Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Girl In The Back of the Class

Did you ever watch Moonstruck? I probably watched it a dozen times… maybe more.

There was this scene where Olympia Dukakis is at the kitchen table during breakfast, she looks at her husband, played by Vincent Gardenia, and asks him.

“Have I been a good wife?”

He answers yes, she tells him I want you to stop seeing her; he makes this great gesture and then says ok, then she adds; “and go to confession.” He smirks and says something about a bad day and that his life is nothing…she strongly tells him that his life is not nothing, and adds “te amo” (I love you, in Italian) he looks at his wife and says “Anche Io te amo” (also, I love you).

That whole scene plays out beautifully. Yet that is not the part of the scene that I love and want you all to focus on.  In fact, during the entire scene I’m kind of laughing until I get to the part I love, then the tears start…yes, full blown out tears.  The part that I want to tell you about and focus on is after her husband says to her that he loves her; Olympia Dukakis smiles and  sighs. It is a sigh that is felt everywhere, in her heart, her mind, her soul, even the room, and felt by her daughter.

I love these types of moments in movies, a simple gesture that has so much meaning. Hey, before speaking her mind something was weighing very heavy on her heart…

Gently she said what she needed to say and gently she was assured that she was still cherished and loved.  You know why I love these types of scenes because it’s smack in your face, the truth about the human spirit….and when it is done perfectly on a big screen, I cannot help to be reminded of that; the human spirit.

We feel, we want, we need.

Why do I mention and describe a scene from a movie, and compare it as a real emotion, because art imitates life….

I am sensitive when I witness a suffering or a need of some kind, yet I truly appreciate witnessing a person’s despair validated with respect and dignity.  Like when someone becomes an American Idol or Meryl Streep sang about an unrequited love or a heartbreak that never healed, but then it was followed with a happy ending of finally marrying the love of her life.  I too know too well what it feels like wanting and needing and enduring so many let downs and heartbreaks.  Therefore, when I see a moment of bravery and vulnerability, and a sigh of relief it fills me with hope.

When I was a teenager in high school I was in this class called Lifestyles; it was either an elective or an English class I really don’t remember. It had its moments of being strange, like when we had a class trip to the city to tour Lincoln Center, which was then followed by a tour of a Hare Krishna camp. This class taught us tolerance and opened us to learn about various lifestyles and situations.

I loved Lincoln Center, but I really don’t remember much about the rest of the class trip or the class itself, except for a brief moment of bravery and vulnerability; I should point out, that at the time my young mind did not process it as a brave act …too bad I wish I had. My class was discussing the differences in people; one another and us, meaning us teens; we also added to this conversation ways we can all treat one another; things like kindness, and good manners….

It was all very cool; wow, I thought, we are actually having a conversation and we all felt the love… no not the love but the friendship yes the friendship; then a voice in the back spoke up…

The voice came from a girl who sat in the back of the class; she was handicapped; in a wheelchair and definitely different from the rest of us. 

That day she was brave.

“This is great how we are all friends here in this classroom, how we can point out our differences and still like each other, how we can all say that kindness wins…, but the truth is when the bell rings and we all leave the classroom, none of you will ever say hello to me in the hallway.  I am very different than all of you, at times I am in your way, or I am invisible - you don’t see me but you see this wheelchair and how different I am  – you don’t see that I have feelings too.” said the girl in the back of the class.

We were all stunned listening to our classmate – and realized how true what she was saying was. At some point, she was crying.  I didn’t know what I felt about what she said, I don’t remember, it was a long time ago and back then I was so naïve and immature perhaps at first all I felt was pity for her, however, I assure you I did not recognize her dialogue as courage.  Or maybe I did like I said I don’t remember, what I do remember was how one of the popular boys in our grade got up went over to her and hugged her. I think this is where I realized something was up…– she then hugged him back and I think she was crying on his shoulders and maybe he was saying something to her…

That is the epitome of vulnerability and bravery, what teenager would do that … this was something that weighed heavy on her heart, the popular boy needed to tell us something too, and that was, he was more than his popularity or good looks.

I often wonder what happened to those two, what was their lot in life, and if that moment in their lifetime was a defining moment for them?  Perhaps it was an important lesson learned for everyone in that classroom, including me… I wish I truly understood the magnitude of such a small and awkward gesture.  I hope they did too.

We all have these moments in our lives; moments when being brave and vulnerable outweigh our fears and judgments.   I only hope for all of us when the day comes, we can recognize our power, and it is met with a cherished validation.

More importantly, if we ever are lucky to witness anything like I did in my Lifestyles class – (it was a psychology class- I knew I would remember it eventually).  So like I was saying if we are ever lucky to witness a moment of bravery; we recognize it with respect and dignity, we give that moment some space to let it become what it needs to be; the human spirit exposed.

Then we can all let out a sigh of relief…


  1. Marissa, I have certainly been there moments of being scared of being judged or felt really awkward about something so silly. What a great post!!!!

    1. thank you I too have been there...i was just wondering if we can see those moments to be a courageous act rather than weakness maybe it would help for more of us and even kids (teens) to stand up to more...

  2. just so totally beautifully said.
    i too love moonstruck. i know it's considered a comedy but it is so full of poignant moments in every scene really. especially that one.
    raw life.
    just as the scene with the girl in the wheel chair.
    that moment when we're all exposed.
    and love entered the room.
    a beautiful post.
    will thing long about your well written thoughts here in it.
    have a lovely weekend dearest bean! XO♥

    1. you do the same - like i was saying to Marissa - i actually wrote this for James he is going into High School in Sept and although things are still at bay in Middle school... well he's at the cusp of things getting really serious and i want him to know sometimes doing the right thing and not following the crowd is braver...not week.

  3. What a beautiful post...I just love this so much. Speaking up like that had to have taken an incredible amount of bravery on her part. Wow.
    I also love Moonstruck! I've seen it probably way more than a dozen times, though, I have to admit. That is such a great movie, such a great scene. The part that always crack me up in that scene, though, even if I'm crying my eyes out, is when she says "and go to confession!" :D


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