This has been one of those weeks that really just shouldn’t happen. It has been almost comical in its twists and turns, because really, sometimes all you can do is laugh.

Even so, for some reason we decided to watch “Bridge to Terabithia” last night — a decidedly uncomical movie. I vaguely remembered the ending (and the deep sense of betrayal and loss that accompanied it) from reading the book in elementary school. Having those characters brought to life and then torn away again, all in an ultra-cheesy Disney setting, was the ultimate cruelty.

After finishing the movie, I checked out a couple of websites about the book to remind myself of the original plot. Turns out the movie was pretty true to the storyline, including of course the dramatic and depressing ending. A lot of the sites were for teachers (I guess they still read that book in school), and detailed the “Big Themes” that kids are supposed to take away from this book. Obviously the biggest one is that it exposes kids to the concept of death in a way that they can handle, supposedly because the characters are their own age and they can empathize better with the experience of losing someone.

Judging by my own memory of the book, I was certainly able to empathize. I remembered nothing about the plot other than the fact that the girl dies — obviously a deeply traumatic event in my childhood reading memory, since I haven’t even thought about the book in almost twenty years. As for learning any big lessons about death though, all I remember is a deep sense of resentment that this book would draw me in to these two kids’ lives, make me love them and their beautifully imagined world, and then suddenly, cruelly take one of them away.

Is that really the lesson you want kids learning about death, that at any minute someone you love can be suddenly taken away? Because if so, it hasn’t helped me deal with my current reality one bit. In the past two years, I have dealt with more death and illness than I can wrap my head around even now, much less when I was ten years old. So why make kids deal with a situation that they can’t hope to understand, one which clearly only distresses them in a way that will be remembered for a lifetime? Why not let them be ten years old for just a little while longer, and postpone the cruel realization that they live in a world of death and loss?

I remember that I always wanted to rewrite the book and give them a happy ending, let them stay in Terabithia happily ever after. I feel the same way right about now: I miss Terabithia, and wish it hadn’t been taken away from me so soon.

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