It is late, nearly midnight, and I know I should be asleep. My family is all tucked in their separate beds; I can even hear them snoring. This is one of those nights where a life problem is stuck in my craw (where does that expression come from?). I just finished watching Bicycle Thieves (formerly called The Bicycle Thief) by – probably – my favorite director, Vittorio De Sica, and I am unable to make sense of my happy/sad feelings. I rented the movie so my 14 year-old could know it and know me. Last spring I made her sit through Cinema Paradiso much like my mother made me read her favorite books: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, To Kill a Mockingbird, East of Eden, etc. Afterward, Sarah Jane kissed me sweetly on her way to bed and wondered aloud, “Why don’t adult movies have happy endings?” But it was happy. Sort of. When the little boy, Bruno, reached up to hold his father’s hand in the midst of the most despairing moment an honest man can endure (caught stealing a bicycle out of desperation), I cried and sighed and felt all of my emotions smear like the crayon-shaving leaves we made this week-end.
melted crayons

That little boy will be a man in the blink of an eye. My three girls will be hare today, goon tomorrow (from Little Bunny Foo Foo) and then it will be over … this parenting thing. I spent the first decade of parenthood complaining to high heaven about how hard it is/was and wishing I had “a life” only to realize in this second decade of being a mom that I have the greatest, fleeting!, life imaginable. Here today, gone tomorrow. Maybe I rented Bicycle Thief because I wanted to be the one who showed it to Sarah Jane (before her film teachers at NYU assigned it for historical perspective). Maybe I wanted to make autumn crayon-shaving leaves with my middle child all morning Saturday (making one helluva mess in my kitchen) because next year she won’t want to. Maybe I gave my Lizzie too many kisses after her bathie tonight because she might start saying “Yuck!” tomorrow. I can’t bear this … this time flying-ness of life. I want to hold on to their chubby hands and feel safe. Why don’t adult movies have happy endings? Because they’re like real life, Saries.

4 thoughts on “happy/sad

  1. annie

    Ahh, Joan. I’ve been having the exact same feelings lately. My oldest is fifteen and a sophomore. I know in a few short years she’ll be in college- and our family will be different. I’ve been so upset about that lately.

    I could go on and on. Suffice to say, you are not alone in the way you are feeling.

  2. Scott Brown

    I fancy myself as a bit of a “hard man” but that got to me Joan. You are a terrific writer. I can relate well to what you’re saying as I also was a reluctant parent but now I can hardly bear to leave my family for work in the mornings, especially if they are sleeping 😉

    Anyway, I try to make myself feel better by thinking that any and all experiences are always going to be with me.

    That is; once you experience something at that level of emotion it becomes part of your cells and you’ll be able to draw on it long after the kids are showing their favorite movies to their children.

    That’s an awkward way to say it but I hope you’ll understand.

  3. George - FFSG

    Kids truly are a blessing from God! I often wish I could keep at the ages they are right now forever! I never knew they could give such joy!!

  4. Jeremy

    As an avowed cinemaphile, I worry sometimes that future generations will have no use for classic movies like Bicycle Thieves. It sounds like the reception your daughter gave Cinema Paradiso is as good as they come these days! I bet, the older she gets, the fonder she will become of the movie because it was you, specifically, who shared it with her. I know that one day I will be sitting my kids down with Rear Window, To Kill a Mockingbird, and many others.

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