Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Creature Comforts

I am temporarily living in a children's hospital with my son, but this post is not about his illness. Instead, I'd like to remark on my observations of what creatures of habit we are.

We've been here for 10 days so far and have another 10 to go (based on surgery schedule). We've been blessed with a private room and mostly friendly nursing staff. But what has made this stay feel like home away from home is in the details: knowing now where my son's supplies go vs. where our supplies go; knowing which blankets are the warmest and which fit best on the pull-out parents' bed; knowing which batch of balloons are from whom and which get-well cards are our favorites. This place feels like our apartment in the city while we are away from our home in the suburbs.

But speaking about that home in the burbs, I've come to see that house completely differently after 15 years of living there. It's my nature to grow tired of places...very quickly. Since I can't move every year to satisfy my boredom, I instead end up throwing myself into some home renovation project, even if it's one as small as painting the bathroom or simply rearranging the family room furniture. Still, I had grown tired of my house...until ten days ago.

My husband and I alternate nights here at the hospital, and each time I return home, I love it. It's as if I've just moved into this new place and still can't believe I'm so lucky to be in this house. For better or for worse, my son's hospitalization has taught me to love my home again and to cherish all the intangible details it carries within its walls. What once bored me now comforts me.

On some level, I'm afraid I'll come to feel that way about the hospital room. My son has a second surgery to go this summer as a follow up to the upcoming one, and I'm afraid my family will become "institutionalized" and find comfort in walking the halls to and from our car, overnight bag slung over one shoulder.

I know, at the beginning of this post, I called this place my home away from home, but I am determined NOT to let that happen. I am determined to force my creature comforts to remain in the burbs, where I promise to fight my boredom the next time it hits me (probably before the New Year). And I will know that not only did this hospital provide the cure for my son's illness but also the reminder that there's no place like home.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Sliding Doors

It has been exactly twenty-five years since they last saw each other as they walk through the automatic sliding door leading to the restaurant terrace. They sit together on the patio, and Jeff looks at her. He remembers the lost friendship and the missed opportunity to follow his heart.  He smiles sadly and confesses, "You are my only regret from my college years."

This is not an excerpt from a story; it is a synopsis of my Sunday lunch, a reunion with a once dear friend. In town only for the holiday weekend, Jeff met me for lunch and waxed nostalgic about our college years, our friendship, and the critical incident (as Jeff calls it) that would separate us for twenty-five years.

This got me thinking about my books and the themes that repeatedly creep into my story lines. These critical incidents are what make the plot whether it be the plots of our novels or the plots of our lives. And for fiction writers, these are often inextricable. (Yes, we say it's purely fiction, but those who know us know better.)

Jeff also referenced the movie, Sliding Doors, where the passage (or not) through one sliding door makes all the difference in the life of the protagonist. All those questions of what if? are finally answered, and we see that no matter which doors we pass through, the end result is similar albeit through a different means.

I don't know if I subscribe to that philosophy, but the idea that we all end up where we were supposed to end up can be comforting, or at least can help squelch those annoying questions about what could have been. I've always preferred to look at my life path as a matter of timing. My personal mantra is Timing is everything. This makes regret pointless.

No matter which fatalistic system you believe in, the truth is that these moments are significant [Plug to my buddy Nicole at One Significant Moment at a Time], and they cannot be ignored. In the literary world, regret becomes poignant as the muse that gives birth to characters. In the non-writing world, it is the origin of our nostalgia.

As my reunion with Jeff came to an end, I regretted nothing, reveling in the renewed friendship. And when we walked back through the sliding door, Jeff and I smiled, the symbolism not escaping either of us.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

From Book to Big Screen

So I read the Hunger Games trilogy and then saw the first movie because...oh, forget it. If I have to explain, then you just don't get it. Anyway, the thing is this: I was disappointed.

Shocking. I know. I mean, who reads a book, loves it, and then doesn't love the movie?

All sarcasm aside (you're welcome), my disappointment with the Hunger Games movie actually brought me to some deep thinking. Why do we see movies of books we love if we know they will never meet our expectations? I think I've got the answer (and Hollywood has known this far longer than I have).

When we fall in love with characters on the page and then find out they will be projected before us on the big screen, we are intially elated. We love the idea of seeing our vision materialize before us, of possibly feeling that much closer to the characters we've come to identfy with. Yet we know, even before we see the movie trailer, that we are going to feel let down. We know that no film maker has really been able to project what is inside our protagonist's heart - at least not to the extent that the original author did. Still, we pay our dollars at the box office and hope.

Since I saw the movie, I've been pondering this. I think about my own novels, about how I've visualized them on the big screen since the moment the characters were born. I think about the soundtrack that would accompany my story, and I think how perfect my books would be for the movies.

But now I've come to respect my own writing and, without doubt, the words of every single book I've ever read for the beauty that comes not from what the eyes see but from what the mind and heart see. I appreciate a good screenwriter but choose this platform to show my reverence for the great storyteller - the book writer (which, of course, includes Suzanne Collins) - whose craft lacks the aid of visual effects and therefore must be held in the highest regard for its profound artistry.

That being said, I am not ashamed to say I will return to the theater to see Catching Fire when it is released. And I embrace the dichotomy in my heart.