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I'm a Minnesota Girl, living in the south. I tell my friends I try not to talk and think like a Yankee, but sometimes I slip up!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Childhood Lies

I saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" this evening. I've been privileged to see all of the films nominated frequently for Oscars this season... I' d avoided "Button" because I'm not caught up in all the Brad Pitt hype. Still, when a friend beckoned, I felt there was just enough that seemed unique about the film to warrant a late viewing, and not wait for the DVD.

"Button"...from Kathleen Kennedy, who is a bit of a genius herself, is based on a short-story by another genius, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The film is a tantalizing tale; a jewel, really. It is so beautifully filmed, and contains so many moments of quirky oddities, as well as poignant moments, that it completely stops you in your tracks. Had the bond between Pitt and Cate Blanchett felt truly real (together, they were a little cold), it could have been the film of the decade.

Nevertheless, it struck us both deeply, told in flashbacks from the aging Cate Blanchett. We've both lost loved ones in hospitals who have been truly suffering from painful illness; but, in the film's hospital, there is also a scene from the wistful Julia Ormond (as an aged Cate Blanchett's daughter) where she learns the truth about her past. It felt a little like deja vu.

I had a story repeated from a college friend that stayed around inside my head for over two decades, before I committed the story to paper, in the form of a poem. Got home and ransacked around the computer to find said poem... and here it is, every aching last bit of it. Very symbolic of one of the powerful scenes in "Button"....

Lies Told To Her In Childhood

Ivory parchment aged,
she tears it open with her fingers
sturdy letter opener ignored.
Those same fingers wind her hair in ringlets
the winding ceasing as she catches her breath.
Eyes closed, she remembers the moment he left;
his sorrowful glance at her, a quick embrace.
Could it be that the decade past,
time which never yielded clues to
his absence, time
spent in mourning and loss,
could it be that scoundrel, carelessness,
cost them, distanced them, damaged the two?

She loved him without pretense,
irony, what might have been, has been
her constant companion.
Could it be that this brief note, this
message of love returned,
had been lost these many years?
Shaken, she rises and begins to pace,
to recall her mother’s words and
excuses, her damning anger at his disappearance.
Sarcasm rather than comfort as each
holiday passed without so much as a greeting.
How can it be that she made no mention
of this parting message to her, his daughter?

Rifling quickly through the letters bound up
with a thick, coarse band, she finds, to her sorrow,
that all the others, some twenty
are lettered in the same strong hand.
Postmarked, these; she discovers dates and
locations far to the west; they climb
through the years until they stop some
four years prior, on a date
just before her eighteenth birthday.
She does not have to open them to know that
her father had been the hero of her dreams.....
he'd tried to keep in touch with the little girl
whose hair he gently towel-dried after baths.
He’d not left and forgotten, nor given up.

Weeping, she rises with the letters and leaves,
Locking the door and the lies told to her in childhood
Behind her, for the last time.

My dear friend Angela wept while she told me this story.


Debby said...

Oh. The poem made me cry. I've never understood how people can steal even the tiniest bits of their child's childhood.

Bob said...

Great poem, even though sad. I loved the movie too. When it was done could not believe I had sat there three hours.

quid said...

The movie didn't fly by, but it absorbed you inwardly, so that you were completely involved. The three hours seemed over before you wanted them to be.

Debby - I know that Angela's mother meant well, but still, it seemed to me that she took away a part of what should have been her childhood. I'd like to think I wouldn't have made the same decision. Angela and her father met again, after she discovered he hadn't just disappeared, and I hope that they have been able to live the rest of their lives loving each other.


Pam said...

I've never understood how any parent could do something like that. It's not right, no matter what.

I want to see the movie. I'm waiting for it to come out on DVD since I just haven't had any movie time in quite awhile. Other than kid movies, that is.

I love the poem. It was extremely moving.

As for the movies up for Oscars. ... this year I've seen none of them. Some I want to see very much.

I must confess that I have no desire to see "Slum dog Millionaire" or "The Wrestler". I do want to see "The Reader" and "Revolutionary Road". I'd also like to see "Doubt".

MarionL said...

It's what we believe inside that matters, IMO. My father died when I was 6 years old and I have the make-believe father to love and revere. (Who knows, the real one might have become a monster. The dead was is my muse and hero.) I don't really care to see that movie. It's too much like a book I read last year. I do want to see "Revolutionary Road", though.

Kelly said...

Powerful and moving poem!

I haven't really had any desire to see that movie. I really like Cate Blanchett, but I can take or leave Brad Pitt. Don't guess I've seen any of the movies up for nomination this year.

I did get to see Gran Torino a couple of weeks ago and LOVED it!! Great Eastwood and great story!

Hal Johnson said...

I loved the poem. I wasn't really that interested in the movie, but I think you have me hooked.

According to a Wikipedia article, Kennedy is the most successful movie producer of all time, in terms of ticket sales. She graduated from high school in Redding, where I live. I don't think Rhonda ever met her, but she knows her dad fairly well--she used to work with him, indirectly.