Wednesday, April 1, 2009

For Esmé — with Love and Squalor

I think the award for the "most taken for granted character" in the Twilight series goes to Esmé Platt Evenson Cullen. This is not a trophy that we should be proud giving to Esmé, but give it to her we do.

Esmé: "To love".

But isn't that the way of it for all mothers? Esmé is a stereotypical mother. What can be said of her? "She has no special power, but has a strong ability to love passionately." (Wikipedia) Translation: "Oh, Esmé? Um, well, a typical mom, I guess ... [looks away embarrassedly]". Esmé gets as much thought and consideration as, dare I say, your own mom, right?

You moms out there know what I'm talking about: you pour your heart and your soul into your family, and what do you get for it? If you are lucky you get an appreciative look, or rub, or word ... occasionally. Mostly, it's the slogging away, day after endless day to no thanks, to ingratitude, even.


If it's your lucky day (of the year?) you get flowers. If you are looking for heart-stopping, you get the laundry or dishes done for you. Stop holding your breath, please, that shade of blue isn't particularly lovely on you, you know.

What does Esmé do? Who can barely contain her joy when her son introduces the new girl from school? Who on the baseball field is the first to greet Bella?

Sorry, but that scene has me begging the question: what was Rosalie thinking as she stalked off? I think readers of RLT have an answer. If I were a betting man — and I'm not — I would put a large sum on the following:

"If Edward thinks I'm going to acknowledge his little human pet, he's got another thing coming! She'll be the destruction of us all, Edward, mark my words!"

And how very nearly prophetic her thoughts were. In fact, how timely, too, given the encounter a few innings into that very game!

Esmé is one of the most underrepresented characters in the canon and in all of fan fiction; perhaps she is the most underrepresented character in the lexicon. What's there to say about her? She's the "Mom" who can barely hunt on her own, much less keep up with the other vampires (BD, Book I). End of story.

Yet it is Esmé with the richest back story: in love with Carlisle since she was 16 years old, but handed off to an arranged marriage to an abusive brute. She gets away to protect the child in her womb only to lose him days after birth.

Excuse me a moment, there's something in my eye.

Why is it that the vampires who had the rockiest lives have the most contented new existence? Cases in point: Carlisle, Esmé, Alice.

Why is it that the vampires who had the most gilded lives have the darkest new existence? Cases in point: Jasper, Edward, Rosalie.

Why is it that Emmett sails so smoothly through both his life and his new existence, untroubled in either?

Why is it that Bella is worshiped by all in both?

How can we learn to live our lives from the way the vampires in the Cullen family choose to live in their lives and new existences?

And how about Esmé, the Mom to them all? More importantly, how about your mom?

I'll tell you this: the more I study Esmé, trying to learn about her, the more I appreciate and love my own mother. Esmé is my mother, in many ways. She's the Perfect Mother, but she's only human after all (even if she is a vampire). You see her as this perfect little thing, always calm, always smooth, always affectionate, always doing the right thing for everybody, loving every single one of her children, and her husband, in the perfect way that they each need her love.

You see her this way, because she is this way. You may wish to let her know this (I'm sure the post office does send mail to the Cullens these days: they may be getting as much now as Santa does, for goodness sake). But underneath all this, she knows she's made mistakes, and she carries those mistakes with her every step of the way.

In the canon, Rosalie tells us, indirectly, that Esmé's record isn't clear (Eclipse, ch 7). Do you think that Esmé has just put aside her "little slip" and moved on with her existence? Well, yes, she has. Do you think that this is easy for her? Do you think that this mistake doesn't haunt her at times? Perhaps not.

Do you think that when her children are fighting (Midnight Sun, conference in ch 4), or leaving her (Edward in Green, Red, Gold and in New Moon; Emmett and Rosalie in New Moon, Alice and Bella in New Moon, Alice and Jasper in BD, Book I) that it's easy for her to be the Mom, for her to let them go, to let them hurt themselves? To let them do all this, knowing, from hard-won experience, that they don't have to? Knowing that allowing them to do this could even eventuate in their destruction?

Do you think that maybe giving her flowers is very nice, but what she really needs is to get a hug and to see her children happy? Not "her children"? But to see this child of hers happy?

How about your mom? Perhaps this Mother's Day, instead of sending the gift, or card, or flowers (or ... nothing?), you could send yourself? And spend a few precious moments, just with her, and let her know she did right? That you are okay? or, if you're not okay, let her know that you love her with all your heart, with all your might and with all your soul?

Perhaps you don't even need to wait until Mother's Day?

Esmé's a strong woman; she "loves passionately". But I'm sure she'd be bursting with joy to get that hug and know that the kids are okay. I'm sure your mom could use the same love, too.

After all, Moms not only make the world go 'round; they also happen to Rock!

Go, Team Esmé!

P.S. For Esmé — with Love and Squalor, a book with the self-same named story by J. D. Salinger has the title character that is nothing like our Esmé, but the girl there is sprightly, like our Esmé can be when delighted, and she did marry for love, I hope, as our Esmé (eventually) did, and she did remain radiant in spite of the squalor of the world, as our Esmé, triumphantly, did. Read that story, please, you may get some insights into our Esmé from J. D. Salinger's.

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