Yesterday my wife wanted me to add a song to her iPod.
It was 7:30am. I was busy getting the kids ready for school. She hummed a snippet of the tune, but she couldn’t remember any of the words.
“Do you know it ?” she asked.
“But you know the one I’m thinking of, right?”
“It’s kind of hard when you don’t remember a single word.”
“Lulu knows the one I’m thinking of.”
“So go ask her.”
Truthfully, I was a bit grumpy and preoccupied. Lately I’ve been grumpy with both her and the kids. It seems like I’m always 5 minutes late, and 5 tasks behind on my daily To Do list. Lately I have been thinking of that old blues song, “The Thrill Is Gone.” I have been feeling that way.
Then in the middle of the day, I took a 30-minute break to go ice skating.
On my way back, as I was driving to school to pick up the kids, I had a moment of inspiration. I realized that I was definitely in a rut, and so were the kids. The three of us, as a triangle, were in a rut together. As I looked ahead to picking them up at school, I predicted the same questions, conversations, and arguments we always have.
Do I have a playdate today?
Can we go get pizza now?
Why can’t we have ice cream?
Do we have hockey practice today? What time?
I just told you. We don’t have any homework. Don’t you listen?
I decided to try something different.
Normally our family has a strict policy of no television, movies, or video games during the week. But there was a new movie I’d been thinking of.
Crooked Arrows is about a group of Native American teenagers in upstate New York who play for a school lacrosse team which regularly gets trounced by other schools, despite lacrosse having originated as a Native American sport.
The movie is a shameless remake of both The Bad News Bears and The Mighty Ducks, with the only difference that it’s about lacrosse. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a remake per se, as long as its heart is in the right place.
The kids were pleasantly surprised when I mentioned the plan, especially when I explained that the nearest showing was at the mall/theme park at Universal City. That made the plan even more exotic. They were confused. Were they being rewarded for something?
Not really, I said. But I didn’t explain further.
It reminded me of a moment from my senior year in high school. It was the week before school started. I was with my soccer team at a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains. We were a good team, but we were having a sloppy practice. Our coach was frustrated. He kept stopping play and yelling at us. Then he blew the whistle hard, and yelled for us to gather up. We braced for the inevitable round of “lines,” or sprints. He would run us until we felt like vomiting.
But then … he didn’t.
“Let’s go swimming,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s better just to go swimming.”
That was all he said. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the lake, screwing around on the dock, and just marveling at the weird, fortunate turn of events. And it sounds like a bad movie, but we did go on to win our league championship that year.
Monday afternoon was a good time to go to Universal City. There were no crowds. The kids and I had the place to ourselves. We strolled slowly to the theater and watched music videos on the huge TV screen suspended above the shops. There was only one other person in the theater as we watched the movie.
Lulu liked the mild, teenaged-love subplots. Jesse liked the game action. Both paid close attention to scenes of Indians playing lacrosse 800 years ago. They were in rapt suspense during the last-second, last-shot victory.
The lead actress in this movie is a dead ringer for Katie Holmes, but 20 years younger. It was such a strong resemblance, I had to double-check the credits at the end.
Outside, we strolled across the mall toward the parking lot. I was mulling the ideas of remakes and renewals (the old Mighty Ducks, the new Crooked Arrows; a new actress who looked exactly like an older one). Behind me, I heard a voice singing on the huge TV screen. It sounded like Peter Gabriel, which in turn reminded me of a movie from the late ‘80s, Say Anything, another film which I enjoyed greatly even though it would never win any Oscars.
I turned to see whether the singer was Peter Gabriel.
Nope. Some new guy.
A woman was walking past me. I noticed she was mouthing the words to the song. I asked the name of the singer. She identified both him and the song. I thanked her. The kids and I kept walking.
The rest of our evening was softer and more enjoyable than usual, in the afterglow of the inspiring movie. I let the kids stay awake later than normal. When Aleen returned from work, Jesse asked if he could go outside with her and throw the lacrosse ball. It was already past 8pm. Normally I would have said no.
It was funny to me that he wanted to throw the lacrosse ball with Aleen. My wife is many, many things, but she is not an avid sportswoman. It’s a totally random confluence of events which led to her learning lacrosse.
She was born in Beirut, Lebanon, but she and her Armenian family eventually wound up in chilly New Hampshire. Due partly to her own intelligence, but also to the great intelligence and ambition of her mother, both Aleen and her brother wound up at an exclusive, highly competitive boarding school called St. Paul’s. This is the kind of place where lacrosse is still a major sport. It’s not unlike the fictional Coventry School in Crooked Arrows which opens the movie by humiliating the Native American squad.
‘Fine,’ I said to Jesse. ‘You can go throw the ball with mom for a few minutes.’
Because my wife is a pack rat, she still has her wood-handled Brine lacrosse stick from her freshman year in high school. In this way, she is like the lead character in Crooked Arrows, who eventually removes his own stick from mothballs and agrees to put his heart and soul into coaching the Indian team.
When it grew dark outside, Aleen and Jesse came in. The kids went to sleep.
Later, Aleen and I were lying in bed, tapping away at our respective gadgets. She was firing out emails for work. I was checking the score of a hockey game. Suddenly I thought of the song I’d heard, the one which sounded like Peter Gabriel. I found the video on YouTube. I watched it a couple times. I liked it.
“Check this out,” I said to Aleen.
She started to watch the video, then turned to me in surprise.
“That’s it,” she said.
“That’s the song I was asking you about. This morning. You found it.”