Greet the Morning Together

POSTED ON:  June 1, 2023 

by: Mouse

It was the summer of 2000, and I was nine years old —though if you’d asked, I would have insisted I was “almost ten,” ready to free myself from the constraints of my singular digit prison. I would be all grown up in September, after all. I’d read not two, but three 5th grade level books already that summer and I was eager to tell that to anyone who listened. I was practically an adult —I just hadn’t discovered the Master Sword yet, and I might always be waiting for my fairy.

The beginning of a stifling, twelve hour drive to Dallas, TX was in a 1996 Lincoln Mark VIII from Central Illinois, where both of my parents were born and raised. It was my first June in the Midwest, and I remember experiencing the oncoming heat like it had plucked every breath of fresh oxygen right from the very air. I felt as though the humidity would choke us all and we’d never make it to autumn. How could anyone survive in such conditions?

You've met with a terrible fate, haven't you?

I was a very impatient little thing and waiting was always torture. To divert myself the night before, I had eagerly packed my small yellow suitcase with all of my favorite summer clothes, toys and books and ran my hand along the still-warm paint of my papa’s car. To me, this car looked white and opalescent like the insides of an abalone shell, but every time I thought to say so I could hear Mama click her tongue in abhorrence.

“It’s such an ugly car,” she would say so often Papa and I automatically exchanged sideways glances, raised eyebrows and slightly curled lips each time before we’d avert our gaze again. I liked to picture we were on the back of the great dragon Falkor and thought secretly, and that even if the car was indeed ugly, it was a symbol of good luck. This was going to be my favorite summer in history. I felt that in my very soul.

We left very early in the morning. In the belly of this ugly pearl, I had books and drawing paper to prepare me for the long, hot and agonizing hours I’d have to wait in the backseat before I would be able to play wild and free with my cousin all the way in Texas. We dipped down through repetitious rolling farms, flat lands, smatterings of little trees and even a whole sprawling field full of sunflowers. Here, Papa made us get out of the Lincoln to snap our photo on a disposable Kodak. (The developed photo still hangs in our family home today.)

We stopped in St. Louis to meet with one of my aunts very briefly for lunch before we continued down I-44, through the rest of Missouri and then through Oklahoma before crossing the border into Texas and to our destination. It was very late when we arrived in Dallas. Unfortunately, June in Texas did not feel very different from June in Illinois.

My uncle let me know they were experiencing a heat wave and we would not be able to play outside tomorrow as intended. I ended the night with my small nose wrinkled in disappointment, stinging with the threat of tears. I dragged my tiny yellow suitcase through the thickness of the summer evening and into the cold embrace of air conditioning. My bed for the following few weeks was to be a small couch in their den. I don’t remember what followed after, except that I fell asleep so deeply I felt I’d time traveled. Maybe I had.

I was awoken to the sound of music —music that will forever echo in the back of my mind. My cousin was seated on the floor, cross-legged in front of their TV with a game controller in-hand. He was a bit older and considerably cooler than I was, but I would never have admitted it. He’d already turned 12 that winter, and despite my stubbornness, I looked up to him. It was not without some measure of envy. He could skateboard and was allowed to wear his cap backwards. Not only that, but he had the raddest collection of consoles and games. I didn’t have my own Nintendo 64 at home, but I recognized the game he was playing that morning at once. I’d seen one of my other cousins playing this game not all that long ago and hopped up from my makeshift bed.

“Ocarina of Time!” I shouted in surprise and delight.

“Wrong,” replied my cousin obstinately without turning around. I slid out of my blanket to join him on the floor, bringing my small knees up to tuck against my chest.

“Then what is it?” I asked him, looking up. Above me on the screen a little Deku Scrub with mourning eyes deployed a blossom above its head to helicopter its tiny body to a descending set of platforms, deep in a mysterious, dark wood.

“This,” he said, finally looking at me with wild excitement written on his face, “is Majora’s Mask.”

I turned back to the screen, mystified.

“Majora’s Mask?” I repeated, squinting my eyes.

“I just got it yesterday,” he continued with a nod. “Dad said I couldn’t start it until you got here, but he let me play a little yesterday because you took so long.”

From that moment on, we were transported —all meals and plans for outside play were forgotten entirely. Together, with Tatl, we uncovered a small dead, writhing tree, looking as though it had weeped solemnly before death. The first of many, many mysteries.

It looks all dark and gloomy... almost like it could start crying any second now…

We hardly remembered the hours or days that followed. The world as we knew it had completely transformed. We learned new songs, laid souls to rest, taught dances, and reunited loved ones as well as old friends.

Moments where our parents bid us to switch the game off, we spent long afternoons swimming in the lake pretending we were Zora and warm evenings chattering and imagining excitedly about all that had transpired. Before sleeping, we whispered our wonders about the Astral Observatory and snuck out of our beds to peer outside just to see if the moon really did have a face. We laughed nervously about Happy Mask Salesman’s eerie organ, and shuddered at the thought of the glowing eyes of the Majora’s Mask. We took turns scaring each other in the dead of night, shrieks of terror and laughter to follow.

We had so many questions and never had the patience to let them linger. So Link wasn’t the only hero? Where was Termina? What about Princess Zelda? What was Pamela hiding in the basement of her home? Would sweet Anju hope in vain? What oath was promised and what did the low, beautiful song of the giants mean?

More importantly… how could we possibly help and heal everyone in just three, short days?

I look back on this summer as an adult fondly. It was the start of a new era, and the emissary of my creativity. The riddles of Majora’s Mask, aided by the lively and potent imagination of children, makes the world of Termina a lasting place in my psyche. It left a fingerprint on my heart and the strong, willful message: Wherever you meet others, treat them with compassion. Forgive your friends and forgive yourself. We are all coping in a great world, grappling (sometimes clumsily) with our own power and our own stories. The readiness to face adversity together with persistence, courage and kindness is a lesson I still carry with me.

On the dawn of the final day (in Dallas), it was with pain and sadness that I left my cousin to return home. We’d uncovered parts of ourselves we’d never known, were thinking brand new thoughts about the world (real and imaginary), and paving the way for new adventures and even more wonder. The drive back north was with the windows open. My hand soared over the current of a bright and mysterious future. That sweet summer is long gone, but the magic of Majora’s Mask, for me, is forever.

Since then, like everyone, I’ve had my fair share of trials. Every time I’ve revisited this game throughout the years, it reveals new meaning to me, and I learn more about another facet of myself and the people I love. Each mask within Termina bears its own story or lesson, but they all share one common thread: Even when you feel like you can’t carry on, remember you’re never alone.

Whenever there is a meeting, a parting is sure to follow. However, that parting need not last forever... Whether a parting be forever or merely for a short time... That is up to you.

I know we’ll meet again. After all, friends are a nice thing to have.