Sleeping Beauty’ is on, if you want to watch it,” John said.
It had been about 40 years since I’d seen the Disney movie. When I was a child, Maleficent terrified me. Disney used to run a TV special near Halloween with clips of all its villains, and I would leave the room when Maleficent came on. So I was not exactly in a hurry to show “Sleeping Beauty” to my kids. In fact, I never did. Why risk scarring them for life when kid-friendly movies like “Finding Nemo” were so much happier?
But since the movie was on TV the other night, I watched it. This time Maleficent didn’t scare me. In fact, I found her somewhat sympathetic. (Perhaps that’s why she got her own movie a couple of years ago.) I noticed something else about the film that eluded me when I was a child: Princess Aurora, aka Briar Rose, aka Sleeping Beauty, is 16.
Sixteen? Was that really an acceptable plot point in 1959? Even for a fairy tale?
Of course, I shouldn’t criticize. I met my prince at 18. Never dated another one.
I found myself less interested in the movie’s love story — which moved so slowly as to make me want to fall into an enchanted sleep — and more interested in the three tiny fairies, who functioned like the three Fates of Greek mythology, getting mixed up with destiny.
The two lovebirds, Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip, can’t get anywhere without the assistance of these goofy grandmother-types with wings, draped in red, blue and green. The three Disney fairies are named Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. In other words, everything a princess could wish for: pretty flowers, cheery woodland animals that enjoy a first soprano singing about her dreams and fair weather. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?
But nature doesn’t always cooperate. In 23 years with my prince, we’ve had our share of flowers that faded too soon and one demonic pet cat named White Socks, aka Lucifer. We’ve experienced blizzards and droughts and jaw-dropping spring days. I think I know what we need to get through this life. More fairies.
Although they spend too much time disputing the rightness of pink versus blue, the “Sleeping Beauty” fairies always change fate at the precise right moment, from their spell-blessing that alters Maleficent’s spell-curse, to later, when they help Phillip by freeing him from shackles, transforming burning oil into strategically placed rainbows, and guiding his sword of truth to find its mark when Maleficent turns into a fire-breathing dragon. Finally, they lead Phillip to Aurora’s tower room so he can bestow true love’s kiss and ensure a happy ever after ending.
Fairy tales teach us that we need to be beautiful and brave, but we also need supernatural help. There may be witches about or evil family members or dangerous beasts. Virtue is good, but magic is better.
There are days you need the traffic to flow perfectly so you can reach the hospital in time. There are full moon nights you need the sky to be completely clear of clouds so you can find your missing black dog. Call it fate. Call it luck. Why not call it fairies?
I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had not decided to be a counselor at Laity Lodge Youth Camp in the summer of 1989. Would I still have met John Willome? Did the fairies have a backup plan?
Not long after we married, we watched an episode of the old TV show “Mad About You” called “Natural History.” In it, Paul and his wife, Jamie, realize they that when they were kids, they were both at the American Museum of Natural History on the same day when there was a blackout. Maybe they had already met as children before they met as adults at the newsstand. Maybe they were fated to be together.
When we saw that episode, we realized it was entirely possible that we might have met as children at Kiddie Park in San Antonio, which is like Lions Park here. I didn’t like to sit next to my brother on rides, and John had a brother and a sister who usually sat together, leaving him to ride alone or pair up with a stranger. Was it fate pushing us together? Was it fairies?
“Oh, I just love happy endings!” Fauna says with a sniffle at the end of “Sleeping Beauty.” In two-plus decades with my prince, I’ve learned that happiness can be found despite the lack of eternal blooms, blissful animals and endless 72-degree days. Nevertheless, I do believe in fairies. I do! I do!