Sunday, May 04, 2014


It has been a week since my birthday. I may be half of 90, but I am still alive.

I spent most of the day in the wonderful company of my lovely friend Nalini, who took me to see two films: Manakamana, about people coming and going from a temple in Chitwan, Nepal; and Belle, about a mixed-race woman raised by her father's aristocratic family in late 18th-century England. I enjoyed Manakamana, although I think it could have been edited down to better effect. Some of the groupings of people in the cable car were very compelling; others were less so. I loved the grandfather/grandson pair; the chatty women; the daughter-/mother-in-law eating melting ice cream; the older couple, whom we saw both coming and going; and the young men in the rock band, who provided interesting cultural commentary. They would have been a thoughtful confounding of the setup of timeless-modern that the directors were positing. I couldn't stand the stereotypical white woman, who was going on and on about the horrible Himalyan foothills, and how there is no decent black-and-white film in Nepal, blah blah blah. Her pretentiousness made me want to slap her. On the other hand...we all know people like that are out there. Belle, by contrast, was a fictional telling of a true story about a woman raised by family, all extrapolated from a Zoffany portrait showing two young women, of different colors, as equals. Not typical of the time. At. All. I watched her struggle with her face, herself, her color: pulling at herself in the mirror. I don't know what it's like to want to change my color, but I do know what it's like to be different and pull at my face, wanting it to be different and like the people I am around. I loved that her father took her to his family, and insisted that they raise her: "I am not ashamed." Tears streamed down my face. I hope that was what my own father would have said, introducing me to his family. I hear from people that he would have done. I don't know. Is hoping crazy? "Do not be afraid. I am here to take you to a good life. A life that you were born to."

I drank Pimm's on my birthday. Two glasses. I wanted to be in England, my safe place. Where I can hide, act, pretend. Where when I was young, I knew I was an odd duck, but it was all right.

Then later in the week, on May Day, I saw an excellent film, The Skeleton Twins, about siblings who have not spoken in 10 years (starring Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig in dramatic roles). They are reunited after the brother attempts suicide. His sister takes him in, nurtures him gingerly, and they try to apply salve to each other's brokenness. Sometimes clumsily, sometimes with great skill. In one fabulous scene they reenact something from their childhood (or so it's implied): a lip synching/dance routine to an 80's power ballad. I cried again. They shared such history. I lost that with my brother. I will never have that, can never have that. And whatever history we can build, we're not doing a very good job of things right now. Are we going to be 90 and 85 and say, "What did we do?" So I reached out to him. No response. All I can do is try, but my best and his best may never match up.

"Mayday," I want to shriek into the wind.

Then I was cleaning out my closet and found a book of my grandmother's poetry that C had given me. I read through it last night, weeping. One particular short poem was funny but painful:


Later--when I'm older
When I'm grayer
Fatter, Bolder
Then I'll do it

Later, when I'm more 
Than ten pounds overweight
Later, oh three or four
Years, before too late.

Ha, Mimi. Did you do it? Did you? She died almost a year ago now. I hope she did what she wanted to do; unfortunately for me, that did not include welcoming me with open arms.

I hope that my brother can find it in his heart to meet me a little towards the middle. I hope that my mother can find a way to work with me on what happened with my father. It is not just my story, although I am the outcome of their meeting. I know that they shared more than a one-night stand. I understand the hurting, but talking might help.

What else?

I saw Richard Linklater's brilliant new film, Boyhood, that he made over 12 years, filming one scene a year and tracing in real time a family's change. It was marvelous to see in the three hours a boy grow to manhood and how his relationships changed, both with himself and with others. Ethan Hawke, playing his father, was subtle and amazing, as usual, and Linklater's eye: Tolstoyan, as Mark suggested, watching and registering without judgment. People are flawed. We all have strengths and weaknesses, if we can see them and honor them and try to change. "Life doesn't give you bumpers." That's for damn sure.

I am seeing more and more that life is trying to make the best of what we have, and fighting for what and whom we love.

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