Two weeks ago, I decided that watching “On Golden Pond” was a better choice than doing my taxes or for that matter, cleaning my toilet.
I’ve only watched that film a bazillion or so times, but that day was “tax day” for me and I needed to watch it one more time before I could do my yearly tax tantrum and organize myself.
You know the tantrum.
The one that each of us does every spring in preparation for that time of year when we sit in front of a stack of papers and break out in a cold sweat wondering if our new born child’s (or grandchild’s) future has to be ransomed to pay the government even more money, or if (per chance) we’ve actually fed the beast enough to break even for the year.
So I asked myself, “Prepare my taxes or watch ‘On Golden Pond’?”
Such a dilemma.
At the time, cleaning my toilet sounded more enticing than sitting down and organizing my shoe box full of tax documents, but watching “On Golden Pond” seemed the more pleasant of the two, so “On Golden Pond” it was!
And watch I did with a mixture of pleasure and disquieting nostalgia.
From the opening scene of the summer sun sparkling on the lake with wailing echoes of a loon and its mate in the background, to the closing credits with the autumnal sun setting on a lake much colder and foreboding of winter months to come, I found myself transported – transported home to the Adirondack Mts of upstate New York and a time period I willingly (and at other times, not so willingly) traveled.
I wish I could say it reminded me of a simpler life; a life filled with special fishing adventures and diving lessons carefully taught by a loving, involved care-taker, like Billy, Jr. from the movie. But, life wasn’t that idyllic for me at age 13.
I had responsibilities and younger siblings to take care of – there was no time for fishing or boating or leisure reading and discussion of “Treasure Island” or “Swiss Family Robinson”.
Mom had to work and I had to help her help us. There were dinners to prepare and hung laundry to take down and fold. There were floors that needed mopping and diapers that needed changing; and on those rare occasions that we’d head-on up to “the lake” for a quick evening dip or Sunday afternoon swim, I remember the feel of the sand slowly oozing through my toes; and the cool, fresh mountain air that came from unpolluted Adirondack lakes and how the setting sun sparkled on the waves lapping at my feet, as I solemnly gazed across the lake.
They were special times. Carefree times. Times that came infrequently, but times that I cherished and fondly remember.
When I was younger, I was drawn time and time again to the movie’s physical location and the film’s portrayal of the relationships with the Thayer’s and Billy, Jr., their 13 year-old summer charge.
Over the years, though, I eventually found myself drawn to Norman’s and Ethel’s relationship.
Norman, the retired, witty college professor – staunch disciplinarian – highly regarded teacher and husband. Ethel, Norman’s happy, out-going wife who is several years his junior – grounded in her identity, but deferential to Norman’s “larger than life” personality and opinions.
Each different in personality and psychological make-up, but each suited to each other to make each other whole; to make each other “safe”….
Norman’s “flirtation with senility” in the opening scenes of the movie when he goes berry picking and finds himself lost on his property really hit an emotional chord with me; really made me wonder if I, like Norman, was “flirting with senility” at a much earlier age than he.
Like Norman, I find the comfort of my partner safe and validating when I find myself outside of “my bubble” and overwhelmed with life’s demands. It is she that brings me “home, again”, and she that calms my fears when the world is spinning and everything seems undoable.
And like Norman, I sometimes find myself “yelling at life” and wondering how the hell I got so old, and then I remembered what Ethel lovingly told Billy after Norman yelled at him for putting out the fire that Norman accidentally started one evening in the living room when he attempted to start a fire in the cabin’s fire place…..
“Billy,” she gently begins.
“Sometimes ya hafta look hard at a person and remember that he’s doing the best he can. He’s just trying to find his way – that’s all. Just like you.”
That’s me these days – gracefully (and some days not so gracefully) “trying to find my way” as I sail through some rough seas and other days, calm seas – as the Captain of this ship we call aging.
I’m older, fatter, grayer and not so nimble in my dancing shoes these days, but it’s ok. I’m also wiser, more content, definitely “gayer”, and more importantly – I’m alive and evolving – and becoming more and more my authentic self every day.
I may not be “fully evolved”, yet, but I believe in Aibeleen Clark’s statement from the book, “The Help”, that “I is smart. I is kind. And I is important.”
And on those days I’m not feeling so kind and so smart and so important, I have my Princess to remind me that I am.
(And on those days that I’m feeling too smart and too important and too full of myself, I also have my Princess to remind me that I am….)
May each of you be blessed with a special someone in your life that reminds you, that, “You is smart. You is kind. And you is important.”
Have a great day, People, and I’ll catch you the next time, looking at life from my shoes!