The Daughter, Movies, and Staying Connected

Our kids like movies, probably because their dad and I do. We took them to movies from the time they were small, and I think we all sort of enjoy movies in the theater more than we do on DVD. I think the perception of good movies can be generational, though. My husband and I saw and enjoyed THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP when we were in our twenties. We watched it again a dozen years later and wondered what in it we had liked.

The daughter has a huge collection of DVDs, and she often brings some for her dad and me. She likes to bring things that she knows we wouldn’t choose to watch on our own. A while ago, she showed up with BRUCE ALMIGHTY. My husband and I had never gone to see it because it sounded irreverent, but it is actually a good movie. Bruce sees the difficulties faced with the management of the universe and ends up changing for the better. It never hurts to be reminded why we aren’t God.

A couple of weeks ago, she showed up with another stack of movies. One of them was THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS. The daughter told me that she and her cousin had watched the movie and cried. A lot. Friday night, my husband and I tried it out.

At first, I wondered why I was watching a movie about teenagers. Soon, though, I was drawn into the story, particularly by what happened to two of the characters, Bridget and Tibby. Bridget’s mother had committed suicide and, in her youthful wisdom, Bridget had decided not to miss her mother. That didn’t turn out particularly well. She was a lot happier when she, with the help of her friends, decided it was OK to miss someone who had meant so much.

And Tibby….Tibby wants to make her own movie. She is upset by the fact that her parents had more kids long after they had her. She has angst to work out. And she works it out through meeting twelve-year-old Bailey, who has terminal leukemia. Turns out Bailey may have been the wisest of all the “sisterhood” even though the traveling pants did not fit her.

One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, said she did not like to be called particularly a children’s author, not because there is anything wrong with being an author of books for children but because authors write stories and they reach who they reach (obviously, I have paraphrased). I think that good stories last through time and appeal to all or most of the age groups that watch them. And I think that we have to have an open mind if we want to find the really good stories. For me, good stories are a way to reach out.

Which is why I am thankful for my daughter. She has done her best to keep me connected. When I taught at the Catholic school, she kept pointing out songs that I should know. One of them started with the words “Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?” One day, one of my students came up and asked me that very question. Giving her the right answer, according to the words of the song, helped me connect to her and some of my other students as someone who just might understand them. And I never would have made the connection without my daughter.

I used to watch middle-aged people and hope that I didn’t get as short-tempered and humorless as a lot of them seemed to be. Seemed like they got in a rut and were content to stay there. Thanks to the daughter, I get jolted out of my rut every now and then. In theory, anyway, I am a better person for it.

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February 2006
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