliath’s clan, incorporates, “to serve and protect”. Not only is it a code for gargoyle warriors, it’s a dictum by which to live.
After writing all of this, and re-watching season one and two (thank goodness there’s a season three!), I would like to tell Little Laura to hang on to those cardboard gargoyles just a bit longer. There was such joy in creating and sharing them! Sure, our culture tells us that as we age, we out-grow our former hobbies and must abandon them.
But, maybe, that’s wrong….
Age shouldn’t stop us from pursuing what brings us joy, what inspires us to share. Although I will not be recycling empty cereal boxes by making another clan of cardboard gargoyles—I do believe that utilizing the same artistic skills that created those gargoyles in the first place, should have a place in my adult life.
If you find joy, try to keep it.
Try to share it.
Let the shape of it evolve as you do.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for your presence here. May you find child-like joy in something today!