In the words of Paul Revere: Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!
We have a tradition in the Miller home of (the kids) taking turns to pick out the Christmas tree. I picked this year’s. It’s gorgeous. The last time I picked a tree was seven years ago (which makes me think my turn was skipped or I’m a liar and picked another one in there). Anyway, the last tree I picked was a thing to behold. A beast. A beaut. A symbol of the magnitude of joy Christmas contains.
(My dad is 6’1″ by the way.)
Oh, and if you want to know what to get me film lovers for Christmas, this short gift guide might help you out: LYDIA.
This week’s special edition of Throwback Thursday takes less of trip through time and more of a glimpse through space.
I am from Mooresville, Indiana, not to be confused with Moore’s Hill, Indiana. Mooresville is small, central town probably closer to Parks and Rec‘s Pawnee than we Mooresvillians will admit. This is supported by the fact that my dad, much like Ron Swanson, lives on meat, eggs, and coffee and hates skim milk and big government. Also much like Pawnee, Mooresville is charmingly ridiculous (and also ridiculously charming). It’s the “heart of the heart of the country.” I stole this phrase from William H. Gass, and although he uses it for Ohio, I often pass it off as my own description of Mooresville. By often, I mean the the other time I used it.
Let’s look at five Mooresville facts because I want to. (NOTE: While some of these came from my mind, others came from wikipedia, and I think this adds to the ridiculousness).
1. Mooresville’s best restaurants (and what to order): Biff’s (bismark), Gray’s (pie and chicken and noodles), Hong Kong (crab rangoon), Squealer’s (pulled pork) and Starbucks (coffee)
2. My middle school’s name is Paul Hadley, after the Mooresvillian designer of the State Flag. My elementary school’s name is Neil Armstrong, after the man on the moon who was at no point a Mooresville resident.
3. There is a Ponderosa in Mooresville that I’m pretty sure only stays open because of its claim to fame, a visit from Ronald Reagan in 1985.
4. Mooresville’s famous residents:
John Dillinger – The town plays a really important role in the Johnny Depp movie, Public Enemies, like when Dillinger says, “I was raised on a farm in Mooresville, Indiana,” and then it’s never mentioned again.
Frank Inn – Inn was the owner and trainer of Orangey (the cat in Breakfast At Tiffany’s), Arnold (the pig from Green Acres), and Higgins (most commonly known as, “Benji”). My mom grew up across the street from his family’s farm, and once, Inn brought Benji to church where he actually bowed his head, folded his paws, and prayed.
Sammy Lee Davis – “The Real Forrest Gump.” The majority of Gump’s time in Vietnam came from Davis, and I’m just going to say it, the majority of Gump’s… mind also came from Davis. Davis came to school to talk and show off his Medal of Honor once. The guy told us his heroic story, but honestly, I only remember being irate that none of his children used their automatic acceptance to a military academy. Not sure what this says about me.
5. Movies made in Mooresville: (a) about fifteen seconds of Hoosiers, (b) …
That’s it for facts. In other news…
Now, let’s look at some Ron Swanson quotes my dad has paraphrased without ever having seen the show:
“Fishing relaxes me. It’s like yoga, except I still get to kill something.”
“I don’t want to paint with a broad brush here, but every single contractor in the world is a miserable, incompetent thief.”
“Turkey can never beat cow.”
“Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.”
“History began July 4th, 1776. Anything before that was a mistake.”
In film school, there’s a lot of introduction action. New professors, new students, new classes, new, new, new. And with every new, I give the same little, inarticulate tale of who I am and how I came to be there. Now what’s truly terrible about these interludes, is the dreaded follow-up question: “what’s your favorite movie?” That’s not to say that movies are dreaded (I am in film school after all), but do you know how hard it is to pick a favorite one? It’s like picking a favorite child – bad example, since my mom would pick me easily. 🙂
This question is stressful. “I should pick something everyone likes, right? Or at least make it a high art film, if one exists. Anything from the AFI list… Just don’t go rom-com.” My thoughts run rapidly, and I’m stuck.
“What’s the film that made you want to be a screenwriter?” The professor usually thinks this question will help me answer, but really, it just sets me back further. And I find myself wondering, honestly, what was the cinematic experience that made me want to do this? The movie that spoke to my heart and said, “this is where you belong.” Wouldn’t that be crazy if movies could speak to your heart? (writing in moleskin now)
Was it Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken or Pete’s Dragon or Free Willy? Atlantic City! Mickey Rooney! Sa la na, a yuum, iasis! I certainly loved them. I certainly remember them. But really, Wild Hearts just made me want a horse, Pete’s led me to develop my own “imaginary friend” (who was a horse thanks to WHCBB), and Free Willy shaped my future career dreams as a marine biologist for the next blah-blah-still-halfway-a-dream years.
Or couldn’t/shouldn’t the film that made me want to do film be super epic? Like seeing Citizen Kane for the first time? Rosebud! Maybe not Citizen Kane. You can’t hurt me later, but I find it to be the most boring movie I’ve ever sat through more than once.
But It’s A Wonderful Life? Clarence! Clarence! ZuZu’s petals! Surely that film is both epic enough and one that had a huge impact, right? I mean, it makes me speak in a James Stewart accent for at least three days out of each year. That’s something, right?
Or could it be the time I saw Click? Yes, the Adam Sandler movie. After watching it I thought, “I just have to be a part of making people laugh like that.” Or Dumb and Dumber or Tommy Boy? Movies that shaped most of the dialogue I share with my brothers. Oh, Richard. Harry, your hands are freezing.
Or watching Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail with my mom? And the experience of witnessing a woman who can’t remember the name of a movie she’s seen the day before (love you!), suddenly recall every Ephron-infused line. It was… magic! Shriveled little legs! I wanted it to be you!
Or maybe going through the Indiana Jones and Star Wars lineup with my dad? Watching epic worlds unfold right before my eyes.
Or the coolest moment of my life, when my chic older sister took me (the annoying little one) to see Princess Diaries at a sneak preview?
Or watching Prancer with my whole family as the Christmas tree lights tinkle in the reflection of the screen.
Or maybe it’s all of them. Movies hold memories. I remember seeing Austin Powers: Goldmember in theaters not because of the movie (trust me), but because I met a very good friend that night and we talked through the whole thing. Calm down, it was a theater full of middle schoolers.
Is it the fact that Free Willy, a movie, made me believe that I wanted to work with orcas without ever being around one? Isn’t that power magical? Isn’t that, combined with every movie that holds a place in my heart, the reason I wanted to be a part of making them?
Now, the question is, how do I make that into a one-word answer? Maybe I’ll just go with Citizen Kane.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I think about the sixties, the 1960’s that is, and I think about everyone and their mother smoking and drinking, pregnant or not. How unusual. How hilarious. Thank goodness we don’t have something that embarrassing going on in the time we live, am I right?! Then I remembered, I used to love to play with this metal container in the back seat of our van growing up. It made a super annoying sound, and being the youngest child, I flipped it open and closed very often, sure to fulfill my role of aggravating little sister. Now, it just hit me the other day what that silver container was. It was an ashtray built into the backseat of the car, so, you know, everyone in the car can smoke with the windows up and not get ashes everywhere. How hilarious. How weird. The only hope I have for this is that my neon t-shirts and stirrup pants will someday be looked upon with the same retro nostalgia of the Mad Men skirt suit. A girl can dream, and I do, often of dole whip and long hair of yesteryear…
The ocean. One of my favorites then and now, too. The ocean seems to me to be the ultimate metaphor for a good life. It has it’s stormy days and it’s weak days, but no matter how many times the water recedes from shore, a new wave always comes back up. No matter what tragedy or bad day or any worldly happening, the ocean just keeps on washing over the sand, making it new again.
I’m content in never being satisfied. Let me explain. Life moves, constantly. At each victory, there is a new mountain, and this cycle is beautiful. But it’s also tedious and daunting and exhausting. I think, then, that it’s important to savor the tiny moments of satisfaction peppered, or even hidden, in the daily. These things make me feel accomplished when the bigger dreams are so far from complete, and they make the journey fun.
And let me just say this. I’m in my twenties, and this has made me think it’s entirely natural to feel discontent and far from where I think I need to be. But I think I’m probably always going to feel a little like that no matter my age. After all, this isn’t our final destination. It’s a gift to never be done, isn’t it? I mean, in some ways taking that on, makes me more at rest and more satisfied than when I actually accomplish something I perceive to be huge. Therefore, I’ve created a list, my friends, of daily things that give me, and I hope you, too, satisfaction.
1. AN EMPTY EMAIL INBOX. This is an amazing feeling! Note, you can find all of your unread emails by searching “is: unread” in gmail. You’re welcome. Outlook is a different beast, and I’m not doing to dwell on my 82 unread emails lost somewhere in the recesses of the internet. Surely, they’re just advertisements, right?
2. A NEW JAR OF PEANUT BUTTER. You’ve got a new container of pb. Congratulations! You now have enough goodness to last you a few weeks’ worth of PB&J’s (or PB&B(bananas)) if you’re hilly now, or you have enough creamy goodness to last you a single afternoon of Grey’s Anatomy if you’re hilly from freshman year of college. Self control issues concerning the Kryptonite that is peanut butter aside, I think we can all agree that taking the first scoop out of a perfectly smooth surface of manufactured deliciousness is one of the true joys in life. For the record, I am fully supporting of you almond butter lovers out there, but you Nutella people, I think you’re getting greedy.
3. TEETH FLOSSING. I understand a good deal of us don’t floss. Gross. I used to be in that category. Gross. We had to stick it to the dentist, right? Wrong. Let me tell you, flossing is one of the best, most satisfying parts of my day. Yes, that’s right. Flossing=good. Repeat.
4. LAUGHING. I’m going to put this twice because I want to. First, let’s talk about the physical act of laughing. Laughing is completely satisfying. It’s cathartic, it lightens everything, it makes you feel like you got a good ab workout in, etc.. When I heard about laugh therapy, I began a habit of taking a few minutes when I’m alone (I would suggest doing the same :)) and laughing. This means fake laughing until something real comes along. It’s actually really fun and silly and stupid, and who doesn’t like that combination. Quiet down, robots.
5. LAUGHTER. More abstractly, it feels good to be able to laugh at myself. I do a lot of dumb stuff. The person who stupidly cut you off in traffic or stood in the middle of the hallway doing nothing but unknowingly blocking your way or even the idiot who forgot to return a movie for a month and now owes twice the movie’s retail value? Those people are probably all me. I don’t mean to do any of this, and it’s pretty easy to get angry at myself for being dumb. But, I try, and I’m so happy when I succeed, to just laugh about it. It’s harder with the traffic, but the hallway thing, that’s how I make a work buddy! One that hates me to begin with, but hey, I’ll win them over.
These moments are affectionately referred to as “Bridget Jones” moments in the Miller household (possibly only by me). An example? I ordered a coffee named, “The Annihilator” this morning, and no joke, I said, “May I please have The Ann-hil… um the- this one,” having to resort to pointing after I botched the pronunciation of a simple word. The barista helped me out; I explained that I can’t read, a joke that I gave a little to dryly, and now will never go to that coffee shop again for fear he will give me a pack of Biscuit books. But the really special part, was how I laughed for five minutes afterwards about it. I know I’m not actually dumb, I hope. No, I’m not a genius, but hey, I like that I’m not. I’m happy with that. I played a spelling board game once, and one of my friends said that it was sad I couldn’t spell an “easy” word since I want to be a writer. Well, guess what, I’ve never been good at spelling even though I read and write a lot, so give it a break. Give yourself a break. I’ll give you a break. I want a kit-kat. This is getting off topic. The point is, laughing at yourself is a relief, and it’s one that I hope to share, not in a cruel way, but with compassion, to everyone I meet. We’re going to mess up, and it’s okay. It’s okay to be you, even if you’re a decently smart, bad spelling, peanut butter loving laugher like me, and it’s okay if you’re not any of those things. I’m glad I’m me, and I’m glad you’re you, and I’m glad to have little moments of satisfaction for us all to enjoy.
In honor of currently visiting family in the desert, here’s a family in the desert. Oh, and the family’s mine, and they’re the best. I’m the little one.
Ps. Mom taught me this trick for the spelling of desert vs. dessert, and for those of us who struggle with spelling, even though it has nothing to do with intelligence, I thought it might be helpful. Dessert has two S’s because you always want more of it. Never mixing those two up again.