When I read the review in Rotten Tomatoes I thought it’s one of those stories about gay rights. I’ve been into documentaries these past few years, as more and more of them are creatively produced by your average Joes with extraordinary messages. I just thought that this movie would enrich me the way And The Band Played On did more than a decade ago. I have even presumed, mistakenly, that the title ‘Bridegroom’ refers to the gay couple, who would like to be married eventually.

I was wrong. The doc is a moving tribute to a soulmate. A lifelong partner that might have grown old together and become doting grandparents. Just like any other ordinary couple. Maybe even better than my parents – they’re still married, 40 years and counting, even as my father is getting senile – and far better off than those divorced people or single mothers/fathers. ‘Bridegroom’ is a love story, I wish I would meet a normal guy, someday, who adores me like Tom Bridegroom did to Shane Bitney Crone and think the world of me.

Shane Bitney Crone
Shane Bitney Crone, a photo by the “IN” show on Flickr.

The crime documented in the movie here is ignorance, and inflated egos. Two-thirds of the movie shows how the happy couple grew up in different families, and how they finally met 6 years before Tom died in a freak accident. We learned Tom fell down from a building and rushed into hospital. The love of his life, Shane, was not by his side – Tom was taking picture of a friend when the accident happened – but it’s as if he’s being punished for the accident. In a blink of an eye, as Shane narrated, their relationship became non-existent in the eyes of Tom’s family. He was even denied by the hospital nurses to see Tom’s body at first, but at the last minute a kind soul managed to sneak him in so he can say his goodbye.

Tom’s mother flew to California as soon as she was informed. However, she went as far as taking all Tom’s belonging, including his personal computer that’s shared with Shane, and cleaned up their apartment while Shane was watching. Tom’s dad informed Shane that he was not welcomed in Tom’s funeral, and the family buried Tom in a plot between his mom’s and dad’s reserved plots. Though I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching to be treated like that, Shane managed to invite his and Tom’s friends and family for a memorial in California, without forgetting to invite Tom’s parents and putting up Tom’s family pictures in the memorial.

The essence of the documentary lies in the dynamic of two different families. Shane’s family accepted his unique characters early on – he’s been bullied by his peers throughout high school – but his mom and entire family supported him. Tom’s family is a typical Midwestern Christian one and it seems like he grew up in two different worlds – masculine sport-loving military-school graduate and a gifted creative singer and artist all the same. His family never accepted Tom’s life after graduation, although his mom did spend some time together with him and Shane. The movie taught me what I already knew: it’s hard for people, even for a Christian like me, to accept others just as they are. Christians are taught to ‘do unto others as you would have them do.’ What a wonderful life I would have if when I wake up tomorrow I wouldn’t need to worry about how I look to other people. How good life is if people can see past his or her ethnicity, academic degrees, religion or caste.

around the world
around the world, a photo by fiddleoak on Flickr.

[My family is a perfect example of how two cultures collide. My brothers did not marry into foreigners – they’re all married to women born and bred in Indonesia – yet we are like aliens to these in-laws. Each of my mom’s daughter-in-law, from the day they joined my family, never fail to make sure that ours is beneath theirs. Never mind that my mom paid for the wedding, helped paying out their honeymoon trips, family health insurance, even breakfast, lunch and dinner if they happen to stand within proximity to mom’s purse. I’m sorry to say that my brothers made it even worse – as if they are denouncing their own because the in-laws are much better (to be served.)

I’ve had my peace after seeing this documentary. I’ve told my mom too, that someday we will leave this world by ourselves. When we mourn others because they’ve gone on before us, we have to learn to let them go. When we mourn the severed relationship with our loved ones, we have to learn to treasure the happy memories but embrace the future, as in time, everything will become a memory.

I’m still mourning how I lost my two brothers; one passed away this year, the other one left us high and dry. I could not imagine the situation my mom has to endure facing these losses; they are always their little boys after all. In time, I’ll have to remind her.. in time. Tom’s parents insisted in burying him between their reserved plots but failed to see that Tom does not belong to them anymore. Just as well, no matter how hard the in-laws want to cut out the relationship between my mom and his boys, they still belong to my mom. They would learn, now that they are mothers to boys, that whatever they’ve done to us, their boys would do to them as well..]


Christmas Eve with Mr. Banks

saving mr banks 1
saving mr banks 1, a photo by theSIMPLEmoms on Flickr.

Each and every little boy and girl needs a hero – most likely would either be the mom or the dad. PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and lead character in this movie, was depicted as an adoring daughter of a doting alcoholic father as her hero. Yet, the movie succeeded to move me to both laugh and tears, in spite of all the controversy surrounding the author’s personal life – just googled PL Travers and there’s a long list of movie reviews and blogs that never fail to include her dark background. I personally like the NYT’s review here: ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ With Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson

SAVING MR. BANKS, a photo by vivekbhat_4 on Flickr.

Whatever fondness I reserve for Emma Thompson’s version of PL Travers, I agreed with the reviewer’s statement on the movie: “It also indulges in the common biographical fallacy of grounding adult creativity in childhood misery.

The movie is perfectly Disney, with heaps – not a spoonful, mind you – of sugar. Emma Thompson’s performance is absolutely flawless. I can imagine her as stiff-upper-lip as the book version of Mary Poppins yet beloved by the kids. Not to forget the rest of the cast, especially the bits of musical entertainment provided by the Sherman brothers, played by Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak.

I can’t say anything bad of Tom Hanks’ performance’ his representation of Walt Disney is believable, but compared to Thompson’s , not as relatable. Who knows, probably the real Disney was as standoffish as the movie version, given that he did actually refuse to invite PL Travers to Mary Poppin’s Hollywood movie premiere. Also, Paul Giamatti as the limo driver, Ralph, is a nice addition. While fictional, his character is as Disney as it gets, providing the much needed emotional support to Thompson’s character, as well as the intended movie audience.The emotional tug from low to high to low is very well represented throughout the movie by Sherman brothers’ beloved tunes such as ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee,’ ‘Feed the Birds,’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite.’

Toward the end of the movie, there’s a scene when Mrs. Travers was so taken by Bert’s conversation with Jane Banks about her father, and it is so sad I couldn’t help myself to weep with the little girl Mrs. Travers once was: Helen Goff. I wept for myself, for having such a mother as Mr. Banks instead of a father. I wept for my nephew who lost his father and has to find another hero in some other characters in his lifetime. Yet I have this conviction that ‘Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down;’ and we all should ‘finish the story, have a life that is not dictated by the past.’

This is what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again, and again, and again.
— Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks.

Merry Poppin’ Christmas Y’all! God bless us, every one!

When the dog bites..

Christmas Eve is tomorrow… I have a tiny plastic tree with plastic shiny balls from years gone by dotting its outer layer. It’s just gonna be me and the two maids this Christmas, and hopefully I’ll get to spend Christmas Eve at church with my friend Irma. My folks have gone back to kampung with my nephew (he’s got to see his real mom at least twice a year!). My mom’s calling me with all these complaints on how my dead brother’s wife (the almighty doctor) taking his favorite grandson away from her house. This is our version of Thanksgiving break, thank goodness I stay out of it, even if it meant I got to spend Christmas alone.

2013 hasn’t been that good to us.

Swallowed by the Sea Swallowed by the Sea, a photo by AmyJanelle on Flickr.

It’s the first time I realized that there’s an afterlife. I haven’t been much of a Christian, sad to say, but I believe, albeit halfheartedly, the line that goes “Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so” (even if I hardly open my Bible..); I consider myself a born-again Christian, that’s deep enough for me. Since my late brother’s passing – his body encased in an extra-large coffin – I was hit hard with the reality that one day I am going to be called Home, to what my neighbors like to call ‘HEAVEN.’ Just a matter of time and place and how.

I can also reflect to the time I was flying back from Raleigh alone, with 4 loaded suitcases (half of which did not belong to me.) Shortly after I arrived, the nightmare began with my baby brother’s wife (that big Shrekky!) revealing her true ogre self. Long story short, she did not care about her mother-in-law’s feeling – never once did she ask how my mom cope with the funeral, only thing she kept pestering was whether my mom told her relatives that she’s going back from the State – you see, some people needs to keep the appearance of being American and all (never mind that she uses English like newly-arrived ESL student.) And my baby brother made it worse by telling us off – that we’re this bad family that has been doing them all these bad things. Well done, bro, so why don’t we just cut off the relationship and be done with it. Noooo… he has to call my aunt and told her that he’s been trying to do his best pleasing my mom, without mentioning how much money mom and me have spent on him and his wife and his mother-in-law (that witch!) on our last visit.

Enter my beloved mom, being amazed with how these lovely people finally ignoring her. She’s getting older, some of her friends have gone on to ‘better place’ and it’s a miracle she still looks 10 years younger than her peers. She wonders why my nephew wants to spend more time at her real mom’s house. She wonders why my only living brother is not calling her even though she’s been paying for his family’s insurance (which is slightly more than my teacher’s wages) for the past 2 years. She wonders why her husband is still treating her no better than 2 minutes and a lifetime ago. She wonders why I refuse to go back home with them this Christmas – at least to keep her sanity and to make her believe there’s still someone who cares about her. Hear me this: Mom, remember when I beg you not to give in too much, cut too deep, ask too many questions? Why don’t you just ignore these lousy people and do what you think best, instead of fearing what other people might think of you? I just want to say to her: “I told you so.”

I was reminded with one sermon, when my favorite pastor exhorted us to pray for the Lord to bless us with what He thinks best for us, instead of what we think is best for ourselves.

Puddle Stompin'
Puddle Stompin’, a photo by Dkillock on Flickr.

And God’s people say: AMEN!

My Other Son

I talked on the phone a lot yesterday.. quite a triumph for an ‘anti-social’ like me. Probably the only human under-40 in this side of South Jkt to not own a Blackberry or an Android, I burned a lot of bridges with potential acquaintances whenever they ask me for a pin# or WA. Why, my 1st-gen iPhone (solely used as a phone device!) and home cable connection (still faster than any 4Gs in Jkt and very reliable for downloading BluRay movies) still gets me around the Net. Resisting the latest technological advances is not futile, to say the least..My friend Tweety (not her real name, of course!), a great influence in terms of building my social image, finally picked up my call. Met her 3 years ago when I just started teaching at TM; now that we left the school we still keep in contact. As one of her adoring friends nobody could talk me out of surrendering my phone once she started talking.  We talked for almost 3h straight; the main topic was the ins and outs of our former employee, as usual, but then I started to talk about my nephew.My nephew Tim practically is the baby in my house now; he’s the apple of my eye, as far as I’m concern. His current situation (my brother, his dad, passed away 6 months ago) led me to believe that he needed help sorting through the process of growing up.

Raising a child is no small feat. Even if Tim has been a part of my life since he was born – he’s been living with us for the last 3 years now – the dynamic has shifted from ‘adoring aunt’ before his dad died, to ‘mother hen’ after. I’m more involved in his school and growing up than his mom ever does. I confided to Tweety that Tim is becoming more responsive to outside influence and has progressed rapidly since I took him to a child development clinic. He’s been going to a sensory integration therapy for the last 3 months.

In short, Tweety encouraged me to be as good an aunt as I can be – eventhough I can never replace her mom or dad – and love him unconditionally. She also listed a few dos and don’ts that I’d like to share here:

  • Never raise a hand to a child – he will always remember it for the rest of his life.
  • Give a child the love he needs, but never forget the structure of discipline.
  • Never let a child manipulate you, but let him know that we expect him to respect us and respect himself.
  • You can never replace his/her real parents (if he/she has been raised with one or both parents) but you will always be a parent to the child.
  • Pray for the child’s future.