Friday, July 30, 2010

On the Road to Making Amends, or A Family Thing

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—I was supposed to go camping with my mother, my father and one of my younger brothers in Pennsylvania somewhere this weekend, thus making it yet another weekend with minimal exposure to the big screen (and maybe some exposure to the small screen). But earlier in the week, I decided not to go.

Why? For one thing, I've discovered this year that camping outdoors is a pastime that fills me with more dread than excitement. I hate how long it takes to pull down/prop up our RV; I feel no sense of accomplishment in putting up a tent; and while I have nothing against spending time in the great outdoors, I feel no particular pleasure in spending time overnight in it.

Really, though, there is one overriding reason I decided to follow the lead of my youngest brother and back out of this camping trip: I dread the prospect of spending an extended period of time with my mother around. Faithful readers of my blogs over the years will be fully aware of our history, so I won't bother to explain it all here (but if you want a primer, let me know in the comments and I'll try to sum it up). Suffice it to say: Every time I am in her presence, all I feel is tension and buried resentment, and more often than not, I act on it in mostly ugly and detrimental ways—and my awareness of said ugliness just makes me feel all the guiltier afterward. This become so prevalent in recent months that I am only now actively looking to finally move out from under her roof, on the theory that maybe our relationship will improve with distance. Because when I begin to feel a sense of dread even at the thought of spending a mere two full days around her, you know something needs to change...and that change isn't going to come from her end.

On Wednesday night, though, I came across this latest Viewing Log from Vinyl is Heavy, the fascinating and compulsively readable blog of film critic (and friend, though admittedly not a close one) Ryland Walker Knight. In it, among other topics, he discusses his experience watching and discussing Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale (2008) with his mother, and also talks eloquently about the subtle aesthetics of home videos, a topic inspired by videos of his own family he recently revisited.

And a funny thing happened as I read this post: I suddenly found myself experiencing a change of heart toward my mother. Not only did I feel ashamed of my recently intensifying (I have to be completely honest here) hatred toward her, but for the first time in a long time, I felt a strong need to at least make sincere gestures toward improving my relationship with her. If nothing else, I crave the familial harmony the post exudes.

Look, my mother will most likely always be, to my mind, stubborn, exasperating, micro-managing and judgmental, and I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable talking to her about deep personal issues. (When I first voiced my intention a few weeks ago to move, she freaked out, and I haven't really bothered to talk to her all that much about anything since.) But she is my mother; that will certainly never change. And she is a human being, as I am; no human being is perfect (Adam and Eve made sure of that). Does the good she has done for me over the first 24+ years of my life outweigh the bad? When all is said and done, I think the answer is "yes"—and certainly not just because she bore me in the first place. However insufferable she can sometimes be, everything she does comes from a sincere impulse, and I should probably recognize that more often than I do. Besides, it's the good I should try to remember when I'm around her, not the bad...even if sometimes it is very, veeery difficult to put aside the negative feelings.

All of this is just words, of course. But after reading Knight's Vinyl is Heavy post, for once I feel a great need to support that with some sort of action.

I've already made plans for this upcoming weekend, so I won't be able to start that process by going camping with her after all. At the end of next month, however, the whole Fujishima clan is planning to spend 12 days on the road driving all the way to Yellowstone National Park, camping there, and then driving back. I've been dreading it for the past few weeks, and I can't say I'm still all that enthused about spending such a lengthy period of time camping. Suddenly, though, I'm finding myself not dreading it so much. Perhaps I'm even feeling honest-to-God anticipation...?

Rest assured, though: This has not stopped me from looking for a place to live in New York. Not. One. Bit. That is just something my mother is going to have to live with, once it happens.

P.S. Knight's latest Viewing Log also features some commentary on Christopher Nolan's The Prestige—one of his better films, I think, and arguably his most visually distinguished—that is worth reading (as is pretty much everything he writes, really).


And on that note of reconciliation: I wish you all a very fine, joyful weekend! Let Jonathan Demme take you there:

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

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