Monday, January 25, 2010

Finding poetry in the Zombie Apocalypse

One of the banes of my existence is that drug that seeps through the computer screen into my children’s brains making them incapable of thought and action when tethered to their video life support system. Repeatedly, throughout the day you can hear me say: “Can you please turn the sound off?” I’m pretty much done with listening to explosions and bone crunching and grunts and splattering body parts. Or: “Are you still on that?” Or: “Did you do your chores yet?” Or: “That is disgusting!”

Both Harry and Ben love video games that seem somewhat gruesome to me. And their friends also love these games. They frequently play together, talking over headsets or Skype, laughing a lot, backing each other up. Sometimes Ben and Harry play with just each other, yelling back and forth at each other from their bedrooms, laughing hysterically, speaking in a lingo I barely understand.

But one of the games I really didn’t see any redeeming value in is called “Left 4 Dead 2.” It’s a zombie apocalypse story. You can be a zombie (Ben has a penchant for this) or a human survivor, still unaffected by the zombie virus. It’s mega-blood and gore. The only way to stop the apocalypse is to attack and decimate zombies, after all. It’s uber-popular in their circle of pals. And it’s uber-disgusting to me.

Until last week.

It started about two months ago, actually. Harry decided that he wanted to make Ben something to take with him to Philadelphia, something that would make him happy and be a symbol of healing. He decided that he wanted to make a replica of a first aid kit from Left 4 Dead 2  (seen at right). It looks like a medic’s Red Cross bag full of bandages and anti-bacterial ointments. I was basically unclear on its significance, but agreed to help Harry bring his concept to fruition as a pillow.

And then we found out about James and his Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis and we looked at the calendar and Ben’s surgery was only a few weeks away and there was a certain urgency that came over the house.

Harry figured out the pillow’s dimensions, went on a materials gathering expedition with Mark, and then we sat down to construct it. It was a great craft project and we spent about two days hanging around the cutting mat, the sewing machine and the ironing board lost in a crafting fog. (Harry is quite the crafter, but this was his first experience with the sewing machine.)

We both felt pride when we sewed the last stitch. Made from red flannel, felt and black elastic, and with each recipient's name stitched into the fabric with gold thread, the pillows are quite a good replica of the game’s kit. Harry bestowed his gift on Ben immediately, and on James a couple days later.

When I sat down to show our handiwork off on Facebook (did I tell you about my video life support system?) I asked Ben, “So, what’s the story with the first aid kit?” He told me that in the game if you have this kit in your possession (you earn it or find it or something along those lines) you can take it to your injured compadres and…well…when you give it to them you heal them.


You heal them. You heal them.

I mean, that about took my breath away. Not the game’s kit, really. Games are full of health points and tokens and objects of one sort or another. No, what stopped me in my tracks was the power of the object.

Harry had created something so poetic, a ritual object of a teenager that was probably about as perfect a symbol of his desire for his friend and his brother to be better as he could have designed. And in addition, his giving of that original, handcrafted gift was also a symbol, and more powerful and significant than anything he could have given them. It made them laugh (yes, James plays the game as well, of course) and smile. Ben sleeps with his already. James put his on his bed.

And we all know the power of laughter, right?

But the part that sticks with me is the irony. Out of blood and gore and the zombie apocalypse, this. Who would’ve guessed?

Survivor or zombie? You decide.


Mia said...

tears running down my cheeks....beautiful

Susie (aka Three Boys Farm Mama) said...

Thanks, Mia. Me, too.