“Scenes of our Lives,” column for Dec. 31, 2014

We’ve watched a lot of movies together, he and I. You might say it’s one of our traditions. The first film I took him to see was “The Godfather.” He was 4 months old. I figured if he got fussy, I’d either nurse him to sleep or make his dad take him outside until the credits rolled. I needn’t have worried. The boy was a born movie buff. He slept through the whole thing.

From there we progressed through “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Chariots of Fire,” “E.T.” and, OK, I’ll admit it, “Silence of the Lambs.” By then he was old enough to go to movies on his own, but didn’t mind being seen with his mom.

He liked movies so much that when he was 12, he saved all he earned from his paper route to buy our first VCR. No wonder he grew up to be an actor.

When he drove from L.A. to spend the holidays with my husband and me this year at our home in Las Vegas, we kept all our usual traditions: Opened gifts (including a Baby Jesus that I always steal from the Nativity set to wrap and label “the best gift of all”); called his brother and sister and their families in California to say that we missed them; ate way too much and watched a lot of basketball on TV.

The day after Christmas, when my husband had to go back to work, the boy and I went to a matinee. I’m picky, but I’ll see anything with him (he usually likes what I like), so I let him choose. He picked “Wild.”

Based on a memoir by Cheryl Strayed, it stars Reese Witherspoon as a young woman who falls profoundly apart after losing her mother to cancer. To “walk” herself back to the kind of woman her mother believed she would be, she set out to hike solo 1,100 miles, desert to snow, on the rugged Pacific Rim Trail.

It’s a story about love, loss, grief and a woman’s struggle to find and hold onto her “one true self.” And much like life, it wasn’t always easy to watch.

My boy was about the age of the young woman in the film when we lost his dad to cancer. Like her, he’s seen firsthand the healing power of Nature and learned the value of putting one’s self “in the way of beauty.”

It’s a lesson we might all be glad to learn, if only it weren’t all too often taught by grief.

For me, the real story belonged not to the young woman, but to her mother, seen in flashbacks played flawlessly by the lovely Laura Dern. At one point she tells her daughter that the bad things in her life (marrying an abusive alcoholic) had also given her two children who made it all, everything, worth it.

That was the line that got to me. All is gift. It takes a lot of living to learn that. I wanted to shout “Amen!” but I feared I’d get thrown out of the theater and the boy might never go to a movie with me again.

Afterwards, we got a late lunch and talked about the film.

“That scene where they splashed rain puddles?” I said. “We used to do that, too.”

When he was 3, I’d put his baby sister in a backpack and we’d go out in the rain to splash puddles all over town. And when their brother came along and learned to walk, he wore hand-me-down cowboy boots with holes in the toes that he’d shoot water out of to squirt us.

He nodded, laughing. “You also loved splashing puddles with the VW bus,” he said.

“You remember that?”

“Yep,” he said, grinning. “That and a lot of other stuff.”

Suddenly “Wild” became my newest favorite movie.

Every life is a story, a movie in the making. We film new scenes as long as we have breath, and hope that someone is watching.

If we’re lucky, when our story ends and the credits roll, some scenes will linger in memory for the people we’ve loved, and the last line will read, “All was gift.”

Then we’ll begin the sequel.

Comments

  1. Marna Lister says:

    Pacific CREST Trail, not the Pacific Rim Trail. I, like Cheryl Strayed, have hiked portions of the rugged path. However, I did not pack the situations in my heart that she carried. PACIFIC CREST TRAIL – PACIFIC CREST TRAIL – PACIFIC CREST TRAIL

  2. Dave says:

    Sometimes life really IS like the movies!

    Eleven years ago, the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and her crew put me on a path I never imagined possible.
    I was 48 and worked in industrial instrumentation and process controls, not for NASA or its contractors.
    By the time STS-135 landed, my “Great Adventure” had gone from “Field of Dreams” through “Phenomenon” through “The Mothman Prophecies” to end as a “Big Fish” story.
    Memories of a lifetime for me, photos and inspiration for my friends and family.

  3. David Cook says:

    Your article on “Wild” is right on the mark. Thank you for putting my thoughts into words.

  4. Fran Pierce says:

    Found your articles in Abilene, TX newspaper and started reading them and loved them. I cut them out and send them to my daughter in NC who’s newspaper does not print them I assume. I now have my husband reading them and cutting them out of the local paper if I forget to myself before I try to dispose of the paper. Thank you for sharing your life with so many of us cause so many of us can relate to how you were raised we feel like you are someone we have already known for a long time. Keep the articles coming and looking at your picture I am surprised to find you have grown son’s and daughter’s along with grand children. You look wonderful and I am glad to get to see a photo of you. Blessings to you and your hubby in Las Vegas and to your wonderful family. We appreciate what you write for us to enjoy.

  5. Leslie says:

    Thank you, thank you for sharing your gifts with others! I always enjoy your articles and they touch me in one way or another. I usually laugh, cry, or nod in agreement and am thankful there are great humans like you around! This article was no different. I cried.
    I just had a birthday yesterday and have been feeling very aware of the passing of time; hoping I am not missing moments to share my gifts with family and friends. As a mother to four wonderful kids and a wife to an amazing husband, I hope my life is reflecting how much I believe that “all was gift”. Thank you for putting my feelings into words. Have a blessed 2015 and please, keep sharing!

  6. Joleen says:

    Lol, I used to babysit that “boy”. I can totally see Sharon in puddles with him. Such a fun mom.

  7. Dal Ogle says:

    I wish I wrote like this lady! She takes a big pot of life and perfectly boils it down to a very delicious soup. During the boiling, I am never sure what kind of soup I will get but, I know it will feed the part of my soul I didn’t even know was hungry.

  8. Maria says:

    I read the book “Wild” last year. Was going thru a rough patch and that book saved part of my spirit! So glad it touched yours too. Looking forward to seeing the movie soon. Happy New Year Sharon…we pulled another year off!

  9. Kate Sciacca says:

    Time spent with our grown up kids is always such a blessing… Our oldest was here for the entire Christmas week, with his wife and son. Almost 37, he still so much seems like my “little boy” – still trying to figure out how it is that I am only “40-something”….. 🙂

    Hope you all have a blessed and happy New Year – we are off to Monterey on the 1st – going to enjoy dinner at Rosine’s as soon as we arrive…. Another son got us a gift card to that great place for Christmas… Smart kid! 🙂

  10. Shashi says:

    We all have stories to tell . We write in words some .If kids have time to listen it is a gift in itself . If they do not have time it is still a memory for us to celebrate by ourselves when they have little kids to take care . A phone call with face time was a gift for me from my son who has 2 little kids only 16 months apart . I was happy though to see my family .
    Thank u for sharing your story Sharon . You have a great new year full of new experiences !! Lot of love

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