Did you ever watch the Merchant Ivory films of the 1980’s and 90’s? You know, the ones with Helena Bonham Carter?
Well, around the time I saw “Room With A View” for the first time I also recall spending the day with my parents and one of their friends. We all drove together to a path along the Mississippi River about an hour or so from the city and visited stores in Main Street buildings that had been preserved from the 1800’s. And we took in the view and went for walks along old trails. It was very nice.
But what I recall most from that day was something my parent’s friend, I’ll call her Maisie, said.
“I feel like I’m stuck in a rut.” Maisie was (unhappily) sitting in the back seat, next to me, when she said this. “Do you guys ever feel that way?”
Then, knowing my parents wouldn’t have any commentary, I responded. She got angry that I was responding to her comment instead of my parents (I was nine years old or so) and essentially scolded me and told me I was being rude. Then she questioned my parents again. Still, they had nothing to say.
There were a few of my parent’s friends who sometimes seemed like they wanted me to disappear, as an (only) child, and she was one of them. One or two of them grew to like me, at least (Maisie was one of them) as I grew up, and some seemed to do the opposite. But, that day, I was told to shut up and listen and my parents only sort of protested. So I did.
She had troubles with men and troubles with not doing enough and experiencing enough and she felt that her career was going nowhere. My parents, who were a good ten to fifteen years older than her, were supposed to have the answers. I’m not sure that they did, sadly.
And, about twelve years later, she died.
Her death was unexpected. She had diabetes and after getting very ill her body was unable to function so she died in her sleep one day, alone in her downtown flat.
But at 46 she felt that, as a single woman without kids, she was unlikely to find happiness to the degree she wished in life. Some thought her death was even a blessing in disguise to her. Her pastor almost said as much at her funeral.
At her funeral, I just kept thinking of that day years earlier. There she sat, at 34, with her long dark hair, wearing her floral skirt, denim vest and hat. Very early 1990’s. And she was so alive, despite her protestations otherwise.
She actually had a lot of hope. If she could just…push things past that unknown barrier and unlock that hidden door, she thought she’d be happy. And the calm, cozy elegance of that decade must have been the perfect backdrop to her seeming misery. Like an emotive film score that highlights the tiny crevices of a protagonist’s heart.
I’m suddenly thinking of songs by Cobain and The Cranberries. The Cranberries in particular.
And time is a funny thing. As one gets older it makes less sense and seems much more deceptive. Because in some way that moment feels as if it’s still here somehow. That day in the car, along the river, hasn’t ended yet.
On another dark note, I think many of us are still waiting (Millennials), in our 30’s, to have “respect from the elders”. But what does that mean? When we’re in our 50’s and many of them leave or have left, what will we make of it all?
And those moments we’re told to let go of and move on from? Can we? Really? When the answers never came or something was amiss? Is it possible a part of us in some very tangible, real sense is actually still there? I wonder. There’s so much we don’t understand yet about the fabric of the universe.
So dear Maisie, I know I wasn’t supposed to speak, but…you were in a rut. And no, my parents were not. They just didn’t want to tell you that. And so, dear Maisie, you should have lived, as you must have been wondering about. You were, after all, very alive then indeed.