The Force Awakens Me- BEWARE!!! Spoilers!!!

Jurassic Mom has been away doing many things, dear ones. For starters, I’ve been working at a travel site, writing many things involving fun and frolicking. Soon enough, I will link some of them here, and we can all celebrate my adventures around these continental United States.

But, without a doubt, 2016 will bring back more blogging, and what better way to start than with a celebration of my new favorite movie, The Force Awakens.

Almost two years ago, when I first began writing this blog, I began by relating my love for the timeless classic, Jurassic Park. I spoke of a lover I once took many years ago at a Renaissance Fair, and the comradery we found watching Jurassic Park together. Though the romance didn’t last, my love for the timeless classic has never ended, and I remember it here, along with my life as a mother, and more-and-more, my adventures on this lonely globe.

Which brings me to my latest most favorite adventure!

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I was always in love with Luke Skywalker. While other girls would melt over Han Solo, who was clearly the chosen Romeo of the series… Luke always made my heart go pitter pat. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for nice guys… Or perhaps it’s because I’ve always had a thing for orphans… But whatever the reason, I was always deeply connected to Luke Skywalker. As a young girl playing in cotton fields in West Texas, I would often find myself stomping through the dirt holding onto a tumbleweed that I would pretend was R2, and I’d imagine I was Luke Skywalker’s bride.

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I would write love notes to Luke Skywalker on the pages inside my three-ring-binders.  I would scroll my name out… Amy Skywalker… or Amy Lee Skywalker… Or sometimes Mrs. Skywalker… I would pretend I’d mothered his twins who I’d given the boring names: Roger and Rachel …. I would wrap two cabbage patch kids in blankets and climb trees with them. I’d pretend we were all on the Millennium Falcon, but we weren’t fighting as much as we were just traveling around space and professing our love to one another. Sometimes I’d take a large brown bear into the tree that I’d pretend was Chewbacca.  Sometimes I would imagine Leia was there. But I never included Han Solo because I thought he was an asshole. I would occasionally jump from the tree and pretend I was running from Darth Vader, but eventually I’d end up on the Millennium Falcon again changing a diaper.

My Dad was a Baptist Minister at the time, and when I wasn’t space traveling to Tatooine, I spent hours of my life with my butt glued to a church pew, singing hymns and throwing back shots of grape-juice communion. It was during those years that I would get bored of the hymn lyrics and make lyrics of my own. I distinctly remember rewriting a popular song we all sang weekly called ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB… about the blood of the crucified savior … To these lyrics….

Are you washed in the Force? In the life-giving blood of the Force?  Is your saber polished? Does it shine like fire? Are you washed in the blood of The Force? 

If you want to really enjoy that timeless classic, and add The Force lyrics yourself, Willie Nelson does it justice here:

I would sing Are you Washed in the Force as loud as I could on Sunday morning and no one was the wiser. Or perhaps they knew I was singing it, but they didn’t care because they were all pretending to be Luke Skywalker’s wife, and singing these lyrics along with me. Even to this day, when I hear the simple Baptist ballad, I don’t think of the blood-washed image it’s meant to convey, but instead I am brought back once again to a time when I was married to Luke Skywalker, and we spent our time loving one another and caring for our twins, while evading the Death Star.

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You can imagine, then, my delight as the release of The Force Awakens approached. The trailers represented the presence of Leia, her idiot boyfriend, and Chewbacca. But none of them represented a good wide-shot of Luke Skywalker.

Nerds on sites I  frequent had plenty of opinions on Master Skywalker. There was quite a pre-release consensus that he had fallen into the grips of the dark side, and would be returning to do the work of Darth Vader. On these sites, I was diligent in my support of Skywalker’s ethics, defending a man who had killed his own father in defense of the Force, and who as a direct student of the greatest Jedi ever to have lived (Obi-Wan), would NEVER go to the dark side. “Could a man who carried Yoda on his back and faced his greatest fear in the Darkside Cave where he confronted his destiny and didn’t run from it ever go to the dark side? NO!!!” I wrote to a moron named StarFace22  who thought Skywalker would be the Dark Lord over Kylo Ren in Force Awakens.

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Trust me, I hope everyone who harbored any thoughts that Luke Skywalker would go into the “family business” and rebuild a Death Star, feels like an idiot now that they’ve seen The Force Awakens.  HERE THAT, STARFACE22????  I THINK YOU’RE AN IDIOT, AND NOW THERE’S PROOF!!!!

But to an adult woman like me, who felt nervous about coming face-to-face (or seat-to-screen) with the beloved husband of my youth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Could Master Skywalker live up to all that I’d remembered as a young pastor’s daughter with innocent dreams in a cotton field? I’d seen pictures of Mark Hamill the actor online, and while at first glance, I thought he looked like a plumber… I was still excited to see my love once again in the world in which we’d first met so many years ago.

My eight-year-old daughter, Harper, was of course going to go along with me and my husband to see The Force Awakens. We had shown Harper the original trilogy and gotten her up-to-speed on the prequels (we would never force those on her).

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Before the movie started, I looked over at Harper and told her… “You know, when I was your age, I had the biggest crush on Luke Skywalker. I was soooo in love with him.” She got a repulsed look on her face and said… “Really? Why? I hate all boys.. But if I was going to love any of them, I’d pick Han Solo. I would never pick Luke.” And then the lights went down, the movie started, and I sat shamed in the dark.

To say I loved The Force Awakens would be an understatement. I LOVED EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT IT… I cried when Rey and Finn first entered the Millennium Falcon, and I cried when Han Solo and Chewbacca walked on board it. I had a deep and emotional connection with that space ship that I never realized and so did both men sitting next to me, as I noticed them wipe away tears when that star freighter took flight… The moment Rey takes Luke’s old light saber into her hands, I cried, and of course the unforgettable scene with Han Solo and Kylo Ren hit me like a train, and I needed time to recover from it…

But that final moment, when Luke is standing at the highest point atop his hidden cavern in the galaxy, and he turns those blue eyes toward the screen… I saw the boyish love of my youth, wearing the robes of a seasoned Jedi but carrying within him the spiritual countenance of Obi-Wan, and I totally melted… And then felt utterly justified in loving him all those years ago.

And then I saw the greatest difference of the Star Wars of my childhood, and the Star Wars of Harper’s. In her Star Wars, the Jedi is a woman who insists on taking care of herself… Who shoves past the attempts of others to save her… Who doesn’t beg for help and cry out for someone else in the galaxy during her moment of greatest need…

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All of this made me wonder… If young pastor’s sons across Texas, are now hanging onto the tumbleweeds that they’ve named BB8, singing Are You Washed in The Force… And imagining themselves married to Rey…  Maybe they are planning their weddings in their grandparents old barn, using quilts and cow milking stools, and thinking of how many children they will father, and what they will name the boys. And if I happen into a small southern church, and I hear the familiar ballad I once sung as a child, I’ll know… Such is the force of cultural programming.

That final moment, when Rey meets Skywalker at the top of the cliff, and he turns around… His salt-and-pepper hair long and perfectly styled… His beard is rough and his countenance is that not of a plumber, but of a Jedi Master that could still go one good round… He looks at her, like he almost doesn’t want to accept his old light saber, like maybe the responsibility it carries is a little too much. Defending the Force is hard work, after all… Not just anyone can do it.

I couldn’t help but ask myself… If the Jedi had been a woman so many years ago, would I have pretended to marry a Jedi, or would I have pretended to be one?

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Playground Politics

My earliest memory of politics came during the presidential election between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. There was a girl named Misty in my first-grade class in Texas who was a master of the playground. To this day, I still have a clear vision of Misty pumping her legs back and forth on the swing set, chanting… “Reagan! Reagan! He’s our man! Carter belongs in the garbage can!”

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I remember Misty getting riled up during milk break, once. “Man, I wish I could vote,” she said. “If Jimmy Carter keeps being President, our cars won’t have any gas.” I remember being troubled by her statement. we lived in a small town then, and the closest Pizza Hut was a good 40 minute car ride away. I had never cared about politics until that moment when I realized my own enjoyment of supreme pizza and a good game of Ms. Pacman might be threatened.

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The day Ronald Reagan claimed his victory, Misty came into class elated and declared to all of us… “That peanut farmer finally got the kick in the nuts he deserved.”

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So, it really shouldn’t have surprised me when Harper came home from her first day of first-grade having had an intense political conversation with a playmate.

Me:  So, who do you sit next to in school?
Harp:  A boy I just met this year. He said Barack Obama is a liar. Is that true?
Me:  What? No! That…That is not a nice thing to say.
Harp: I told him George Bush is a liar.
Me: OK, well…Also not nice. What’d he say?
Harp: He says George Bush chopped down a cherry tree. Is that true?
Me: Wrong Geor…Nevermind. No, not true.
Harp: His sister says they are going to give Barack Obama a peach and then he will move out of the White House. Is that true? They aren’t going to give Barack Obama a peach, are they mommy? You know how much I love him.
Me: What?!?! OH… Impeach him… No. No one is giving Barack Obama a peach.
Harp: I told him we went to the Ronald Reagan library this summer and he didn’t even know who Ronald Reagan was.
Me: (Stunned) And this kid has the audacity to call himself a republican?

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For those who don’t know… Los Angeles might be the most liberal city in America, but just North of the San Fernando Valley lies every young republican’s mecca… The Ronald Reagan Memorial Library in Simi Valley, California.

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My friend Jolene was visiting with her kids (Marina and Spencer) from San Diego, so we all ventured deep into the heart of republica-ville, that shining city on a hill, Simi Valley!

The powers that created this wonderland took Reagan’s words literally. The library is smack dab on top of a large hill. Lights ablaze, it is a shining city on a hill, or at least a shining building. As we wound our way up Mount Reagan, Jolene (a fan of Reagan) took a moment to say… “I’m really excited about this. We should enjoy learning about the California Governor and former President… And not be too sarcastic about it as we go through.”

Clearly, that remark was meant for me, a liberal…. But in all sincerity, I had no desire to be cynical about the former President. His life is an important part of history. And in my child’s mind, he was responsible for a lot of the pizza I ate in the 80s.

Harper, Marina, and Spencer were all excited about the trip. They had never heard of Ronald Reagan and I thought of teaching them Misty’s swing set chant, so they could say it loudly as we explored… But I thought of Jolene’s words and decided to stay quiet.

Here is a picture of them in front of a Bronze statue of The Gipper:

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And here is another one of them looking distinguished in front of the Presidential Seal:

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The Reagan Library is large and takes around five hours to go through. Yowch! You heard me right. It is HUUGGGEEE!!!

It starts at his childhood and has actual essays and homework assignments completed by Ronald Reagan. There’s even an old yearbook he signed showing he was always the master of the one-liner… “Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music,” he wrote to a friend in high school. Smooth.

As I ruffled through Reagan’s clothes, his books, his military letters and private trinkets from his young adulthood… I thought of my own death and how one day someone might be ruffling through my own historical items…What kind of things might they find?

All the boxes of uneaten Nutri-sytem stored in my garage…
All the different scented candles…
My old porcelain clown collection…

What had I written in someone’s yearbook? Nothing as good as what Ronald Reagan wrote… “Life is Grand…One sweet song… Start the music!”

I couldn’t remember anything I’d written in a yearbook. Maybe… “You are totally tubular!” Or “Wow! Can’t wait til we are all 21 and drinking Zimas together!”

The Reagan Library was making me feel uncomfortable… Like I needed to start saying more positive things, and writing it down on people’s stuff… And also cleaning out everything in my house… I really needed to get my crap together. I may not ever have my own library when I die… But someone will certainly go through my stuff, and what will they find?!?!? I do have a gratitude journal… But most of the items I’m grateful for are things like… The smell of bacon… and Coffee from a French Press. I need to start being thankful for bigger more important things!!!

LIFE IS GRAND! ONE SWEET SONG! SO LET’S START THE MUSIC!!!

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It was around this time of my anxiety attack, that we entered the area of the recreated Berlin Wall. Kids can run and play amidst a large re-creation inside the museum… There are holes in the wall so people climb back and forth exploring it… I wonder if the original planners of the museum envisioned people reenacting East and West Germany… Sneaking from one side to the next… trying to avoid gunshot or life imprisonment and/or torture…

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But the kids just chased each other and hid around it. At one point, while Harper, Marina, and Spencer were running and playing around the remains of the Berlin Wall, Harper stopped for a moment, and said… “Why would Ronald Reagan want to tear down this wall? It’s so much fun! I love this wall!!!!” Spencer also piped up and said, “I love the Berlin Wall! The Berlin Wall is my favorite wall!”

Moving on to the next section, was a large area dedicated to the threat of communism throughout history. Large pictures of Chairman Mao, Stalin, and Castro looking angry are blown up in a dark room and backlit.
“These guys are mean!” Harper said, having never been told about any of them. “They don’t like to smile,” Spencer observed. And in truth, the pictures of the despots really show them at their worst. There are no pictures of Kim Jung Il enjoying a nice plate of Korean BBQ with his family. And no photos of Moammar Gadhafi laughing as he throws back a cold brew with his buddies Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Khomeini.

While Spencer and Harper sat quietly in a corner watching a movie about the Arms Race, I took a moment to explore various artifacts from that era, which highlighted meetings and conversations between Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev. I was reading a hand-written thank you note to Ronald Reagan from a former Russian prisoner, when Harper walked up to me, and with a solemn face said… “If you get pregnant in Russia, they’ll put you in jail.”

“No, they won’t, Harper,” I said. “You could always get pregnant in Russia. It’s never been illegal to get pregnant.”

“Yes it was!” she told me. “I heard it on the old telephone.”

I saw then, that Harper and Spencer had been listening to “Testimonies from the Gulag.” This is a section of the museum featuring stories from people who had survived the Soviet labor camp.

When I walked over, Spencer was listening to one of the testimonies as well. “Miss Amy,” he said…. “These are just like the old-timey phones you used to use when you were a kid. It’s like we’re in the old days again.”

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As we exited the Communism Section, Spencer turned to a museum full of people and in a loud voice he raised his hands in the air and shouted, “I HATE RUSSIA! I HATE RUSSIA!” Mission accomplished, Reagan Library!

“No you don’t,” Jolene quickly corrected him. “None of us hates Russia. None of us hates anyone. It’s just a place full of people like us.”

We rushed out of that section and into an area where Nancy Reagan’s ball gowns were displayed and also the game boards featuring her JUST SAY NO (to drugs) campaign.

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I was reminded of a performance I saw in high school during a pep assembly, when a group of men too old to be Rock Stars, but too young to be parents, showed up dressed like Def Leppard and announced. “Nancy Reagan sent us here to play some rock- and- roll for you kids and tell you to JUST SAY NO!!!” The band played thirty minutes of unmemorable music, but I remember the drummer had drum sticks that looked like skeleton bones. I don’t remember much about the concert, but I do know I’ve never had a drug problem. Thank you, Nancy Reagan.

Our tour ended in a large and beautiful hangar, which houses the actual Air Force One used by Reagan and Carter (the nut-crunching peanut farmer).

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We toured the plane, which was interesting and stocked with jelly beans (Reagan’s favorite candy). At the end, we sat down and had some nice refreshing bottled beverages called LENIN-ADE another homage to the threat of communism.

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The trip to the Reagan library was more than I expected. It wasn’t just a historical tour, it was like walking back in time, and remembering some moments in life that I had forgotten.

The Reagan Library concludes with the handwritten letter Ronald Reagan wrote once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He famously says… “I will now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.”

I thought of all the people I remembered as I walked through the Reagan Library, people in my childhood, my teenage years… All of us moving toward the sunset of our lives. As we drove away, I told Jolene about Misty, and we laughed and all paid homage to that young republican.

Draw Me Like One of Your French Girls… A Mother’s Day Aboard the Titanic

For Mother’s Day this year, we took a trip to Buena Park to visit TITANIC – THE EXPERIENCE because nothing says Mother’s Day like reliving the greatest and most memorable maritime disaster of the twentieth century.

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My six-year-old daughter, Harper, has become OBSESSED with the TITANIC thanks to one evening she spent with her father.

While I was hanging out with friends, Erin and Harper stayed home.

As I headed out the door for my night out, Erin and I had this conversation:

Erin:  I’m gonna make mac and cheese and I think Harp and I will watch a movie.

Me (rushing to get out of the house):  Great.  Do whatever.

Erin:  I’m sick of watching kids movies.  I think she’s ready for something else. What could we watch?

Me: I’m in a hurry and I don’t want to make that decision. Turn on Netflix.  She likes Jumanji.

Erin:  I’m sick of watching Jumanji…

Me (trying to apply makup without having a conversation):  I don’t want to be part of this decision.  You guys figure it out.  

Erin:  I kinda want to watch JAWS.

Me:  What?!?!?  Are you kidding me?  No.  She’s way to young for that.  There are shark attacks in it.  She’ll be afraid to go to the beach.

Erin:  She can watch something that’s PG, right?  I’m here… I’m a parent, I can guide her through the movie…

Me:  I don’t want to hear a lecture about what PG is…. You’re giving me too much information right now.  Don’t destroy her mind while I’m out…

When I got in from one of the best evenings I’d had in awhile with my lady-friends… Erin was playing GTAV on the couch and Harper was in bed.

Me:  What’d you guys end up watching?

Erin:  I found a classic.  We watched TITANIC.

Me:  YOU WATCHED WHAT?!?!?!

Erin:  Don’t worry… I fast forwarded through all the naked parts.

Me:  Did you fast forward through all the parts of death and drowning?

Erin:  It didn’t scare her… She seemed interested.  It’s historical.

Me:  Historical?  Schindler’s List is historical… I don’t want to wake up with a million questions from her about death by drowning…. If she wakes up in the middle of the night, you have to deal with it.    

The next morning… Harper was up bright and early talking my ear off about the TITANIC.  “There weren’t enough life boats,” she told me.  “Those guys in First Class just kept playing their violins until the ship cracked in half and everyone slid off and died… It’s the best movie I’ve ever seen…”

This is how we ended up at the TITANIC EXHIBIT for Mother’s Day… A semi-permanent museum, built where the Movieland Wax Museum used to be… A titanic event in it’s own right…

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After a delightful brunch that included a strawberry martini for me…

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And also… The coolest gift ever of a STAR WARS Mother’s Day shirt….

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We went to the exhibit.

 

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When you first  enter… TITANIC:  THE EXPERIENCE… You get the opportunity to have your picture taken in front of a green screen…

 

AMY HARP TITANIC LIFEBOAT

Looks pretty scary… Doesn’t it?  I get cold just looking at this thing.   Over a thousand people drowned and/or froze to death in the icy waters of the Atlantic that horrible night of April 15th.

This is how we remember them.

Clearly, we as a society, are totally over it.

When we began our experience, we were greeted by a woman dressed as a chamber maid…

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She spoke with a soft Irish accent and introduced herself as “Molly,” which is, I think, the name of all Irish chamber maids.

She then, handed us each a boarding pass that had a name on it.

“This is yer ticket to board the Titanic, ya see?” she whispered.  “Each of ya has the name of a passenger… At the end, you’ll learn the fate of yer passenger.”

Harper was a young nun in third class.

I was to play the role of a 45-year-old woman with three kids (Jurassic Mom)  who was also in Third Class.

Meanwhile… Erin drew a National Dog Show Judge riding in First Class.

I think we all know who will be the survivor on this ship…

With that… We boarded the ghost ship.

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The exhibit is quite interesting and it contains lots of dishes, sinks, china cabinets, even an uncorked champagne bottle that has been carefully brought to the surface from the wreckage.

A first-class ticket on the Titanic cost the equivalent of a hundred grand in that era…  Nowadays, for about two-thousand bucks, you can get an all-you-can-eat Midnight Nacho Buffet, a trashy magic act, and half-priced rum punches on the Lido Deck… All thanks to the Titanic…

Back then, though, the high price promised First Class passengers private bathrooms, fine cigars, and the assurance that not even “GOD himself could sink that vessel.”

Welp… Two out of three aint bad.

The passengers would all laugh maniacally, as they toasted their Brandy snifters and said things like… “HA HA HA!!!  Nothing will sink us!”

“Die here?  Dressed like this???  Puh-leez!” they would shout while they ate oxen tail soup off china later found at the bottom of the Atlantic.

When the captain got word that they would be traveling through icy waters, they all gleefully shouted!!!

“YAHOO!!!!  Let’s see how fast this thing will go!” 

Then… They hit the iceberg and died.

Ha. Ha.  Joke’s on you, Richie Rich.

In an effort to prove how cold the water actually was that fateful night… There is a large block of ice in the shape of an iceberg… When I touched it, I thought as they must’ve thought that very night… “Wow.  It’s really cold.”

 

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And then I thought… Ugh… Think of all the people that have touched this thing… It’s one thing to die in the middle of the Atlantic, it’s another thing to catch the flu from some snotty nosed brat from Pomona.

I walked away somberly hoping they sold Titanic hand sanitizer in the gift shop.

At one point, a man dressed as The Captain walked through and said to me and Harper… “Good day, Ladies.  I hope you are enjoying the Titanic.”

I leaned into Harper after he left and said… “That was a ghost.”

“No it wasn’t,” she said, unaffected and annoyed.

Then, a voice came over the speaker…”BOARD THE LIFEBOATS,” the monotone and ghostly voice instructed us.

Erin, Harper, and I all three got in a lone wooden boat in a large black room with a screen in front and a picture of a sinking TITANIC.

Molly, the  Irish chamber maid from the beginning, reappeared.

“Imagine if ya will… sitting alone in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean…” she whispered in the low but serious tenor of the Lucky Charms Leprechaun…  

“To yer right is darkness… To yer left, nothing… Ya huddle together helpless, but fer the strangers around ya… None of ya knows yer fate… In three hours the Titanic will sink.”

Molly got worked up talking about it… And I nodded my head and kept a somber expression, to show my support of her dramatic reliving of the downed ship.

At the end of her monologue, she just looked at us silently as we heard the sound of the dark ocean….

Whoosh…. Whoosh… Whoosh…

We stared at one another in the dark.

Whoosh… Whoosh… Whoosh…

“Wow,” I said, finally breaking the silence because it felt weird staring at Molly like that.  “It was a really terrible tragedy, wasn’t it?”

Molly didn’t answer my question.

Instead, she looked toward the door.

“Ya can go now,” she told us.  “Find out the fate of yer passengers.”

As we entered the next room, I could faintly hear the voice on the speaker… “BOARD THE LIFEBOATS,” it said… Then Molly’s Lucky Charms accent… “Imagine if ya will… sitting alone in a lifeboat…”

In the final room was a wall, with the names of our passengers listed.

Erin… The First Class Dog Show Judge… lived, of course… Shoving his way past throngs of women and children to get his old butt on a lifeboat…

Harper and I… weren’t quite so lucky.

“We’re both dead in the water,” I said to Harper.

Though Harper had appeared emotionless throughout the exhibit, when she heard the fate of her passenger, she looked disturbed and like she might cry…

I looked over at Erin and said… “Um… Maybe I read it wrong.”

“Yes,” Erin lied… And then looked up and down closely as if scanning the wall…”Right, Harper…  Mom didn’t read it right.  No… No… The nun didn’t die.  You lived.  Just like me, the Dog Show Judge… We both survived!”

Harper jumped up-and-down and shouted at the news, the two of them high-fiving.  “Yay!” she said.  “Me and Dad both lived!  Only you died, Mom!  I lived!!! The nun and the Dog Show Judge lived!!!”

And with that… she wished me a Happy Mother’s Day and we headed back to LA.

Look… You can listen to me ramble all day long about the power of the Titanic Experience… But nothing I could say would mean as much as this short film about our time there and the impact it had on our mortal souls:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s Books and the Art of the Emotional Drive-By

I took Harper to the bookstore yesterday.  

The bookstore is quite a drive for us.  All the bookstores in our area have shut down.  Costco and Target are the only places around here that sell real books anymore.  Call me old fashioned, but sometimes I don’t feel like sampling pretzel dogs while I browse a warehouse and look through endless stacks of remaindered Jackie Collins novels.  

It’s a bummer that I have to drive twenty miles to spend the afternoon browsing through bookshelves and drinking cappuccinos, which was one of my favorite things to do before we started living in this Ray Bradbury nightmare called the digital book age.  I won’t rant about this long, as I know most of you reading probably own one of these devices and swear by how great they are… But I am old fashioned, and I love real live books with pages.  

I grew up in small towns in Texas, none of which had bookstores.  So… my mom and I would climb in the car once a month, and do something called “goin’ to town,” where we would visit small independent bookstores.  I remember having a feeling not unlike that of the LITLLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE girls when their  fabric showed up at the Oleson’s country store.    

I want to take Harper to bookstores and let her browse and read, as I did when I was young. I would get excited just driving to a bookstore.  I still do. 

So, now the cycle continues… Once a week, Harper and I hitch our wagon, and drive to a suburb called Westlake Village, where there still exists a Barnes and Noble and head to the Children’s Section.  

Harper is reading pretty well now.  We will sit together for awhile, and she will read to me.   Then… she will pull some books and I will read to her…

And yesterday, she pulled a book called LOVE YOU FOREVER by Robert Munsch….

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“Read this one!” she said to me.  “My teacher read it to us at school and it’s really funny because the kid loses his mom’s watch in the toilet.”  

So… I started reading this book, which tells the story of a young mother rocking her baby… And she says… “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

And so it goes… That whatever age this boy is… First three, then nine, then a teenager, she will sneak into his room as he’s sleeping, wrap the child in her arms and sweetly chant this poem while she rocks him.

And as I’m reading, I’m becoming choked up saying the “love you forever” poem… when the son moves away from home, and gets his own house… When, get this… The fifty-something mother sneaks into his house at night while this adult man is sleeping, climbs into his bed, and rocks him back forth while chanting the poem.

I stopped reading.

“Wow,” I said to Harper then.  “I was really becoming emotional until this… And now, I don’t really know about this guy and his mom.  They seem a little weird.”  

When suddenly… Nosy Nellie… The woman working in the children’s section pipes up really sweetly with… “Oh now… Don’t be so cynical… Mothers never get tired of rocking their babies”  

Well, THANK YOU VERY MUCH MARY POPPINS for the moral lesson… I get what the author is trying to do here, but come on…. 

I leaned into Harper then and whispered… “It is TRUE that mothers never get tired of rocking their babies… But if you EVER meet a man in his thirties that is still sleeping with his mother and being rocked to sleep by her, RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN FROM THAT GUY.”

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I got Harper to pinky-swear that she would stay away from adult men that sleep with their mothers.

And then I finished the book for her… Which ends with the elderly mom calling her son on the phone, and saying essentially “I can’t come over and rock you tonight,” so HE goes over to HER house and rocks HER to sleep… And then he stands at the top of the staircase with a forlorn look on his face, leaving the reader to assume his mother just died.  

Then he goes home to his infant daughter and rocks her, letting you know that the terrible cycle of rocking and dying will start once again… Or the beautiful cycle of rocking and dying… Depending how you look at it… As Oprah or Wayne Dwyer would say.  

This is a theme in some children’s books… They start off sweetly, then end with death, and the titles never let you know what you’re in for.  This is why I refuse to get pulled in by a book like LOVE YOU FOREVER.  

The title sounds so nice… I think there should be a law against such sweet titles for sad children’s books.  We are already so tired and worried as parents… Do we also have to endure all these unexpected emotional drive-bys?  

When I saw the movie TITANIC, the trailers were all full of beautiful sweeping shots of a large ship with Leo DeCaprio standing on the boat shouting I’M KING OF THE WORLD like he owned the place… But because the author, James Cameron, aptly titled his movie TITANIC… I knew the boat would sink and there would be loads of death and I could prepare myself.  

I was actually happy at the end of the movie TITANIC because there were a few people that didn’t die.  It was a pleasant surprise, and I was able to enjoy the boat splitting then sinking because I knew it was coming and I was emotionally prepared for the worst.  

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Consider a book like THE GIVING TREE. It sounds like a nice book about giving… But really, it’s a book about slowly killing a tree and that’s what it should be called… It should be called SLOWLY KILLING A TREE or THE BOY WHO SOLD ALL THE APPLES… Or simply just THE TAKER.

Here are some horribly tragic children’s books with sweet titles that I have renamed so you won’t sit shocked in the Children’s Section like I sometimes do:

1)  Puff the Magic Dragon… LITTLE JOHHNY PAPER GROWS UP;

2) Charlotte’s Web… SPIDERS DON’T REGENERATE.

3) The Velveteen Rabbit… FIRE KILLS GERMS.

Subtlety isn’t something I admire anymore.  I am tired… And everywhere I go now, I have a small person that wants to eat off the floor and explore public restrooms.  I have plenty of surprises in my life.  

Will I ever get tired of rocking Harper?  No.  I’ll love her forever and I’ll like her for always… And I will gladly move through the sad (or super fun) cycle of rocking and dying alongside her.  

But… As we rock and die… Let’s enjoy the bookstore and sip some cappucinos.