I love movies. Like a lot. However, I’m not one of those movie snobs who just watches for the purpose of debating about whether the director accomplished what she/he set out to do or if the movie’s theme was a metaphor for something. I watch movies for pure enjoyment and entertainment. A good movie has really great characters, people I can connect with or relate to.
When I was about 12 years old, my mom and I were at the K-mart in Artesia, New Mexico. I was walking the aisles of the movie section when I saw a VHS of Mermaids, up for sale. I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about, other than what I had read on the back of the sleeve. But I knew I had to have it. I begged my mom to buy me this movie, probably to the point of humiliating her in this public space. My poor mom. Here she was already having to deal with cashiers who didn’t speak Spanish and her 12 year old translator is having a meltdown in the middle of K-mart.
As soon as I got home, I unwrapped the plastic from the tape, removed that stupid and unnecessary sticky, green label that connected the tape to the sleeve, slid the tape out of the box and popped the VHS into our VCR and pressed play. Sitting on the raggedy, brown coffee table, right in front of our television, I remember the opening credits and the voice of Charlotte Flax,
“My sister Kate learned to swim when most babies were still gnawing the side of their playpens. I adore her, everyone does. The day she was born I wanted to name her after St. Gobnait, the virgin beekeeper, but mother…Mrs. Flax, thought I was a little peculiar. I don’t agree.”
Then. It went straight to this song, which I’d sing out loud. Everywhere I went. Even in public. With absolutely no shame.
Yeah. I did that. I might still do that.
Sidenote: this may have been an inappropriate movie for a 12 year old, but Charlotte prayed a lot to God, so that cancelled out the bad stuff.
Winona Ryder’s character, Charlotte Flax, may be the only character I have ever identified with, especially at that young age and heading into my teenage years. Charlotte was confused about a lot of things; including kissing, for example, which she thought led to pregnancy. She struggled with who she was and her identity and seemed to fall in love a lot. That. Was. Me. Although my mom had absolutely nothing in common with Charlotte’s mom, Cher’s character, Mrs. Flax, there are instances in the movie in which their relationship parallels that of mine and my mom’s back in the day.
After she returns home, just days after attempting to run away (I never got as far as the capilla of the Jesus tortilla), Mrs. Flax tells Charlotte, “You weren’t born with a book of instructions!” She goes on, urging Charlotte to tell her what is wrong with her so she can help her. Charlotte remains silent.
For much of my early teenage years, I too, was silent. I also wore a lot of black, yet stylish clothes, was super moody and believed that the entire community of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, including my really good friends (who I’d known since I was four), did not understand who I was and never would. I was quite a peculiar person.
Perhaps we’re all like that growing up. But Charlotte’s mom was right. Children aren’t born with a book of instructions and that’s clearly true when it came to my parents, specifically my mom, who worked really hard to try to figure me out. Even at the ripe old age of 35, she’s still trying to figure me out.
Just look at the picture above. She literally had to pull me from my ears.