The first time I saw the movie Parenthood, it was lost on me because I was in the dense moment of being a parent. For some stupid reason, my former spouse and I decided it would be a swell movie to see after having had a long day of life--the kind with work and children issues and food preparation. We didn't really know that this movie would depict the hard moments of loving family members. After all, it stared Steve Martin. How serious could it get? And we probably forgot that we'd been slogging through weeks of our pretty much hard routine, days of living, organizing, making sure that four people were happy and healthy and doing what they needed to be doing.
So that night, we hired a babysitter--something we couldn't often afford--and went out to dinner and this movie.
I remember laughing and crying and thinking some of it was hackneyed, but then I got angry. I was angry about something, and it turns out, so was my former spouse. We fought pretty much all the way home, and I think we vowed to never have date nights that were worse that the day we were trying to recuperate from.
Yesterday, I chanced upon that movie on HBO. I was looking to see when Mad Men would next record, and there was Parenthood. I was alone--no chance of anyone coming home with whom I could have a domestic squabble--so I watched what remained, picking up just as Steve Martin was pretending to be a cowboy for his son's birthday party.
At the end of the movie, the under-developed grandmother character lays out her theory of life, likening it to a roller coaster. The ups, the downs, the fear, the joy. It's not the film's best moment, but it's the film's theme.
As I watched, I realized that I got it now. Now almost 20 years after the film came out, I could watch it without wanting to throw my hands up and run out of the theater. Yes, family life is hard, relentless, messy, and often loud. People don't act the way we want them to, and will do what their hearts tell them to. We can't change anyone, but we can love the best we can. We can have hopes, but we have to ride the roller coaster, screaming loudly with joy and not holding on to the bar, hoping we don't fall off. We have to assume we will fall and then we just don't. We stop, load more people on, and take another spin.
Life is bumpy. Back in 1989, I wanted life to be smooth and easy and peaceful. I didn't want to ride the roller coaster. I was hoping for the carousel. I didn't know how to enjoy the ride.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org