Written by Mattius Thuresson and directed by Barry Levinson, the film Avalon is, by far, my favorite intergenerational story. With its realistic mix of warm humor, sudden tragedy and triumph, the tender and beautiful film is reminiscent of my own family's journey to come to the promised land: America, from Lithuania in the early part of the twentieth century. America, where they hoped to capture the coat-tails of dreams that so many had already made their reality.
The Krichinskys, a Polish-Jewish family immigrate to Baltimore carrying with them the comforting traditions of the "old country" like family circle meetings and the century old tradition of celebrating holidays together. As in my grandparent's home ( they settled in Brooklyn) many lived together under the same roof. Life was chaotic and incredibly close. Your friends were your family. Whatever the problem, you stuck it out together. And then came the next generation, and then the next, asking: "shouldn't we shorten our name? Do we really have to join our family business? And then the greatest splitter of all: the exodus to the suburbs.
When my mother and father packed up everything and moved my brothers and me to the suburbs of Long Island, my grandparents, aunts and uncles no longer had us a stone's throw from their front door. Overnight, everything changed. Hardest perhaps on the first generation, these changes soon turned into hurled resentments and a stormy atmosphere that even the youngest children stealing candies from the candy dishes could feel.
The most memorable scene in Avalon is when an older brother/uncle must travel from the city to the suburbs on Thanksgiving. Stuck in traffic he arrives late only to find his family has started holiday dinner without him. His line? "What? You cut the Turkey without me?" He grabbed his wife and left, never to talk to his brother again.
As the years have gone on, unfortunately, lesser sins have insighted this kind of brochas (broken) in my own family.