For whatever reason, my favorite movie as a kid was Mommie Dearest. Admittedly, an odd choice for a child. I could tell you that it was because there was something inspiring about Christina’s plight for justice and subsequent karmic satisfaction when she publicly (posthumously) exposed her mother for the monster she was.
Or maybe even that it encouraged me to appreciate my own calm, uneventful childhood knowing that some kids really have a rough go of it. It’s a lot harder to complain about having to make your bed with the knowledge that somewhere there’s a child out there getting the beat down with a wire hanger. But don’t think for a minute that it ever stopped me from reminding my Mom she was treading dangerously close to Joan Crawford status every so often. “Oh, I have to pack my own lunch this year? That’s cool… MOMMIE DEAREST!”
But it wasn’t any of that. Between us, the real reason I watched it on repeat is because I was fascinated by Joan Crawford milling around the house all day in a robe and head wrap, absently applying lotion to her elbows, icy cocktail ever glued to her hand. Queen of her castle, a bad ass bitch who doesn’t take no shit from no one.
Joan Crawford was the woman I loved to hate and her antics got me all kinds of riled up. Of all the iconic violent scenes, the absolute worst for me was in the beginning, just as we start to get a taste for Mommie Dearest’s vile insides. Christina had a nauseatingly overblown birthday party complete with live ponies, carousel and er my gerd don’t even get me started on those amazing oversized mesh sun bonnets. I die.
Everything was going just peaches until later that night, when Mommie Dearest marched into Christina’s bedroom and announced that she had to give all her presents to the orphans. “You… bitch!” I brazenly hissed at the television, low enough for my parents not to hear. You can beat me. Scissor off my hair in uneven chunks. Tell me how worthless I am as you kick my 8-year-old ass at swimming laps. But take away my birthday presents… bitch hold my hoops. Shit’s about to get real.
Many years have passed, and it’s amazing how parenthood just rearranges your brain without even asking. I now look at life through a new lens. A lens that thinks that maybe… just maybe… Mommie Dearest had some valid points. She was a single working Mom and I get it – it’s stressful. I mean, I would never in a million years hit any of my kids but flinging Ajax around the bathroom like a crazy person because the toilet is disgusting? Let’s just say I’ve done worse over less.
We had a birthday party for Lila a couple of weeks ago, and for the past few years we’ve asked birthday party guests to bring donations for the local crisis nursery instead of presents. After the first couple of birthday parties we were overwhelmed with stuff and even if they won’t admit it, all my kids really need is their bike and some crayons. Throw in a few Legos and you’ve got winter covered.
I’m not going to sugar coat it – my girls are not exactly thrilled with this scenario. We mostly get donations of diapers and wipes but every once in a while there’ll be a toy. I can talk until I’m blue in the face how lucky they are to have a house and two loving parents, but nothing in the world has ever been as important to them as that pack of Play Doh we’re giving to an orphan.
And it goes both ways. My vision of gifting them insight to the world of poverty and endowing them with values like compassion and philanthropy has really just devolved into threats like, “If you talk to me with that sass one more time I’m driving you to the crisis nursery and dropping you on the curb!” To which they usually laugh and clap because the crisis nursery has a play set out back.
My own Mom likes to point things out to me from time to time, to satisfy her own personal karmic itch. There’s a lot about my childhood with two sisters that she just relishes tossing back in my court now that I have three girls of my own. I called her last week for a visit as we were on our way downtown to drop the donation and after I told her where we were going she said, “I just love that you make your kids give away their birthday presents to orphans. What a good lesson. It’s just like Mommie Dearest, but whatever – great idea, Joan!”
Sometimes you can see a lightning bolt coming from a mile away, but when there’s no where to run you just have to stand there and get hit.