Seriously Serious ChildrenFriday, December 11, 2009
In 1955 my grandmother, my mother and I went to see John Ford’s The Long Gray Line with Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara and Ward Bond. Power plays an Irish immigrant who becomes a career non-commissioned officer at West Point. It was a terrific film then and has remained so in subsequent viewings.
I was 13 at the time and I distinctly remember that we saw the film at a beautiful movie house called Cine Metropolitan on Calle Independencia in Mexico City. This theater survived and is now just that, a theatre. I remember as we walked out on to Calle Independencia that my grandmother told my mother, “This film would suggest that the Americans see a war that is coming soon. The purpose of the film is to get viewers ready for war.” My grandmother was wrong as Vietnam happened quite a few years later. She was uncharacteristically wrong as she took her family away from the Philippines to the United States in the 20s when she saw no future for them as she was a young widow who because of her social status (high) would not be able to find a job in Manila. She got her job in New York and prospered until she saw the stock market crash coming and moved back to Manila. She foresaw the winds of war and moved again to Buenos Aires in 1939. She persuaded my mother to move to Mexico City before Perón fell when his minions were burning churches. We were safe in Mexico City when the Argentine Navy shelled and bombed Plaza de Mayo killing many civilians.
Since I was old enough to understand I can remember my mother and grandmother talking of issues that were adult issues. They either thought I would not understand or they thought I would.
And so I was left with that memory of an impending war that never came that afternoon outside the Cine Metropolitan as the memory of those long gray lines of marching soldiers and watching Maureen O’Hara with tears in her eyes glory at the special remembrance of her husband, the non-commissioned officer that was played by Tyrone Power. Only now do I see that this film was simply a military version of Goodbye Mr. Chips.
Some years before in the late 40s and early 50s my father and my mother had taken me to late shows in downtown Buenos Aires. Some of the films I remember vividly such as Beau Geste, Destination Moon and The Robe. I wonder if they ever worried that films had too much adult content. I think that to them this may have been irrelevant.
By the mid 50s my mother was handing me novels that she enjoyed and I began reading Frank G. Slaughter and Frank Yerby whose novels gave me my first indication of what birds and bees really did. She recommended Daphne Du Maurier and Spanish writer Salvador de Madariaga.
In spite of it all I do think I had a childhood and I played my fair share of pirate situations with wooden swords or war games with toy soldiers. I remember annoying my mother as I made the foxholes on her nice Buenos Aires lawns. She gave me money to buy caps for my Gene Autry Colt. At the same time I believe that she never did talk down to me as if I were only a child. I was something more.
Yesterday I took Lauren (all dolled up in a red dress and black patent leather shoes to a show at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. The show featured a local rock band for youth called Duplex. They were a seriously good rock band that had lyrics that would satisfy both an adult and a child. An adult would have been impressed by the sophistication of their lyrics. Lauren appreciated such songs as Eat Your Salad and This Is How You Make a Sandwich. These shows begin at 7 and never run more than an hour. The Cultch has a special plan that makes it relatively inexpensive to take children 12 or over.
We arrived early as there was free pizza. The Cultch is attempting to draw out families to see live shows featuring theatre, music or dance. Perhaps if enough children go to enough shows a pattern will be set in their lives for an appreciation for live performances that go beyond juvenile shows on TV. This, I believe is a laudable effort.
Lauren would not have been caught dead dancing on the dance floor with the other children. She was sitting next to me looking like a child adult. I wonder if this is how I looked to my father and mother. Lauren noticed everything and told me “I had fun and I liked the pizza.”
Tonight I am going with Rebecca (12) to the Firehall Theatre to see Company Erasga’s modern dance performance, Adam-Eve/ Man-Woman featuring the choreography of Alvin Erasga Tolentino with dancers Alison Denham and Billy Marchenski.
We know for sure that at least at the beginning both Denham and Marchenski will be firmly ensconced in Paradise with nary a fig leaf. Rebecca is a veteran of nudity in modern dance (she saw Slab when she was 6 or 7). I wonder if my mother would have taken me to such a performance had there been one in Buenos Aires at the time.
I wonder, and I wonder, but I do suspect that I am going in the right direction in my contribution to the education of Lauren and Rebecca. They giggle and they laugh but they know how to be serious when the situation dictates.