On this blog, I have been telling my story a bit, having been inspired by the book To Be Told, by Dan Allender and by my friend D.P. and his insistence that I take a deeper, longer look at my past. It has been surprisingly rewarding. I found myself filled with affections for my 12-year-old self. I never really thought negatively about 12-year-old-Rob because I rarely thought about 12-year-old-Rob at all. But, the process of remembering and trying to again re-live the experiences has filled me compassion for the younger version of me.
Much of what I have written revolves around my relationship with my father. This makes sense. My self-definition is based on my identity ‘as a man,’ and the role model is my dad. I have a great relationship with my dad. It was what it needed to be when I was a kid and it has grown, matured, and deepened as I have become an adult and a dad myself.
I am influenced by my mom just as much. She is as significant a figure in my life, but the effect is subtler. I can look at my life and the ways Dad has shaped me leap off the page. Dad’s fingerprint on me is obvious and, significantly, it easy to describe in writing (and more writing and more writing). I could fill a notebook with thoughts of how Dad has made me who I am. Thus, I am inclined to write about that relationship.
The raw material of my life drawn from my Mom’s influence is every bit as much me; I just not have given it as much thought. Recently that changed. My family – wife, kids (12, 7, 5) and me – were on vacation, driving in the minivan, the movie Frozen playing. As the driver, I could not watch, but I could listen, and Frozen is as much about the music as about the dialogue. As those songs play and I pictured the film I felt a deep connection.
It seemed odd. Frozen is the story of the relationship between two sisters. I have a sister, but I am a brother. I have a daughter, but only one. The others are boys. I have no direct connection to sister-to-sister dynamics. Why did this animated film touch the deepest part of me? It is because of mom.
Of course the film has nothing to do with mother-son relationships. However, one of the ways my relationship with my mom flourished is in our love of film and our love of musicals and especially our love of films set to music.
About 15 years ago, when I was still single, my parents came to visit me in Arlington, VA and the three of us when to see Camelot at the Kennedy Center. We were all excited about dressing up in fine clothes and riding the Metro from the Pentagon to downtown. Mom was so giddy she teared up. I did not but I recognized her emotion and shared it though I did not express it the same way. More recently we gathered with the family at my parents’ house to watch Nanny McPhee Returns. I was thankful for the darkened basement because this time my moist eyes betrayed my emotional nature.
Afterward, I admitted I had cried. My stoic Father dismissively said, “Oh, I knew that was how the movie would end.” My mother was right there crying with me. I don’t understand about myself. I had seen Nanny McPhee Returns about five times. In prior viewings, I had not emoted. Why now? My mom had seen Camelot previously. Why was that night so special for her?
The answer comes back to how listening to Frozen brought me awareness. Each presentation – Frozen, Camelot, and Nanny McPhee Returns, as well as many others – is a beautiful story presented by true artists of film, stage, and music. My mother gave me my deep appreciation for the genre of the musical. My brother and sister share it as well. And our dad likes musicals well enough. But my love for the musical is a gift my mother gave.
I remember many years ago a friend of mine said, “I don’t musicals. In real life people don’t spontaneously break into song.” I think my mother would say, “They should.” I agree. And when the story of her life is written, the only genre that would fit is the musical.
Maybe my sister can take that up as a project … Christy, what do you think?