I want you to watch the above video clip from the movie Moonstruck. It's only about a minute long.
I love this movie, and I love this scene. While this exact moment may not be from my life, the relationships, the exchanges, and the nuances are all very applicable to my family and to me. When I am having a bad day, I love catching this on TV or even pulling it up on Youtube. "Your life's going down the toilet!" is something my parents have both said to me all throughout my life at varying times, from the day I didn't feel like doing my homework in high school to the day my life really did go down the toilet to the present, where I doubt myself as a mother every single day and it seems like my parents' mission in life is to fuel that doubt. Any doubt. Mary Pat's down? Cool. Let's kick her.
And yet...this is my family's means of support. "Dysfunctional!" you spit at me. Maybe. But more than that, it's validation and a kick to get moving. "Mary Pat, what the hell's the matter with you?" And even though we are not from Queens or Brooklyn, even though we are all mostly Polish (except my Sicilian Mama) and from Buffalo, this Italian accent kicks in when they say this to me: What the hell's the matter with you? It's generally followed up by a really loving voice change: "You've got so much good. God has given you everything. Why can't you just--" And then you can fill in the blank there, because what follows is usually a demand to do what they want, like do the Sunday dinner dishes (which my sister and sister-in-law voodoo-minded their way out of the other night--WTF), or buy better groceries (my dad: "Why the hell don't you have ginger ale in the house? Who doesn't buy ginger ale?" We don't.), or whatever it is that minute, that day.
But today's one of those days. The kind where you reach into the community candy bowl on the kitchen counter dying for a Krackel bar, and you know what? There's no Krackel bars. You dig and you dig--you know you spotted one at breakfast and mentally filed that for later, because breakfast isn't an appropriate time for Krackel bars--and you come up empty. Damn it, there's no Krackels. OR Mr. Goodbars, if you really want to know. So then you're stuck with Special Dark. It's a whole bowl full of Special Dark. It may as well be a glass half empty at that point.
I dragged myself away from the bowl and peeled off the wrapper of the unwanted Special Dark, savored the flavor I didn't want, and sat down here and thought, "What would make me feel better?" I just read on Twitter, "What do you read when you don't feel well?" or something to that effect. I generally consider myself rather literary, but if I'm so sick I need comfort, or so down I'll eat Special Dark, I have no energy to read. I just want scenes to display themselves before my eyes, plots to unfold in front of me that show someone who is worse off than I am, about to become better off than I am.
This scene from Moonstruck is perfect. It's exactly what came to my mind when I read that Twitter post. These people, Olympia Dukakis and Cher as Italian mother and daughter, are my mom and me. Not the premise, the relationship. The worry, the angst, the retort, the "Fine! You gotta help me!" after everything else. And, if you watch the rest of the scene unfold--it is, in fact, the end of the movie if you didn't know--your heart will be warm and fat and full. My favorite way for my heart to be. Exactly the way a family should always make you feel, even if they shout, "Your life's going down the toilet!"
And my mom? She's just the type to sit down and share a Special Dark with me. Or even better, ring the doorbell with a bag full of Krackels. And over that, she will say, "Your life's going down the toilet," and we'll lean in close, and burst into belly-aching laughter that takes our breath and makes us wheeze.