Sunday, May 8, 2016

Regarding How My Mom Is the Best

I don't mean to belittle anyone else's mother by my title to this post, but here's the deal, my mom is the kindest most loving woman you've probably ever met. Those of you that have met her will readily agree. Those of you who haven't met her, I'm sorry. You're really missing out. I mean, really missing out. She's one of those people that can make others feel welcome and at ease and comfortable no matter what. I could tell a host of stories illustrating these attributes on large and small scales, but I just want to briefly recount a seemingly insignificant story that she may not even remember, but it's an experience that has stayed with me a long time. 

Before I get to the story I need to insert two brief bits of background: 

1. Ever since I was a little kid, books and movies have affected me very deeply. If characters do something that I don't like or that I don't necessarily agree with I react much more strongly than I probably should. Just today, in fact, I was discussing with my friends how I can't watch the movie Dan in Real Life because the awkwardness of the various situations that come up are just unbearable to me. I physically squirm every time the bowling scene happens. All of that unpleasantness could have been avoided if people had just talked to each other, for crying out loud. The same goes for It's A Wonderful Life. Every time I watch it I hope against hope that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Potter will find a heart and give the money back to Uncle Billy. But he never does. He never does! Maybe this is just a manifestation of my very strong aversion to conflict, but that's beside the point for now. The point is, when characters do things that I wouldn't do or that I feel like is the wrong thing to do, I can't help but to be bothered by it. And continue to be bothered by it long after the movie or book is over. (I could give many other examples, but this is enough for now.)

2. During my teenage years I had a midnight curfew whenever I was staying out with friends. Whenever I was out, my Mom stayed up until I got home, even if I was getting home a little later than my curfew. It wasn't that she wanted to check up on me and police me to make sure I got home alright, it was that she couldn't sleep until she knew I was home safe and sound.

With these two facts in mind, I want to tell you about the time I went to the midnight showing of War of the Worlds during the summer of 2005.

I need to mention that I didn't think the movie was all that great. In fact, I frankly didn't even really care to see it. But a couple of my friends wanted to go, and we were all about to take two years out of our lives to be Mormon missionaries, so I wanted to go with them. I think we may have even decided to go to the midnight showing not because anyone was really dying to see the movie, but because it was a plausible excuse to convince my parents to let me stay out after midnight and we wanted to hang out as much as possible.

The movie was good enough I guess, but during the movie there was one scene that really bugged me. In the scene Tom Cruise and his kids are driving through town in the only car that works, and it becomes clear to the crowds of people that they're driving through that this is the only car that works and it might be their ticket to be safe from the aliens. So the crowds start attacking the car and breaking the glass trying to get in (even though doing so means cutting their hands). Eventually Tom and the kids get out of the car and get away, but the crowd behind them keeps fighting over the car. Most of what happens after this happens off screen, but it is made very clear that individuals whom we have just met, loathsome as they may have been, are then murdered in cold blood. Again, we don't see anything, we just hear the gun shots and see the family's reactions. I didn't know why exactly, but like I said, this really bothered me.  

The movie proceeded to a satisfying enough conclusion, and me and my friends got up and headed for home. On the drive home I didn't let on to my friends that anything was bothering me, but bothered I was. Something about that scene kept nagging at me. As a result, the whole feel I got from the movie just didn't sit well with me, and I honestly wasn't sure why. I got home well after 2 am, and sure enough there was Mom sitting on the couch dozing lightly with a crossword puzzle in her lap. As I came in the door, Mom looked up and smiled and asked me how the movie was. At first I was inclined to just say that it was fine and to head off to bed, but like I said, I was bothered. Not meaning to really get into it at all, I said something along the lines of, "It was alright. It kinda bugged me, but whatever." Mom, perceptive as she is, recognized that something was eating at me, so she pushed for details. So I sat down on the stairs and started describing the movie. When I got to the scene I described above, I mentioned that that scene specifically bugged me but I didn't really know why.

I say I didn't know why, because the concept of humans killing other humans, while terrible, wasn't a foreign concept. I was nearly 19 years old after all. I watched TV. I'd seen Law and Order. One of my favorite movies was (and is) The Dirty Dozen. I had spent a good amount of my high school years playing Medal of Honor: Allied Assault with my friends. Death wasn't this new, awful thing. So it wasn't necessarily the killing that was the issue, but I didn't really know what the issue was. 

After hearing me out, Mom wondered aloud if what bothered me wasn't that people were killing and dying, but rather that what bothered me was the assumption the movie was making about humanity. The assumption being that normal everyday humans, when driven to extreme crisis, turn savage and are willing to do anything - even kill other humans whose only crime is representing some perceived threat to their survival - just to gain some semblance of advantage. As she mentioned this I recognized that yes, that was exactly the issue. I remember I stood up from the step I was sitting on and began to say that yes, I didn't buy that assumption. I didn't believe that about humanity I believed that in crisis people wouldn't turn savage, but instead would revert to the better angels of our nature and find some way to cooperate and work together. I was excited to be able to recognize what it was that had bothered me so much, and in identifying it I was able to calm down and not be so bothered.

I don't remember where the conversation went from there, but I doubt much more was said, and we both went to bed. In all, the conversation maybe lasted 5-10 minutes. Short as it was, there are a couple of things about the conversation that have always stood out to me:

1. This was the first time that I experienced first hand the catharsis that can come from literary criticism, simple as it was. Mom, by helping me dig into and better understand the argument the movie was making about the human condition, helped me to identify and resolve the emotional conflict that resulted from the film. This was a real turning point for me in being able to better deal emotionally with books and movies (and later theories and philosophies) that didn't sit well with me, and was part of the reason I decided to study English once I'd come home from my mission.

2. Mom was clearly very tired. I, fairly inconsiderately, had kept her up much later than she would have liked to be up. Even so, when I got home from the movie clearly bothered about something, rather than just saying goodnight and sending me off to bed, she took a minute to help me figure out what was bothering me. And it wasn't like it was a big deal either. I hadn't had some crisis of faith or identity that needed discussing. I wasn't an emotional wreck or anything of the sort. I was just bugged by some dumb movie. I probably would have gotten to sleep just fine (heaven knows sleeping is never a problem for me). But something was bugging me, little as it was, and she wanted to help me figure it out and get over it if she could, even if it meant her staying up a little bit longer.

Again, this isn't all that remarkable of a story, but to me it's representative of the kind of woman my mom is. She's kind and loving. She's easy to talk to. She's very perceptive of the needs of others, even relatively small needs, and she is willing to help serve and lift those in need any way she can. 

All told, she's probably the best mom this boy could possibly hope for, and I don't know how I got so lucky to have her be my mother. 


  1. Here, here! I love the picture too!

    1. Thank you, Sam. That meant the world to her.

    2. Thank you, Sam. That meant the world to her.