This has been one heck of an exciting week – we found out that Jessica the Web Mistress is definitely having a GIRL!
Since then, I’ve spent all my time cooing over sweet, be-ruffled baby clothes for the little peanut (who now looks like an actual baby instead of a peanut!) and trying to decide whether I should refer to her as the Bachelor Baby or the Web Baby.
Obviously, I’ve been very productive.
I’ve also been thinking about the kind of world little Sarah Marjorie is going to grow up in, and how different things are from when I was a Small Fry and even since Jessica was little (she’s seven years younger than I am). Regardless, I know Jessica and Mark are going to be terrific parents. How can they not be? They’re terrific people!
Myself, I am the product of fantastic parenting. I can honestly say that my failings as an adult are not results of my upbringing.
When The Guy and I got married, we asked our friend Heather Peak Hooper, an amazing actress, director and human being to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “A Man’s Requirements” during the ceremony:
Love me Sweet, with all thou art,
Feeling, thinking, seeing;
Love me in the lightest part,
Love me in full being.
Love me with thine open youth
In its frank surrender;
With the vowing of thy mouth,
With its silence tender.
Love me with thine azure eyes,
Made for earnest grantings;
Taking colour from the skies,
Can Heaven’s truth be wanting?
Love me with their lids, that fall
Snow-like at first meeting;
Love me with thine heart, that all
Neighbours then see beating.
Love me with thine hand stretched out
Freely — open-minded:
Love me with thy loitering foot, –
Hearing one behind it.
Love me with thy voice, that turns
Sudden faint above me;
Love me with thy blush that burns
When I murmur ‘Love me!’
Love me with thy thinking soul,
Break it to love-sighing;
Love me with thy thoughts that roll
On through living — dying.
Love me in thy gorgeous airs,
When the world has crowned thee;
Love me, kneeling at thy prayers,
With the angels round thee.
Through all hopes that keep us brave,
Farther off or nigher,
Love me for the house and grave,
And for something higher.
(In the interest of brevity and clarity of message, we cut two stanzas. A mortal sin, I know.)
(I was totally fine at the wedding rehearsal until Heather’s voice broke – just the tiniest bit – on the very last word. And then the waterworks turned on full bore.)
Anyway, we didn’t want any of the readers standing up there just holding slips of paper or something, so we went to Barnes & Noble and picked up a hard-cover copy of The Velveteen Rabbit and a new Bible (my Bible belonged to my great-uncle and is very old and delicate). We strolled over to the poetry section and found a copy of The Complete Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I stared at the cover for a minute, thinking.
“What?” The Guy asked.
It dawned on me. “My parents have this,” I said.
“Really?” he said. “Are you sure?”
“Positive.” I said. “It’s in the living room.”
And it was. After we’d collected it, I turned to him in the car and said, “The next time I bitch about my family, remind me that I grew up in a house with Elizabeth Barrett Browning on the bookshelf.”
“Damn right,” answered The Guy.
The other night, The Guy and I were watching The Count of Monte Cristo (BOOOOORING, but he loves it) with Jim Caviezel when he asked if I ever saw The Passion of the Christ. I said I hadn’t, and he was kind of surprised, so he asked me why. The truth is, I just didn’t have that much interest in it. I don’t care for Mel Gibson and therefore do not wish to put a dollar in his pocket, and plus there were claims of anti-semitism and gratuitous violence, but frankly, I just wasn’t intrigued enough to find out for myself.
(By “interested” and “intrigued,” I mean in the movie, not the actual Passion of the actual Christ. As a Catholic Christian, I am, of course, very interested in that.)
“You know what else I’ve never seen?” I said. “The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s the only movie my parents ever forbid me to see.”
And that’s true. It came out in ’88, so I would have been 11, and I distinctly remember standing in the kitchen and my parents telling me that I was absolutely not allowed to see this movie. I don’t think I asked to see it, and I’m not sure where they thought I might see it – I don’t remember, but I’d be willing to bet you a hundred bucks that they did not show it in the one and only movie theatre in Henderson, Texas.
I guess my upbringing was “strict” in certain ways, but my parents were not big on forbidding me to see, read or listen to things. I certainly read everything in the house, and they didn’t monitor my television-watching or movie-renting in any way that I can remember. Oh, every now and then they’d make me use my allowance money to buy some CD, but that was about it.
Dear Mom and Dad: I have still never watched The Last Temptation of Christ since you forbid me to do so 22 years ago. I think this proves, once and for all, that I am clearly the best of your three children. I would like some sort of award, and possibly a cookie. Love, Your Obedient Daughter
There was one time, though, that this liberal policy bit them, particularly my mother, in the ass in a BIG way.
See, to this day, you only have to say the words “Anna Karenina” in our home to make my mother need a drink.
When I was quite small (I know I was younger than five), the movie Anna Karenina came on Masterpiece Theatre on PBS (or LPB if you lived in Louisiana, which we did). I have no idea why or how a preschooler became engrossed in a TV movie based on a Tolstoy novel, but I sure did. I watched with rapt attention until the part where Anna cries, “God forgive me,” and throws herself in front of a train.
And that, dear readers, is when the s–t hit the fan in the Phelan household and stayed there, stuck, for a straight month.
I was utterly traumatized. Honestly, my parents probably could’ve lived with that, but additionally, I became CONSUMED with the idea that my mother’s suicide-by-train was imminent.
It didn’t matter that my mother was not depressed, unhappy in her marriage, given to hanging around train tracks or Russian. As Stephen King once said, when you’re little, most of your bingo balls are still floating around in the draw-tank.
For a MONTH, my mother had to put up with her daughter crying and asking her if today was the day she planned to kill herself via train. It didn’t matter if she was in the bathtub, on the toilet, putting on eyeliner or feeding the cat; I had to know so I could call my dad at work like my grandmother taught me to do, tell him that Mom was about to eat it on a train track and ask him to come home! And if you doubt that I occasionally inquired about her suicide plans IN PUBLIC, then you’ve obviously never spent much time around a little kid.
(I can practically guarantee that as she reads this, my mother is shaking her fist toward the heavens and cursing Leo Tolstoy’s name.)
So it says a lot for my parents that even after that total parental FUBAR, they only ever forbid me to see one movie in my whole life.
Although my mom really probably doesn’t care at this point, UNLESS there’s something in The Last Temptation of Christ that will cause me to ask her over and over if she plans to off herself while she’s trying to change the cat litter, in which case she will HUNT DOWN Martin Scorsese and make him think real hard about whether or not he ever wants to make another movie.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the only other childhood memory that made me call up my parents from college and say “WTF WERE YOU THINKING.”
Needless to say, it’s a good one.