When I awake, I am Rapunzel. After a night filled with childhood dreams, I slide into the day carrying ancient myth within me.
I am not blond. My hair will never grow past my shoulders and yet, Rapunzel remains. I carry her on my back. My days aren’t made of the stuff of fairy tales. I know she doesn’t belong here. And, yet, she feels right just like a pair of well-worn slippers; not glass slippers or ruby encrusted shoes, sloppy house slippers worn to the color of ancient dust and ashes.
This cloistered tower haunts me. It holds Rapunzel. When I close my eyes, I see the color of the walls, the soft variations under the changing light of every day. Each brick is carved into my mind. I have counted every stone. I have built this tower myself. I am Rapunzel. I am mother. I am ancient child-less crone. I am the prince.
What does Rapunzel mean? Why is this the myth that feels right on a rainy autumn morning?
I research its past. The Grimm Brothers captured many myths and stories with roots in antiquity. They first wrote not for children but for adults. The original Rapunzel and the prince who visits frequently become the parents of twins which makes the stand-in mother furious. When Rapunzel let down her hair she opens the door to carnal knowledge. She is like Eve in the Garden of Eden. She is the vehicle of her own loss of innocence. She wants knowledge of the world beyond her tower. When she achieves it troubles follow.
The analogy starts to break down. My mind struggles to carry it out. This tower, this fairy tale are all too familiar. I have built walls to protect something I didn’t understand, something I could not lose if I only knew that I could give it away and not lose anything of myself.
Fog forms at the basis of my tower. Rapunzel and the Prince disappear in the mist. I watch as the edges fade and grow hazy. What was once powerful is now weak. The haze of dazed excuses swaddles the tower that I have held around me with a rabid intensity.
Once upon a time, excuses were all I had. They built my world. They directed my life, my choices. Seeing them disappear before my eyes leaves me feeling exposed and numb. I do not know how to process this fairy tale. How do I live in a world that no longer holds me in it? My hiding place is gone.
Recklessly, I dig more deeply into this tale. I uncover Anne Sexton’s poem. The images stab at me with a frenzied insanity.
They lived happily as you might expect proving that mother-me-do can be outgrown, just as the fish on Friday, just as a tricycle. The world, some say, is made up of couples. A rose must have a stem.