Once again, the job I love had me on the road last week. It was a quick trip, a day transiting through Istanbul and three more in Germany for a half-dozen meetings over beers and bratwurst. It’s the kind of jaunt I would have loved before kids, when I did not have to worry about them missing me, and me missing them. Plus, my departure was set for a couple days after Katie’s birthday, which is never ideal.
My brother, who lives in Germany, said, “Why don’t you bring her?” I poked around online, found cut-rate airfare, and made plans to meet up with my brother’s whole family in Munich. On Katie’s birthday, my present to her was an envelope with plane tickets, her passport, and 100 Euros (thanks Grandma). Two days and 10 time zones later, we were feet-dry in Deutschland. Between my work meetings, we saw castles and museums and ate pretzels until we were stuffed.
Most of all, we talked, about the kinds of things that only come out when you spend hours and hours with someone you love. We staggered through our jetlag together, and spent one too many midnights watching bad movies on German Netflix. Towards the end we began plotting our next adventure. Thailand? South Africa? Vladivostok? As a father, it’s easy to bemoan the fact that my little girl is growing up. Too often, it happens while I am gone. But there is an upside. She’s becoming an awesome wingman.
I first fell in love with Alan Rickman in Die Hard. I know Bruce Willis was the one we were supposed to like. With those yippee-ki-yay lines and beefy muscles, it was hard not to be charmed. But it was Rickman’s portrayal of villain Hans Gruber that floored me. I never knew the bad guy could be so… good – so droll, so unpredictable, so smart. Rickman played a similar role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. And even though we were treated to a glimpse of Kevin Costner’s naked tush, it was Rickman who became the object of my affection.
So, of course, I was not surprised when he turned up in Sense and Sensibility, as a behind-the-scenes, waiting-in-the-wings, older suitor. We were expected to be distracted and all a-flutter in the face of Hugh Grant’s Edward and that bad-boy Willoughby, but I found myself delighted whenever the camera panned back to Rickman’s Colonel Brandon who was desperate to serve the ladies who’d been wronged.
Yes, we loathed him, and then loved him as Professor Severus Snape in all of those Harry Potters. Though I confess, I grew a bit tired of the way they usurped him all those years. Especially now, I feel cheated of films that might have been. Only Love Actually fell short. In his other villainous roles, Rickman had a loyalty, a self-possession, a delivery of lines that left one breathless. In Love Actually, his marital infidelity was simultaneously matter-of-fact and so very shocking that it completely ruined the movie for me. I imagine it was someone’s idea of irony — in a film full of romance, the only happily married man turns out to be a cheat. But I found it difficult to forgive Alan Rickman for the plain meanness of that role.
But then there was always Truly, Madly, Deeply tugging me back. I watched it on video one college winter break, and was floored. There was this long-haired Alan Rickman — a lover, a cellist, a ghost – and I understood the sacredness of love. Some people simply cannot be gotten over. We may will ourselves to go on, to trudge along, but only because we must. Some people are irreplaceable.
Jamie and Nina, the main characters in Truly, Madly, Deeply, sing a duet, awkwardly, at first, but then with a kind of bumbling perfection:
Sun ain’t gonna shine anymore,
Moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky,
Tears are always clouding your eyes,
When you’re without love.
That he died today, on the day the Academy Awards nominations were announced, was fitting. Alan Rickman never received one. Was never even nominated. I find this a tremendous oversight.
For those of us reeling, thinking dejectedly of the body of work we have been denied, that he will never be an elder statesman of stage and screen, Rickman left us with words to keep going. His character, Jamie, muddles through a Pablo Neruda poem, La Muerta, or The Dead Woman, about loving and letting go:
Si tú no vives,
si tú, querida, amor mío, si tú
te has muerto,
todas las hojas caerán en mi pecho,
lloverá sobre mi alma noche y día,
la nieve quemará mi corazón,
andaré con frío y fuego
y muerte y nieve,
mis pies querrán marchar hacia donde tú duermes, pero seguiré vivo […]
If you are not living
If you, beloved, my love, if you have died.
All of the leaves will fall on my breast,
It will rain on my soul all night, all day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with frost and fire
and death and snow,
My feet will want to march to where you are sleeping
But I shall go on living…
I’ve wondered today why I felt so compelled to post about Alan Rickman, an actor, on DadvMom.com, a site about parenting. And I’ve boiled it down to this: he is a man I grew up with. I snuck into rated-R Die Hard when I was in junior high, and I watched Robin Hood with my prom date. Truly, Madly, Deeply saw me through my worst college break-up, the loss of the guy I had thought I would marry. And Sense and Sensibility ushered in the era of my now husband. We first saw the Harry Potter films on date nights, and later, with our children. Like Nina from Truly, Madly, Deeply, I am simply astonished that we must go on living without him.
Rest in Peace, Alan. Your memory is already a blessing.
When I think about the difference between my childhood and that of my children, it basically boils down to The Sound of Music.
I am old enough to remember when The Sound of Music was only aired once a year, often around the holidays, on regular television, with commercials, from roughly 8pm until midnight. We usually turned it on late. My parents made me go to bed before it was over. But, in-between, I got the gist of things. A little Do-Re-Mi. Some 16 going on 17. And lots and lots of nuns. And if we missed it, there was always next year.
Of course, with the advent of Betas and VHS, it became possible to rent The Sound of Music experience. When the tape was available at the library or the local rental place, and when my family could agree that that was what we wanted to watch, we could bring the movie home and view it a couple of times. I could watch my favorite scenes again and again, to memorize the kids’ mannerisms, and the choreography. Mom could watch it with her own bowl of popcorn after we had all gone up to bed. Together, we could even fast-forward through the nun songs – which is super-funny, and if you have never done that, you should stop reading and go try it right now.
These days, we stream most of our movies. And we have more than one player, so in theory, my children can simultaneously watch three different movie musicals all at the same time. Which means that The Sound of Music is competing against The Wizard of Oz and Grease and High School Musical 3 as well as every other movie ever written. So, even though my children could watch The Sound of Music any time they want — and even though they know it is one of my all-time-favorite movies — they never, ever, ever choose to watch it. In fact, I had a better chance of watching The Sound of Music when it was only on once a year during my childhood than I do of watching The Sound of Music now when it is literally available in my home at every single moment.
There is something just nutso about that. Because my kids have access to nearly everything all the time, I feel quite a bit of pressure to be their human filter, not just for naked people and cuss words, but to try to shape their childhoods in the sweet image of my own. If their musical viewing habits are any indication, I am failing. They have just watched Lemonade Mouth for the three-hundredth time, while I hummed “Edelweiss” in the background