There’s almost nothing more comforting to me than wrapping myself in a blanket and curling up on the couch to spend an afternoon watching actors, now long dead, sing and dance their hearts out.
The irony is with my two left feet, I cannot dance, and when I do sing, it’s painful for me as well as everyone within earshot. Lest you think I am exaggerating, I introduce Exhibit A:
Growing up, unless it was Christmas, the music on our stereo was classical. Once, when my mother was out of the house, my father unearthed an old Beach Boys’ album. My sister and I very nearly went into shock. Consequently, I still can’t tell you the names of popular songs or identify the artists who are singing them.
Ha! you say. That isn’t so bad.
Oh no? Let’s talk about Exhibit B:
In college, I got a “C” in the jazz class I took as an elective. It was one of the classes where you only needed to show up in order to get an “A.” Well, I showed up. But I couldn’t dance.
Really, is it any wonder that I like old musicals? The people in them look happy–even when they’re sad–and they move around effortlessly in these spectacularly choreographed dance sequences in time to beautiful music.
Watching these movies is such an enjoyable experience for me that I force myself to overlook the sexist and racist overtones. These are things I never noticed as a kid. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? It seemed totally normal for the brothers to kidnap girls and cart them off to a remote cabin in the woods. Daddy Long Legs? Fred Astaire had 30 years on Leslie Caron, but what’s age got to do with it? South Pacific? When Lieutenant Cable refuses to marry the little island girl because of the color of her skin, my heart still breaks.
I try to be careful about my selections (none of the aforementioned classics have made the cut as yet) and I add color commentary to the movies when I watch them with the kids (See, Professor Higgins helped turn Eliza into a princess but SHE was the one who did all the work!). It’s probably useless but it makes me feel better.
It was family movie night. Sick to death of animated talking cars, rats and fairies, I campaigned for something different.
“Do we want to watch the movie about the little orphan boy or the little orphan girl?”
“Boy!” shouted the boys.
“Girl!” said Nora simultaneously.
“We’re always going to be outnumbered in our family, Nora,” I said ruefully. “My vote is for Annie too.”
But the majority rules and Oliver Twist it was.
Even in middle-class American society, violence is everywhere; my kids have not been immune. They play lego video games (the players don’t die, per se, they’re disassembled), watch violence in sports, hear about it on the radio and see it on the news. It isn’t that I thought the kids were desensitized to death but I wasn’t prepared for their reaction to the brutality perpetrated by Bill. Honestly, I had forgotten that Bill kills Nancy.
Howls. Horror. Tears. They mourned Nancy’s loss and were outraged by Bill’s cruelty. Henry alone was blissfully ignorant. Being barely awake had dimmed his view of the scene unfolding on our TV screen. Unfortunately, it did not protect him from witnessing his brother and sister’s scene in the living room.
I guess I should be grateful that my kids have sympathetic souls – that their innocence still blooms. Still, I can’t help but wonder how they will possibly survive real life when they react this strongly to life in technicolor.