Thirty Isn't So Young In That Carnival of a Town
Not in the farthest reaches of my considerable imagination could I have known that I would indeed suffer these horrors and many more in pursuit of my dream. Alas, my fate had been sealed one Christmas morning by a bookmarker stuffed in my stocking, inscribed with the words of George Eliot, “It’s never to late to be what you might have been.”
With that, I finally mustered the courage, as so few do, to risk it all on the tiniest off chance of satisfying a life-long passion. I also knew instinctively that every scene is a battle one character ends up winning. Clearly I had to win the one with the little woman across the table who’d birthed, loved and supported me were I to have any shot at all of conquering a town as famously unwelcoming as Hollywood. She inquired into the benefits package that came with this supposed screenwriting job. “What about the retirement plan? You don’t want to end up an old woman with high blood pressure living in a trailer park with the poor people.”
Being raised by a struggling single parent—factory worker by day and coat check girl by night—goes a long way toward explaining my mother’s fascination with “the poor people.” Teaching English at a Catholic girl’s school, she’d managed not only to marry well, but also to become highly educated in her own right, earning an advanced degree in British Literature. “Can’t you see the romance of it all?” I asked, reminding her that Ernest Hemingway went to Paris and ate pigeons when he was young.
“Thirty isn’t so young in that carnival of a town.”
“I’m twenty-six, Mother, and if you ever tell anyone anything differently I’ll go totally Jennifer Aniston on you!”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
I narrowed my eyes. “You don’t hear Demi Moore saying anything nice about her mom, do you?
“Or little Meg Ryan either,” she sighed. “I guess the first thing to go out there is the mother.” Deftly applying her sensibly priced Revlon lipstick without the aid of a mirror, she reached for the check—confident, I’m sure, that she’d won this little lunch scene of ours hands down.
“You’re the one who gave me that bookmarker!” I cried.
“I did not. What bookmarker?”
“The one about becoming who I might have been. You wanted me to know it wasn’t too late.”
“So what if I did?”
“I have everything I need to go and do this thing because you gave it to me. Grandma, too.”
“Grandma? What’s she got to do with it?”
“You always said she was the most independent woman you’d ever known.”
“She was,” she said, tears welling in her eyes for the mother she’d recently lost and the daughter she was about to. “Now I guess that’s you.”
Proverbially, I won the battle but lost the war. While I’d already started to see my life as a movie, mine wouldn’t exactly turn out to be the feel good story of the year. The problem with real life is the heroine doesn’t always wake up in the nick of time, discovering that she’d known the way home all along.
In fact, this is the first Christmas since I first arrived in Hollywood that I won’t be making it home at all. Mom agrees this is a good thing, since the little chunk of money and time resulting from my eviction settlement represents my last chance to make any headway here if I’m indeed to avoid packing up and calling it a day for good.
She called today to say my father had put out every last Christmas light anyway, and he’d planned a snow crab feast, my traditional welcome home dinner, for only the two of them. “There’s always next year,” she said.
“Next year, it’ll all be different, Mom. I’m absolutely, one hundred percent sure of that.”
Another thing they won’t tell you in film school is that winning a key scene, no matter how noble the heroine’s intentions, sometimes involves a little white lie.