This morning I came across an article about childhood actress, Mara Wilson, which briefly described why her acting career was short-lived. The content of the article is actually really irrelevant to this post, because it’s the picture that immediately caught my attention, reminding me about one of my favorite childhood movies: Matilda.
The movie is about a little girl, Matilda, who’s parents are less than perfect– the father is a manipulative used car salesman and the mother would rather focus on her own vanity. Matilda on the other hand quickly finds a rich love for books and the stories and knowledge they contain. Unfortunately, her parents don’t understand her passion for learning and would rather her stay at home and mindlessly sign for packages. One day, at the age of 6 or 7, she convinces her parents that she must go to school.
She’s able to go to school, however the school is more like a prison and place of torture than a school. Fortunately, amidst the dark practices and punishments of the school’s principal, Matilda is able to find encouragement, inspiration and comfort in her teacher, Miss Honey.
Her teacher recognizes her potential and delightfully shares her praises with Matilda’s parents, who could really care less. Realizing that Matilda’s parents are preoccupied with other things, namely themselves, Miss Honey and Matilda begin to form a special relationship that continues to grow throughout the entire movie.
Toward the end, the two are sharing tea when Matilda’s family arrives and demand that she leave immediately. They claim that the FBI are onto her dad’s business practice (selling cheap, broken cars as great offers), so they need to get out of the country.
It is at this point that the following conversation ensues:
Matilda: I love it here! I love my school… it isn’t fair! Miss Honey, please don’t let them…
Harry Wormwood: [interrupting] Get in the car, Melinda!
Harry Wormwood: Whatever.
Matilda: I want to stay with Miss Honey.
Zinnia Wormwood: Miss Honey doesn’t want you. Why would she want some snotty, disobedient kid?
Jenny: Because she’s a spectacularly wonderful child and I love her.
Matilda: Adopt me, Miss Honey! You can adopt me.
Harry Wormwood: Look, I don’t have time for all these legalities!
Matilda: One second, Dad. I have the adoption papers.
Zinnia Wormwood: What? Where did you get those?
Matilda: From a book in the library. I’ve had them since I was big enough to Xerox.
(some dialogue is occurring here)
Zinnia Wormwood: You’re the only daughter I ever had, Matilda. And I never understood you, not one little bit… Who’s got a pen?
When I was younger, I would watch this movie over and over again (and I still get happy every time I hear this song). I would act out the movie and dance around my room by myself, daydreaming about the day when I would find my Miss Honey…the day when someone who understood me would adopt me and make me theirs.
A few weeks ago I had a conversation where at one point another individual threw up his hands and said “that’s it! We’ll adopt you!” Unfortunately, this didn’t offer the kind of solace I had once imagined because now things are too complicated and too complex. I’ve internalized you alone are the only person you can depend on for far too long, and this legal action wouldn’t be able to change that or any of the other messages which I’ve internalized.
Although I’d love to believe that you can choose your family, the reality is that you can only do this to a certain extent because at the end of the day you’ll once again realize that you’re alone– that this family really isn’t yours, you don’t belong– and that you’re lacking in some essential way.
If only there were a simple solution for all of this.