And yes, that is how you spell it. How do I know? Jack’s been around for a while now in my life and of all the things that my daughter could have fallen in love with in my image, I’m overwhelmed with joy that it was Jack. And love him, she does. Now as she did then and probably always will.
So in a lot of ways this patch is for my daughter who at the age of three used to sleep in a skeleton onesie clutching a Jack doll as the soundtrack of my own childhood played on a loop in her bedroom and she slept, a perfect creature in an utterly imperfect world. Jack does remind me of my daughter, of course he does, but he also serves as a reminder of who I was and what I consider to be the most important part of my future happiness – Jack symbolises bravery in a way that I feel few ever really give him credit for.
For those of you who don’t know the story of the pumpkin king – here’s a breakdown. Jack is the Pumpkin King and rules over a fictional town inhabited by all the creatures representative of Halloween. The towns name? Halloween Town! (obviously…) So every year the town made up of vampires, clowns, werewolves, men with axes in their face, swamp monsters, witches and ghosts prepare for Halloween. That’s all these people do. And the second that Halloween ends, they start from the beginning and start planning the next Halloween completely oblivious of anything outside of Halloween Town.
Now Jack is the figure head of these motely bunch of monsters and he leads them in their repetitive preparations year in and year out. He is the epitome of Halloween Town, their king and in many respects their god. But Jack is tired of doing the same thing all the time. The first song that Jack sings in the movie, Jacks Lament, he sings (or Danny Elfman sings) “But who here would ever understand that the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin, would tire of his crown, if they only understood – he’d give it all up if he only could.” So Jack does what we all do when we feel like no one understands us – he runs off into the woods with his ghost dog Zero!
In this forest he finds a ring of trees that have different doors carved into them representing the major western holidays – an easter egg, a clover, a turkey and more importantly, Jack finds a Christmas tree. To cut the long story short Jack goes through the door, discovers Christmas and realises that he could be something different, that he doesn’t have to be what he’s always been and instead he can be Santa! Because why the fuck not, right?! So he goes back to Halloween Town and tells them about Christmas Town (yes, it’s called Christmas Town) and no one really gets it. He’s standing there on a stage in front of people that worship him and he’s finally excited about something that’s important to him and they all just completely miss the point of what he’s trying to communicate.
So Jack, knowing his audience, breaks the fourth wall and tells the camera that he should just give them what they want. So he stops talking about how amazing and bright and cheerful Christmas Town is and tells the crowd that Santa Claus is a monster just like them. Jack eventually becomes Santa, well a skeletal version of Santa with some bony reindeer and a sack full of snakes and dead rats wrapped in orange and black paper. They even kidnap Santa so that he doesn’t get in the way of Jack delivering presents and hijacking his holiday.
Long story short – it doesn’t go right and Jack ends up getting shot out of the sky and winds up in a cemetery in the tattered remains of his Santa suit. It is at this point that Jack sings one of my all time favourite songs (I’m listening to it right now) and it is in this song, after watching the rest of the movie, that I found my inspiration in an animated skeleton dressed as Santa. The song is called Poor Jack and again Danny Elfman slays in his delivery as he sings the words – “And no one really understood, well how could they? That all I ever wanted was to bring them something great, why does nothing ever turn out like it should? Well, what the heck, I went and did my best and by God I really tasted something swell, and for moment, why, I even touched the sky and at least I left some stories they can tell.”
“And for the first time since I don’t remember when, I felt just like my old bony self again.”
*insert triumphant crying face here*
Imagine having that kind of resilience. I read a quote from Jim Carey this week from a documentary I watched last week on Netflix by the name of Andy and Jim (or Jim and Andy, I can’t quite recall) detailing the actors descent into madness after playing comedian Andy Kaufman in the movie Man on the Moon. It was something to the tune of you can fail at something you don’t love so you may as well take a chance on doing something that you love. And, I’m not going to lie, when I read that highly inspirational quote all I could think about was that skeleton dressed in the rags of a Santa costume larking about in a cemetery effectively singing “oh well, that didn’t work, but at least I tried!”
We’ve all been told who we should be and we’ve all had expectations placed on us that make us feel like we woke up in the wrong skin. We’ve all been told we’re too fat or too skinny or too loud or too quiet or too lazy or too busy. We’ve all felt like there is something more we could be and we’ve all felt the weight of other peoples opinions on our shoulders as we stagger round blinded by how they think we feel and how we actually feel. And we’ve all wanted to run away into the woods with our ghost dog and leave it all behind, to go out and discover who we could be if we weren’t constantly being told how we should be.
So, lessons I learned from this patch? It’s okay to not be okay and if the people whose opinions you hold in such high esteem cared about you as much as you think they do, they will not care whether or not you want to be the Pumpkin King or Santa Claus, because the people worth holding in high esteem are going to love you regardless of what the label reads on the box you’ve been stuffed in your entire life. Another lesson? You’re going to fail. You’re going to fuck shit up, sometimes, magnificently but the entire point of it all is that you get up and you sing a song in a cemetery that sets the world to rights. And that you forgive yourself before you even contemplating forgiving someone else. That you dust off your Santa suit and go and do the right thing.
Because it’s never too late to be the person you might have been.
And that there is nothing in this world than cannot be cured by music.
And ghost dogs.