Would the Movie of my Life start at the beginning? I know this is where things generally start but part of me wants to skip all of that:
The parents splitting before I could remember; the brother always punching me in the gut and farting on my head; the hot-faced, self-protective lying and the spankings that followed; the shame of my Kindergarten teacher scolding my snotty-nosed beau and I for kissing; the wandering hands of my step-father; the sneaking chocolates to school in my socks and having to explain the dark oozing goo to the popular girl who noticed – “a prank,” I’d said. “My brothers must have put them there.”
To fast-forward, though, would be to also miss the parts I’d like to hold on to. Is the trade-off worth it? Can I let go of learning to roller skate on cracked sidewalks and the resulting guilty-pleasure picking of scabs? Unconsciously memorizing the lyrics to Beach Boys songs on trips to Lake Michigan? Laurel and Hardy, Paul Harvey, Eddie Murphy, Friday the 13th? Sleepovers at Jessica’s house? Accompanying my father to the ballet, where he let me dance in the aisle until the usher told me to sit? The time a dog threw me to the ground and attacked my face and instead of feeling the pain and blood afterward, just the gratitude and wonder that all of my brothers were being nice to me at the same time? Hours of freedom spent climbing sticky trees, sledding down hills, baking pies of mud in the hot sun? Leaving coupons instead of money at roadside flower stands? Sneaking out that one and only time, to Frank’s house? The ease and comfort of using my friends’ toothbrushes to hide the smell of cheap alcohol on my breath?
I suppose I wouldn’t trade all of that.
The present-day scenes of The Movie of my Life would have to include the good with the bad, too. The laughter, the bike rides, the expectations. The feeling that one must create more than necessary. The mild panic of playdates. The understanding that one must look like a Good Mother – one who bakes, for example – so that friends will go away chirping “and then she gave us warm cookies!” I wonder now if Jessica’s mom was putting on a show when I came over? Was that popcorn on the floor in front of the TV in the living room normal? Was Mrs. Bailey sneaking mimosas while we were playing downstairs so that she could just chill out a little bit to get through the noise and bustle of us and make her daughter’s guest feel spoiled and therefore make her daughter feel proud to have her for a mother? In The Movie of my Life, maybe I can play Mrs. Bailey.
The Movie of my Life would have grand sweeping scenes of well-hidden melancholy; feelings of failure and then feelings of triumphant compensation – how does an actress portray that, exactly? My montage would show all of the times I’ve laughed, cried, jumped in the air, curled in a ball, gave a high-five, sang full-volume in the car, did drunk cartwheels in lumpy backyards, and clapped my hands in delight. It might be a confusing montage. How does one pick a song for that?
Or, The Movie of my Life could fade in right now:
Covers piled high in the center of the bed, left there after reluctantly abandoning the morning cocoon where we wake and then lay for too long exchanging an account of our dreams, lazily wrapping our limbs around each other as we each try to steal the other’s warmth; waking more with silliness and a smattering of ticklish kisses and a healthy dose of giggling. Sunlight on the kitchen table; second cup of tea steaming to my right, toast reduced to a few crumbs on an old blue plate to my left. Quick goodbye schoolyard kisses from the kids still warm on my lips; the feel of my daughter’s braids still on my fingers.
It would be short, but it would be sweet.