05 March 2021

When I grow up

This day marks the first anniversary of my solo viewing of Matilda the Musical, the last live performance I saw before Covid-19 came into the picture, right into the fucking foreground.

The show is still with me, meaning I still listen to When I grow up on loop.

Composer and lyricist Tim Minchin said in an interview that people would come to him, saying that something in the song made them feel something they didn't expect and couldn't quite explain. Tim seems to prefer keeping the mystery, because "to dissect the frog is to kill the frog".

I am not that kind of person. To me the magic lies in the clockwork. So let me explain what went on inside me as I listened to the song.

Children, including my once-upon-a-time self, know that adults are invincible. (My niece would prosaically ask me to untagle her slinky as if I could never fail.) Therefore they foresee an adult life where they eat sweets every day on the way to work, go to bed late every night and wake up when the sun comes up. And they can't wait for it.

As an adult it's easy to feel pity for the child whose dreams will be shattered, and we mourn their forthcoming loss of innocence.

Then Miss Honey enters the stage singing the same phrase, When I grow up. What she does is sing to me and the child inside who is still there, still afraid, and still believing in her fantasies. For this grown-up, things like peace and justice are just right around the corner. Despite the real world teaching me that unicorns don't exist, I go on with life quietly pursuing their trail.

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