Friday, June 1, 2007

Bowing Before False Idols

I walked into my 10 year old daughter’s room the other day and noticed that one entire wall was filled with pictures of various stars of the Disney Channel. As a mother, as a woman who was once a little girl, I wept. Wept. Any concern I had that she had taken after her father completely disappeared. She was mine. All mine. Those pictures of Zach and Cody and Hannah and Raven confirmed that my sweet girl did indeed carry a heavy load of my DNA.

I was whisked back in time to my 10th year in 1966, and remembered my bedroom walls covered with pictures of the Beatles, the Monkees, the stars of “The Mod Squad”, Donny Osmond and Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise (whose picture, I’m sorry to say, was always hard to find in the latest editions of Fave, Tiger Beat and Sixteen). As I move my time line to 1976, I see Robert Redford, that infamous picture of Al Pacino as Serpico, Shaun Cassidy and Barry Manilow. The 80’s – who else? The poster man of ALL poster men, Tom Selleck…and a newly issued picture of William Shatner as our Captain, now featured in the big screen version of Star Trek. The 90’s? Well, if I’d had the nerve to do it, I would have put David Duchovny up on my wall. The year 2000? Please. Johnny Depp, alrighty.

Now should you think I developed this fascination for celebrities through any fault of my own, let me correct you. Allow me to introduce you to my mother, Rose.

My mother loved Clark Gable. She snuck off to the theater to see “Gone with the Wind” when she was a young girl and was hooked. Hooked on Gable, hooked on movie stars, hooked on the movies. My grandmother NEVER would have allowed my mother to see such a movie. “For heaven’s sake, Rosebud,” – they called my poor mother Rosebud to distinguish her from the dozen other Rose’s in my family – “they show a woman HAVING A BABY in that moving picture!” Reason enough in my grandmother’s mind to disallow such a consideration. (Please note: Gramma was from the old country and thought the following: seeing a scary movie when you were pregnant produced birth defects and sitting on cement caused kidney problems. We loved her anyway.)

But my dear mother’s legacy of loving the movies, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Chopin, Van Cliburn, Victor Borge, Van Gogh and Monet left an indelible mark on me. Not only did she love them and share them with me, she loved whom I loved.

1964. The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. My mom noted how innovative they were, how fresh, how different and how their music had a great, bluesy/jazzy beat. She also liked that John Lennon spoke his mind and except for that "Jesus" quote, never backed down from a confrontation.

My mother traveled with me through the Monkees (“didn’t Neil Diamond write some of their songs?”), Shaun Cassidy (“lots of talent there, Cookie! Check out his parents!”), Barry Manilow (“such a nice voice and a talented pianist – he likes Chopin! How can you go wrong?”), William Shatner (“Captain Kirk is the ultimate hero!”), and of course, Tom Selleck (she just fanned herself with a dishtowel).

Yes, I come from a history of bowing before false idols. But as my mother watched Star Trek with me and listened thoughtfully to Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin, I reciprocated. I truly listened to Mozart and Mahalia Jackson. We watched dark film noir starring Robert Mitchum and that squirrelly little blonde guy whose name I’ve forgotten; giggled at Lana Turner, cheered on Joan Crawford as “Mildred Pierce” and was shocked when Bette Davis let her husband die in “The Little Foxes”. We loved William Powell and Myrna Loy in the “Thin Man” series and we watched every single black and white horror movie that Universal ever made. We watched Chaplin, Pickford, Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.

What did I learn? To share my enthusiasm for music and film and art with my children. The first song either one of my children learned was “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison. I have my Beatles posters from the 60’s framed and up on the wall. My Barry Manilow calendar graces my kitchen and we play his albums on my old turntable (When my daughter yelled, “Hey, where’s the other 6 songs???”, I had to explain that albums weren’t like CD’s with all the songs on one side; that you had to flip the album over to hear the rest of it. She was very put out by this ancient technology, and let out a heavy, 21st century sigh. She was even more aghast with my mono version of “Meet the Beatles” which is a worn shade of gray and produces more static than music.) We watch the original Star Trek episodes on VHS tape (“Mom, it’s so cool and CHEESY!”) and DVD’s of the X-Files and Magnum PI. However, I have learned to appreciate what my children love. Through my mother’s talent of finding something good in literally anything and everything, I can sit through Disney Channel sitcoms and laugh with my daughter. Not because it’s funny necessarily, but because she thinks it’s funny. I can listen to my son’s new wave/heavy metal music and smile, thinking of my mother trying to say something nice about “Welcome to My Nightmare” by Alice Cooper. I mean is there any difference between Green Day and White Snake when you come down to it, really?

It can be a struggle to come up with something brilliant to say about “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody”, but I think my daughter is just happy to sit with me and hear me laugh with her. Just as I was with my mom. “The Monkees”, “Gidget” and “Batman” just cracked us both up. I know my son is happy is have me in his room, while he tries to play his own guitar to a new song he just purchased by Alkaline Trio. This sharing forms a unique and long lasting bond that transcends time and teaches some valuable life lessons.

My mother has given me a great look for things to appreciate in what your friends and loved ones like, even if it really isn't your cup of tea. To find something to enjoy in what others may wrongly dismiss as idiotic or not worth their time. Life becomes more of a shared adventure and bottom line, it just might be fun, you just might learn something, or you just might meet someone who will be important to you the rest of your life.

My girlfriend jokingly once told me, “you’d have fun at a garbage dump.” And I just might. Thanks to Mom.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Funny, Lara, I was thinking that I needed to sit down with my kids and let them teach me how to play X-box.

I mean, just today. And then here I find myself on your blogroll (thanks! I've reciprocated!) and find this great post.

The world sure is weird and wonderful sometimes.

redcat said...

Ohmigod, the coincidences keep coming. Did you know my mother's name was Rosemary? My mother taught me to dream...she was stuck in a bad marriage with my father (Catholics didn't divorce then) who kept her under his thumb. She raised me to be independent, to not take shit, and to dream...dream big. That's what I now teach my kids. (Oh, and Lara? My daughter likes all that disney stuff, too...)