Terrence Malick’s award-winning film “The Tree of Life” divides American audiences like it did Cannes Festival audiences. Maybe it’s the vastness of its Biblical spirituality, the enormity of its cinematography, or the innocence of its look at growing up in middle America.
Innocence has also been used by authors from Milton (“Paradise Lost”), to Voltaire (“Candide”), to Twain (“Tom Sawyer”), to Wolfe (“Look Homeward Angel”), to our annual splurge of Valentine Cards.
Lately, though, it’s easier to dismiss innocence. Especially in a world fraught with sophisticated desires and dangers on every side. Kids growing up today — watching these desires and dangers in violent action — will find times-of-innocence in their country hard to imagine. Harder to believe.
It just could be that grandparents will be our kids’ last repository of such beliefs. Sure, their memories may play willful tricks with their long ago youth, but things actually lived cannot actually be denied. So this may be a good time to have them tell their stories.
Stories of open windows and unlocked doors….of mothers wearing aprons in bustling kitchens and spic-and-span rooms…of fathers going to work in starched white shirts with the American Dream tucked in their pockets…of neighbors who called you by name when they hailed you to try their morning coffee cake…of mom & pop stores down the street who nobody owned except the folks behind the counter…hours of unsupervised kites and chases and pickup ball games on side streets uncluttered by parked cars or in empty lots just a walk-away.
In their stories you will meet horse-drawn milkmen and fruit peddlers instead of sleek retail chains; open fire hydrants instead of community pools; wide green lawns for dreaming on instead of digital board games for killing on; oh and grams and gramps may even indulge themselves in little whispered tales about puppy love on the village green which actually remained virgin-white until the wedding day.
I know, I know, Valentine Cards sell this kind of sentimentality for a profit! But grandma and grandpa aren’t selling you anything. Just remembering. And letting you hop on for the ride…
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