Thursday, July 17, 2008

Update from below

Confession time: Yesterday, I made a big mistake. Number 3 on my list turned out to be a great big bad idea for a couple of different reasons. First, I loved that movie. As a girl, I remember dancing around and singing the songs and just delighting in the characters and their stories. I remember thinking it was incredibly romantic when Hodel leaves for Siberia to marry Perchik with some vague feelings of "well that's sweet that she is going to miss her papa". But there are significant differences between my daughters and myself that I should have thought about. Maybe those three days of songs in my head were God's way of telling me to think it over. Obviously, I missed the message.

My daughters still cry when they think about growing up and leaving someday. Sunshine, not as much, but Shortcake is my sensitive little one who says that if she has to move out then she wants to live right next door and come visit us with her twelve children every day. I am totally in favor of the idea! But you see, I never felt that way about my family. Life wasn't always pretty there (as some of you know) and from my earliest memories, I dreamed of leaving. I tolerated high school always with an eye to college and getting out. I cried when I thought that I would have to go to school in town because that meant living at home. I know I am not the only one, but it never occurred to me that these experiences might have colored my perception of the things I enjoyed.

Also, for the first time, I watched this movie that was such an important part of my childhood, through the eyes of someone who truly loves and (mostly) understands her faith. I started thinking about half way through what if this was a story about a Catholic family? Slowly, each of the three daughters starts breaking away from the traditions of their family. Tzeitel and Motel gave each other a pledge, Perchik and Hodel dance together in the wedding scene inspiring others to as well after the Rabbi confirms it isn't a sin and then go on to engage themselves to each other without asking Tevye's permission to marry. But then there's Chava. She marries outside of her faith and Tevye draws the line. That is until their world is torn apart and they all have to leave. Acceptance is offered under his breath and everyone is satisfied. (Aside...if you are interested in the real story of Tevye the milk man, read Tevye and His Daughters. Chava returns to the family after her Russian husband beats her.)

The lessons here are valuable ones and even ones that I don't think the director necessarily intended (it was 1971 after all) but not ones that my daughters are ready for. When I heard Sunshine say, "but why can't he change his traditions for just one time" I realized it was time to turn it off. They wanted to know why Hodel left and what happened to Chava. We talked. They wept. We hugged.

We might be able to watch it together someday. The characters are still very rich and the music still makes me smile. The movie is the same, but I am changed. I don't know that I will be able to enjoy it with them the way I did as a child. And I'm OK with that. I kind of don't want to now.

Walking away from my past and the lessons I was taught was what I needed to do to become the person I am today. My children don't know that world and I thank God daily for the goodness of that gift!


  1. I'll watch it with you Matilda!! I know how you feel, my childhood not remember.

    I have had similar situations with my daughter.

  2. Touching post. I can relate. :)

  3. It's amazing how old classics become something different through the eyes of your own children, isn't it?

    I totally agree with your take, and am grateful for your assessment.

    At my sister's wedding last month, my dad and sister danced to that song (Sunrise, sunset) that starts.. "Is this the little girl I carried?"
    My other sisters and I bawled.


  4. I felt exactly like your daughter do. I actually still do. They are so blessed! And you are amazing for being able to look forward the way you do.

  5. As I was reading this post, I began to think the very words with which you closed it: Walking away from my past and the lessons I was taught was what I needed to do to become the person I am today. My children don't know that world and I thank God daily for the goodness of that gift!

    We are give the grace to start over with our children...every day.

  6. Oh my goodness. This is one of my favorite movies of all time.

    I hum the song "Sunrise, Sunset" to my youngest daughter to get her to go to sleep (remembering how quickly it all passes!)

    My kids love the music, and have never asked the "hard questions" about Tevye and the stance he has to make when his youngest daughter wants to get married... but then again, the oldest is only 10.

    I tend to look at it more from the angle of "what did Chava do?" rather than "why is Tevye being so mean?" He is willing to bend in those areas where the normal response is merely cultural, but when Chava does something that hits him deep within his soul, he says no.

    I hope I'll be able to watch it with my children as they get older, and have these conversations with them...


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!