Monday, August 20, 2007

All Because I Searched for "American Beauty"

In my search for American Beauty among the various films owned, I came across several I hadn't seen or some that caught my notice like Killer Klowns from Outer Space. For some reason Killer Klowns from Outer Space reminded me of a movie I vividly recall watching at my grandparents' house when I was no more than 4 years old (probably with my uncle who was around 16 at the time) was about alien/monster men with dark fibrous green skin pretending to be human in order to procreate with human women. The ending scene remains burned in my mind: that of a woman giving birth to a child only to scream in horror when she sees her baby is a monster. For decades I have tried to find out what film I saw so I may see it again. Will I feel sadness for the poor green baby? Will there be a different reaction to the film or will it trigger some embedded reaction? Dear reader, if you have a clue of the name of this movie and tell me you will become my hero!

Along with this movie I have images of The Amityville Horror residing in my brain (especially of an open window suddenly falling upon someone which was something that killed a young brother of a friend of mom). The scariest film for me though was Jaws and I still have not seen the movie again all these years later. The music alone is enough to make my skin crawl and I am not alone. I realize now I may have been more affected by these movies than I thought; perhaps they imprinted a seed of suspicion and of anxiety (although my current phobia of sharks can safely be blamed entirely on Jaws), but I think it was also the time in which I was young and most impressionable....

The mid to later 1970's and early 1980's were a time when it seemed danger and evil lurked behind seemingly pleasant facades and the world was becoming a truly frightening place. There was a rise in violent crime and such fearful things as serial killers, cults, terrorism, gangs, drugs and kidnappings dominating the news. Additionally, at this time the country was still reeling from and wounded by the Vietnam War and Watergate, which created a growing distrust for the government and the enforcers of such a government further deepening the unease. I am not sure if that time was any more dangerous than any other time, but it certainly felt that way.

As I write this the underlying fear I felt as a child resurfaces. Did other children also see the world as one riddled with danger and horror? As a child I would play a game that as long as I was under my covers I was safe. I never kept my closet door open (I still can't). Dreams manufactured by my mind no matter how gruesome were more soothing than reality. As a child, I also worried about child abduction. I had heard enough about it on the news, there were those sensational tv movies about it and my mother told me "true" stories meant to scare me into obedience...they did. One I recall was about a local child who had either wandered away from her mother or became separated from her mother at a department store only to be abducted by a woman and rushed into the department store's bathroom where the stranger quickly cut and dyed the child's hair. Only did the mother's screams and the locking of the department store doors keep the child from being kidnapped. My mom then stressed that everything had happened in a matter of minutes. My mother sincerely feared for such situations and possibilities and wanted me to remain ever vigilant. In conjunction with those present-day fears were also the looming horrors of the Holocaust. My boogieman had a face growing up and he looked remarkably like Adolf Hitler.

Whatever the causes, I harbored distrust and doubt about people and their potential for doing devastating acts against each other. I did not limit my doubt and distrust to others, but also began to see the same patterns in my own thoughts and actions. For many years I feared myself as much as anyone else. I wonder though what are the costs of such caution and legacy of fear? When do you learn to trust? Bad things undoubtedly occur, but it is also harmful to expect the worst to happen. People can be profoundly terrible and yet they can be profoundly magnificent. We make daily decisions weighing dozens of impulses and temptations. We constantly must choose and we are constantly given a new chance to triumph over what makes us small. I try to see the best in people and also accept that they also endure challenges which may sorely test them.

I type, think and say the words “hope” and “wish” quite frequently, because I do hope and wish frequently. My fear of humanity’s failings is now eclipsed by what I believe, hope and an adult’s awareness of the bounty I have received. I have been blessed to experience overwhelming the best in life, nature and people. I think with that gift also comes a responsibility on my part to share such fortune with others so perhaps they might see the possibilities and positive if they are not able to do so. We all need a little hope infused into every day and I hope that by treating others with respect and appreciation I may make their day a little easier and their perception of others a bit brighter.

Saturday night I went out into the backyard with my red dachshund, Dexter, and we each experienced nature around us. While I leaned against the brick exterior of the house, he sat silent. While I stood with my head tilted upwards, he stood looking around him. I felt a rush of goodwill as I looked up into the sky with the canopy of leaves hanging over my head and I wondered if the trees carried messages upon the breeze. I felt small and protected and I hope that is what Dexter feels when he looks up to me. Each of us has someone or something looking up to us even as we, ourselves, crick our necks to see above us.

I am often sent email forwards from friends with funny anecdotes, quizzes, questionnaires or moving messages and I rarely forward them on. I don’t forward them on because I don’t know who or who not to send such things. A forward can put me into a quandary. If I don’t send someone a blessing, am I therefore saying I don’t wish him or her well even when I know they don’t like forwards? If I do, does that mean they are more important to me than someone I don’t exchange forwards with? Oh, the dilemma! I am going to share one with you, dear reader, as I may like the message behind this one most of all:

Recently I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure.

Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the mother said, "I love you and I wish you enough."

The daughter replied, "Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom."

They kissed and the daughter left. The mother walked over to the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry.

I tried not to intrude on her privacy but she welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?"

"Yes, I have," I replied. "Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?"

"I am old and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral," she said.

"When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough'. May I ask what that means?"

She began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." She paused a moment and looked up as if trying to remember it in detail and she smiled even more. "When we said, 'I wish you enough', we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them."

Then turning toward me, she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory.

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how gray the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final good-bye.

She then began to cry and walked away.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them but then an entire life to forget them.

For those who send me forwards: I did pray (623,096), I am Katharine Hepburn and I am grateful that you thought enough of me to send me any email that did not try to sell me something. I think the world of you.

Dear reader, I wish you and all in your life enough.

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