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The best love story for our modern times

Since its debut in the fall of 2011, I have been enamored with the ABC television series Once Upon A Time. That year was a time of personal transition and the show beautifully helped me through the difficulties I encountered.

In the pilot, we are introduced to our hero Emma Swan who appears in a doorway wearing a stunning red dress.

***

The show wastes no time letting us know that this beautiful blonde is not one to be trifled with as she slams an adversary’s head against a steering wheel when he insults her. But in the very next scene we see how fragile and isolated she is.

Alone in her humble apartment, she closes her eyes to make a wish. Then she blows out the solitary candle on her birthday cupcake. I still tear up at that moment. But the real tear-jerker happens a moment later when she hears a knock at the door. She answers the door to see a child standing before her as the camera pans downward bringing him into view.

***

Just a month prior to the show’s debut, I had lost my baby Alexandra at just nine-and-a-half weeks and was reeling from the emotional pain of that loss. Most women who lose a child – whether to death or circumstance – are never free from that pain and some (myself included) long for the day they are reunited. Here was a story of a mother who thought her child to be “lost” forever, but one wish on a star and he is standing right before her.

I felt like this story was made just for me, but it embodies themes common to many women experiencing motherhood in a multitude of ways. Henry’s adopted mother Regina truly does love her son, but the fact he is not her biological son does cause some division between the pair. I imagine this is a very real struggle for parents who adopt a child. As children grow and begin to develop their sense of self separate from that of a parent or parents, they rebel. For a child who is adopted, the lack of biological relation can be one way to nurture that separation – at the painful expense of an adoptive mother’s feelings.

***

This story also speaks to the weight of emotion placed on a birth mother who chooses to “give up” their child. Nobody “gives up” a baby for adoption – I much prefer the phrase “placing” a child for adoption. I believe most women faced with the prospect of giving birth to a child which they cannot protect or provide for do not make the decision of adoption lightly. Much as Snow White tenderly and with great care gives her newborn baby girl to Prince Charming in order to place baby Emma into a wardrobe that she can only hope will deliver her child to safety.

When Prince Charming protests, Snow White says with tears in her eyes “we have to give her her best chance.” Kissing her baby lightly, she says goodbye as Charming takes baby Emma to the magical wardrobe which will whisk the child out of reach from the Evil Queen’s curse. Actress Ginnifer Goodwin expertly executes the desperate sobs of a mother who has lost what to her is most precious.

***

In the climactic first-season finale, Emma believes the boy she didn’t know she was missing so much is dead and gone. That is, until True Love’s Kiss – her kiss to Henry – wakes him from his “slumber.” This scene illustrates that the power of a mother’s love can break curses, conquer death, and is doubtless the most powerful love of all.

 

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