I have spent the better part of the last week and a half in a pensive rumbling over experiences whose meaning rested in the periphery of the moments I encountered them. I have repeatedly returned to these musings with the hope that I can exact some definite significance from them all.
Last weekend I was mulling over my life while aimlessly scrolling through social media and YouTube, a terrible habit that rarely results in finding any semblance of lasting contentment. An advertisement slipped into a stream of videos: The Peanut Butter Falcon "SWEETEST FILM OF THE DECADE."
The quirkiness of the title was enough for me to give the synopsis a reading and the trailer numerous viewings. Zack, a young man with Down's Syndrome, escapes from his nursing home chasing a dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Zack encounters Tyler, a crab fisherman who has lost his direction in life after a family tragedy. The two grow closer on a quiet odyssey down the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I spent Sunday afternoon at Marquee Cinemas watching this wonderful film and the better part of two days dwelling on the message The Peanut Butter Falcon offered.
Monday morning several senior football moms posted this picture on Facebook, further stoking a small fire in my heart sparked by the movie on Monday. I cannot recall ever seeing a picture like this in all of my years of teaching. Please keep in mind that I currently teach all of these players, and some I have known four years. I can see the personalities of the players in each pairing, the open expression of love, the silliness of the situation, and the discomfort of this not being "cool." The picture speaks for itself on the surface: this is a group of mothers; ones who love and support their sons; ones who realize that senior year is a chapter closing quickly; and ones who want to savor this journey.
The football mothers and sons picture triggered another recent memory, one which happened a short time before the movie and the football picture. Pieces started to connect for me as I searched the school's Facebook page for another picture I had seen. At a home game last week, the volleyball team surprised one of the player's mother who is battling cancer. She said on Facebook that she was so surprised when she walked into the game and "found the coaches and all of the players in Hope for Lisa Gruber shirts and green hair bows in their hair."
Finally, one of my students asked me every single day if I would be going to the football game, anxious to know because he was going to start for the first time this season. So on a chilly Friday I drove to Beverly, Ohio, to watch our team lose 42-0 in a brutal game during which several players were injured. I sat beside one of the football moms who winced and looked away every time her son was tackled or knocked out of bounds. My student who is typically "bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm" looked tired and dejected during the game but played hard despite the outcome being decided shortly after halftime.
In The Peanut Butter Falcon, the relationship between the two central characters is defined by a quote uttered at the beginning of the movie, one which many have heard at least once: "Friends are the family we choose." The movie then tells the story of two strangers who develop the family connection both need for neither one has family of his own. I see a larger and different theme in the different contexts of my week.
In relationship to what we call "families," we can not conclusively claim each family is the same. We have traditional families and those that are nontraditional. Many are two parent families with varying numbers of children. Others are single parent families with one parent no longer present. We cannot look at a picture and see the ideal when the ideal may not truly exist.
We can see that which rests in the periphery, the unseen in the pictures and movies we see and situations we experience. It is the brotherly connection of two characters in a movie, the difference in emotions among football mothers and their sons, the unwavering support of a volleyball team to a teammate's mother, the occasionally unexpected support to those who need it the most. Choices in life can center on how we freely and honestly love and care for those around us in a way in which we wish people would love and care for us. This holds true when we are at our best or our worst, when life is uneventful or challenging, and whether we are willing to admit we need someone's love and care at all.
Trying something new. I will keep you posted. 😎
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