Roller Coasters

The greatest stories that I know, be they movies or sitcoms, are the ones that capture the essence of life and truth in a two hour bottle.  They brilliantly depict life in a way that “The Brady Bunch” and “Leave It to Beaver” never quite did.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bradys and the Cleavers, but the world of the 50s and 60 is certainly behind us.  Our world looks more and more like the Bluths of “Arrested Development” or the Pritchetts and Dunphys of “Modern Family.”rollercoaster-islands-of-adventure-hulk-2

There are certain movies which are “Old Standbys” for me as well.  They seem timeless in their own little way.  No matter when I go back to them to watch, the simple truths and stories that come through seem to be as relevant as they were when I first discovered them (my constant visits to the Bible have an even greater impact on me, revealing new mysteries and truths every time that I come to it).

One such movie for me is “Parenthood.”  20+ years after the movie came out, it was made into a television show, which I have never watched.  The movie was enough for me.  Interestingly, Ron Howard is associated with it in the same way that he is associate with “Arrested Development.”  It certainly has its moments of dating itself to the mid-80s, but overall, the characters are fresh and vivid, depicting personalities which we’ve either experienced in our own families or families close to our own.

There is a moment in the film when Steve Martin’s character and his wife are speaking about their children.  Steve Martin is talking about his son’s conquest in catching a fly ball at his little league game.  He wonders what would have happened had he not caught it.  Having earlier in the film imagined his parenting mistakes to cause his eventually college-aged son to snap and begin a shootout from a bell tower on a college campus, Steve Martin is fairly sensitive to his own mistakes and failures as a parent.  He comes to realize that the influence he has on his children is significant and he feels the pressure of that.

His wife, on the other hand, sees that kids are more resilient than he thinks.  They enter into life as an adventure and when they fall, they pick themselves up and move on, rather than dwelling on it like so many adults.  As they banter back and forth together, Martin’s grandmother comes in and makes a random statement about her husband taking her on a roller coaster when she was nineteen.  She describes it like this:

“Up, down, up, down, oh, what a ride.  I always wanted to go again.  It was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so, so frightened, so scared, so sick, so, so excited, and so thrilled altogether.  Some didn’t like it, they went on the merry-go-round.  That just goes around.  Nothing.  I like the roller coaster, you get more out of it.”

After she leaves, Martin and his wife both have varied perspectives of his grandmother’s wisdom/insanity.  As I think about it, she’s fairly brilliant as she makes the comparison between life and a roller coaster.  How could one ride make you so frightened, scared, excited, and thrilled at the same time?  That seems to sum it up, doesn’t it?  And that’s the ride that she wants to be on.

I’m not sure that I can say the same thing, but day after day, I keep coming back to it.  How about you?

Here’s the clip from “Parenthood” in case you’re interested:


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