“Tree of Life” is one of my favorite movies to come out in the last few years. The plot line reveals the 1950s childhood reflections of a middle-aged man. The 1950s father is portrayed by Brad Pitt and the mother, Jessica Chastain. Many of the movie scenes swept me into an emphatic swirl. Familiar, all of it, particularly the places and spaces represented, whether they were boundary free childhood play outdoors or tender home scenes, brooding with the unresolved emotions of complex parentals.
An odd artist element in the movie is a reoccurring image of a free floating ball, traveling through space. My heart leapt at the seemingly vague metaphor. I had seen that sphere before and it was the stuff of my childhood nightmares. Played out on screen, I recalled a nightly visual about the time I was to start kindergarten. Why it terrified me is still a mystery, but I sensed that the ball could not complete its journey amid storm clouds, blazing heat and gusty winds.
Unraveled, I would find myself twisted in the sheets, tearful and awake. And then my Father would be at my bedside. I would tell him about the anxious ball in my dreams and he would reassure me that a good ending was close at hand. He was about 30 years old at that time and now I am beginning to understand that he had many of his own fears, real and imagined.
Still he was the first to offer instruction on how to smooth the angst and make use of the hero within. No tangled ball was too furious, he said. A reward is always in store, he said. Because he said, goodness is at hand for those who know how to move forward in a positive way.
A glorious example was his mother's apple pie. A treat that many women, including myself, tried to duplicate. I believe that I came close last April on his birthday.
Though the outcome fell short of the formal beauty that his mother served, my own provincial styling was sufficient. He loved it. As I felt the blue-eyed smile on his 82-year -old face, I was grateful to return a favor because there are rewards for those who offer children self-sufficiency.