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.