In every childhood mind, there are givens. In yours, it might have been that dinner started exactly at 7:00 every night or that the neighbor kid would come over even when he wasn’t invited or that the woman down the street who sat on her porch and watched you walk to school was a witch. In mine, there were three givens that lasted the longest—long enough that my no-longer-a-child mind remembers them still. One: Velveeta Shells and Cheese was the greatest macaroni and cheese ever and could and should be eaten as a whole meal unto itself. Two: The cats liked my oldest brother better than the other three kids combined, probably because he’s the only one of us who actually liked cats. Three: when you got to the point in the movie where the music swells and the view becomes sweeping and cinematic and the dog finds his way home or the kid walks for the first time or the ghostbusters destroy the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man, you could look over to the couch where my mom was sitting and be absolutely sure that she was crying.
And we’re not talking two little tears and a smile. We’re talking clean up on aisle two, total ugly cry, where the weeping might not be audible but it certainly couldn’t hide for long. And my childhood mind was sure that it would happen at every movie, regardless of genre or length or whether or not my mom even liked it. I swear my mother cried at the raptors attacking the tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park.
This was a source of great annoyance to me as a kid. So was my mother’s propensity to sing harmonies, no matter the song. It could come up on the radio, it could be worship in church, it could be the theme song to 7th Heaven. My mom is a good singer: she majored in vocal music in college. The idea that that great voice was wasted on something that wasn’t even the main melody was abhorrent to me. I remember leaving the room in a huff in order to escape it.
Now that I’m reasonably adult-ish, I’m not so hard on my mother. She still cries at all movies, and she still sings only harmonies, but I tend to stay in the room for these things now. In fact, just the other day, I had a terrible realization that I was doing that thing all good dramatic movies warn you not to do: I was becoming my mother.
I was at my internship with the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, going through some online training modules about children’s safety on the internet. In one of the modules was a link to the NetSmartz.org homepage, and I clicked on it. The homepage had an October-themed video starring the NetSmartz mascot, Clicky, who talked about all his favorite things about autumn, including football season. In the background of the video played an instrumental song that I recognized and I couldn’t figure out from where, so I sat and listened to it for a moment until I got the distinct impression that it was somehow linked to the movie Rudy with Sean Astin. As I thought more about it, I realized that the music was probably from the pivotal scene in the movie where [SPOILER ALERT] Rudy goes out onto the field during the last game of his senior year.
Because I am a nostalgic ninny, and because I was so sick of the training modules by now, I popped over to YouTube and looked around for a clip from the movie just to see if I was right about the music. I quickly found this video. I had been right about the music in Clicky’s autumnal homepage; it was somehow lifted right out of this scene. I took a short moment to appreciate my bear trap of a memory, and then, after about two seconds, started bawling. Ugly-face crying, right there, in my cubicle, watching a grainy clip of a movie I hadn’t seen in about ten years.
And I realized… I am my mother.
I’ve said the phrases, “Because I said so,” and “If _____ jumped off a cliff, would you follow their example?” plenty of times in my nearly three years of working with children, but it wasn’t until Rudy Ruettiger was blurred behind a curtain of saline that I realized just how much of my mother I had picked up and held onto over the years. I mean, I’d maybe prefer it if I had picked up her math skills or that excellent singing voice, or her ability to calmly and pragmatically handle the many crises that come her way. But it makes sense that, after two and a half decades of life on this earth, over-appreciating the ridiculously optimistic moments in stage and screen is the trait of my mother’s that sticks with me.
But, let’s be real, that Tyrannosaurs’ roar as the “Welcome to Jurassic Park” banner cascades from the lobby ceiling…it’s pretty moving stuff.
Mary Margaret is a 2013 English, history, and secondary education grad who went rogue and became a Social Worker in Pennsylvania’s Child Welfare system. Specifically, she works as a caseworker in the Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network finding families for children and educating the masses about foster care, adoption, and permanency planning. She made it over the grad-school hurdle with gold stars and warm fuzzies and is on to the next big adventure: the unknown of adulthood. Her major writing dream right now is to finish her science fiction novel that explores the concurrent futures of child welfare and artificial intelligence.