saturday (theater love and just love)

I thought I was going to write about something else today, but I decided to save it for another week after watching two different shows recently with a common thread.

Last weekend M came home from the grocery with a movie disc from Red Box – it was out of character for him, but he was walking out of the store and saw a particular movie advertised on the dispenser, and remembered that E had mentioned wanting to see it. So he rented it on the spot and brought it home. We started it up that night after F had gone to bed. I was working on something on the computer in the back room – which also happens to be the location of our only TV – and E and M were sitting in the only two chairs we have in that room. After a few minutes she climbed into the same chair with her dad, because that’s what they do. Even at nine and fifteen, both girls are still cuddle bugs.

The movie was Call Me By Your Name – I wasn’t familiar with it, but was excited to see that the story was set in Lombardy, Italy, and the villa and surrounds were so lovely. E didn’t know much about it either, but had heard from several trusted sources that it was a great movie – a coming of age story about a teen aged boy and an older visiting graduate student of his father’s. It was the kind of movie I would have died watching with my parents (if we would have watched it together, which we wouldn’t have).  But despite the fairly explicit sex scenes, and my general uneasiness around the age spread of Elio (17) and Oliver (24) – maybe mostly because the actors looked much younger / older than the characters they were playing – the movie was so good, and also painful and poignant and difficult to watch.

There is a scene with the father and his heartbroken son at the end of the movie that left us all breathless. I can’t remember the last time I watched a scene like that – so raw and intimate and everything that you could never imagine a father saying in a moment like this but everything that you wish that every father could say. We were silent in the room, and then M finally broke it saying “well, the entire movie was worth it just for that scene,” and E and I nodded, and I couldn’t believe how he spoke the words aloud that my heart was nearly screaming.

In that moment I realized just how grateful I was to be in that room with them. That somehow the wishes that we outlined in rough letter form and awkward whisper-prayers when they were babies seemed real – that they would know that we are open and listening and excited to share anything and everything that they are curious or enthusiastic or passionate about. That our home is a safe space for any conversation. And seat sharing is not only encouraged, but delighted in! What an extraordinary gift this part of parenting is. I had no idea.

…..

A few nights later M and I were sitting in theater seats, watching Fiddler on the Roof at the Fox. I had confessed that I wasn’t really excited about our tickets that night – partly because it was Wednesday night, I was exhausted, it was freezing cold, and I was finding it hard to rally for a late night out. But the main reason was because we’d recently seen Fiddler at the Muny, and then the main scenes / numbers again as a part of Jerome Robbins’ Broadway production. It felt like a too-soon repeat to get really excited about.

But the Fox show was completely different – mostly because we were so close to the stage that Tevye was standing directly in front of us for many of the key solo scenes in the musical. It’s such a phenomenal role, and Yehezkel Lazarov was spectacularly funny, but the moments where he is working things out in his head by speaking them aloud – on the other hand… on the other hand… – those were my favorite parts of all. As each of his daughters begin to chart her own path, he’s forced into this pacing and reckoning and relinquishing of power and authority. At the root of this reckoning is love, despite his animated denials.

He loves her. Love, it’s a new style… On the other hand, our old ways were once new, weren’t they?

…..

M and E are watching Dear Evan Hansen together as I type this – and I’m both envious of their time together again in the theater, and grateful for it. I won’t be there to watch them, or to feel the power of another story about love and loss, missteps and redemption. But they are there, and that’s enough. What extraordinary gifts this week brought, the whole lot of them.

4 Responses to saturday (theater love and just love)

  1. It warms my heart to hear of seat-sharing with teenagers, at one their most vulnerable times in life. As a child and a teenager, I very often lived in survival mode. There was no seat-sharing with my dad because he was often away and by the time I grew up, he apologized and we built a relationship, the opportunity to build that kind of bond was gone. Seat-sharing with my mother would have come at an emotional cost that I could not give.

    Fast-forward and now I am the doting mother of a fun, energetic three year old who loves his mama endlessly. The snuggles and cuddles never end…sometimes I think I am making up for my childhood with them. One of my fears is that he will grow and all of these conversations of ‘I love you’ and ‘you can really tell me anything’ won’t stick.

    I am at a point in life where I don’t have much visibility with teens and what I see in the news and social media is scary. It is comforting to come here and see happy, healthy parent-teenager relationships. I am glad your daughters feel and know they can trust you as I know how important that is for them and also for your peace of mind.

    • I really appreciate you sharing this here. I was also really nervous about these middle and high school years when E was younger. I still worry about things, and with the girls’ big age spread, I get to worry anew with the second one! But I also remind myself that the things that brought me the most frustration as a teenager myself seemed to arise out of (adults’) fear, lack of communication, and a moral code that felt arbitrary and self-selecting – and I’m trying not to default to any of those with my own girls. I have distinct memories of challenging adults on some issues (like certain teachers or adults at church), and what it felt like to be shot down or silenced.

      We’ve tried to make intentional choices all along to make sure the girls are involved and engaged in communities that are not homogeneous, and where they are exposed to a broad spectrum of ideas and viewpoints that aren’t filtered to just support the dominant hegemony (or our own). Growing up I felt an intense pressure to both perform and conform – to excel at many things, but only within a narrow band of prescribed acceptability. Not so much by my immediate family, but by what I saw as the constraints of a small (white, Christian) town.

      I’ve found as the girls have grown that the things that I thought I would fear the most aren’t even on my radar. I would worry more if I saw them funneled into a similar set of constraints and limits. My teenager has a self-assurance and level of comfort that I never possessed at her age. She notices things that have taken me a lifetime to become aware of.

      I worry about climate change, I worry about gun violence, I worry about the direction of our politics, etc. Big, weighty things. I worry less about teenagers. I’m pretty inspired by the ones I know. They are pretty cool.

      I am not a cuddler by nature. But I married one, and I’m grateful for that, and for his relationship with both girls. It’s a treasure I don’t take lightly.

  2. Lovely, as always.

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