I’m reading a short story called “Post and Beam“, by Alice Munro. The main character has moved away from her small town and her small town family, and is now living in the city. Her cousin hops on a bus and travels across Canada to come for a visit. One of the themes of the story is how we leave part of who we are at home when we leave. So here is Polly, the country cousin, who has come to visit Lorna, and is a bit put off by Lorna’s ‘post and beam’ house (reminds me of the Eichler homes that are popular around here…the picture above is of an Eichler home), which stress architecture over all else, her stainless steel sinks, her ‘fancy’ city life. I suspect she wonders where the Lorna she knew has gotten to. I haven’t finished the story yet, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen.
Then last night we watched a DVD, “Junebug“. The movie was about families and their eccentricities, and all of that, but part of it was about how you leave part of yourself at home when you leave. The main character is a woman, Madeline, an art dealer from Chicago. She is meeting her new husband’s family for the first time, in small town North Carolina. The family isn’t upset at how he has changed at all, because he is the golden child…but he certainly acts just as he is expected to when he is at home, and we, the viewiers (and Madeline, I might add), aren’t really sure which is the REAL deal. The George who sings in the choir at his church, and proxies as the best husband his sister-in-law could have, when her own husband can’t cope? Or the George who prefers the city life, and understands about Madeline’s career, and how important that is to her.
These two things coming together like they did, the DVD and the story, stuck me… how when we leave home, whether we are merely moving across the street, or across the world, what do we leave behind? How do we revert when we return? And how is it for our families, if they come and see us in our new world, to wonder if the old us is even in there, somewhere. I suspect it is different for us all, and a lot has to do with how much we identify with that place, how happy we were there, with the roles that we played in our family and community dynamic. If we were comfortable and happy, we may not have changed much. If we felt that our home was not really that, a home, and that the best thing we could do is get the hell away, then perhaps our family and friends might not recognize the new identity that we have created for ourselves. And, if they also wanted to leave, but haven’t found the way yet, or never will, do they then resent us? Do they feel that we think we’re too good for our old selves? I don’t know that I’m reading the book or the film correctly, getting from them what the artists intended, but those were my thoughts as I was dozing off last night, thinking about the book and the film.
Best line in the flm, I thought: “God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way.” Was the character being ironic? Hopeful? Critical? Supportive? You have to watch the film to find out, I guess.