Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lines that stick

{or Books Are My Movies}

Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who can't recite movie lines or re-tell jokes, but that's just not possible. Someone else has to have the same hole in the same spot in their brain. Really, wind blows right through that dry and dusty space. I imagine in a brain scan it would look something like a donut.

You know how your friends can recite whole Adam Sandler movies, or entire SNL skits? And you're like, yeah that was so funny, remember that one part that was kinda like, ummm, and it was all crazy and ummmm, well, it was SO funny! And then everyone is looking at you quietly so you shout next round is on me!

I think it has something to do with the type of learner I am, because I can always recall lines from books that are particularly meaningful for me. Even whole well-crafted paragraphs that knocked my socks off. Don't you love it when you find those little nuggets?

So, one that's been rolling around in my head forEVER is in the Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska. It's about Jewish immigrants escaping a pogrom at the turn of the century, and one daughter in particular struggles with racial, class, gender, and familial identity in order to become who she truly is (which, inevitably, conflicts with who her family, community, and country EXPECT her to be).

Her mother tells her, "Go, make yourself for a person."

That's my line. Don't you just love that? As a mother and a human, I feel like the need to be whole, and wholely oneself, is at the root of the human experience, and that being prevented from achieving this is at the root of human dysfunction.

I always imagine myself saying something similar to my children as they embark on their own adventures, but I also say it to myself quite a bit. Being a parent doesn't absolve me of the job at hand; that of being whole, complete, fulfilled, and productive in my own right. It's a lot of work, this business of identity, and no wonder so many of us (especially women) get stuck supporting everyone else's growth and ignoring our own.

But it's not nice to tell your grown children that you would have liked to XYZ, but you couldn't because you had them. So, we keep doing the hard work of making ourselves for a person. Being happy and content confers upon your children the right to the same. It's awfully hard, I think, for children to allow themselves to have something that their parents couldn't.

So, this is what I'm thinking about today.

What about you? What are the "lines that stick" for you?


  1. This line always haunts me:

    "I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family's, and my country's past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I've figured out. I know this much is true."
    (from I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb)


  2. Oh, yes yes yes! I especially love the image of emerging from mental and emotional darkness with a handful of your own firmly held truths. Sometimes (many times) navigating your past feels just like stumbling about in the dark woods....
    Thank you for sharing


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