E.T. was the first movie (and abashedly not the last) to emit a bloodcurdling scream from me in the theatre. Despite the fact that the Haz-Mat suit-wearing character scared the crud out of me; I was left with a lasting impression of Drew Barrymore’s acting ability. I admired the fact that someone close to my age could play an adorably funny role in such a memorable way. As I grew up, I would scour magazines for any articles relating to her, not in a creepy stalker way, but simply because she seemed like a genuinely kind person, and not just a public figure obsessed with herself like some other figures in the past have been.
Ever After was released the same month that my first daughter would have been born (I had miscarried 5 months earlier), and it resonated with my deep desire to see beauty in a time that felt hollow, empty and filled with horrific grief and questions. I cannot count how many times I have viewed that movie, applied the lessons in forgiveness, and also sought to model the grace that is only found in releasing the bitterness towards those who have wronged me. It was a catalyst to open my eyes to the deeply intrinsic truth that I am a “beloved daughter” to God, and that abuse by others does not change who I was born as…a child of God.
Riding in Cars with Boys was released in 2001, but I did not get a chance to watch it until that fateful late summer night in 2005. My then-husband was passed out in the bedroom, after sleeping 18 hours already that day and missing important events that my three children and I had attended without him. I was tired of being ignored, I was tired of trying to stay committed to a man whose mistress was his drug of choice…and any other person who appealed to him in any given moment. I was tired of the humiliation and embarrassment, but I had a three year old, a barely two year old, and a 3 month old. The kids were sleeping, he was snoring off his latest binge, and I settled in to watch the movie. There is a scene where Beverly D ‘Onofrio (Drew’s character) has enough of her husband’s addictions, so she pulls herself together and leaves him. In an era when single mothers had limited options, she set her chin in determination and set out to make a better life for herself and her son.
I sat in astonishment. “I could leave him,” I thought. “I already have a Bachelor’s degree, I could find a job, and find someone to watch the kids while I work. I don’t have to stay here. I can leave!” Tears of relief and realization flooded my cheeks, as I sat in amazement. Over the next few weeks, my plan of escape was formulated. Due to the increasingly violent nature of my husband’s actions and threats, every step of mine had to be carefully and intentionally made in order to avoid death or other harm to the kids, myself &/or our loved ones.
Miraculously, we were finally able to flee, and we settled into a different county. Despite his family’s intimidation and misuse of their many connections, the children and I moved into an apartment and started settling into our new life. My mom gifted me with a copy of the movie, Never Been Kissed, and I began to slowly recreate my self-image. I would laughingly say in the mirror, “I’m not Josie Grossie anymore!” (Seriously, I did…) After being so beaten and battered emotionally, verbally, and even physically, I had to learn that I had permission to have confidence…that being a confident, self-assured woman was not going to automatically warrant an angry outburst. It took me years, almost a decade, to walk with my head held high again.
A car accident left me with a debilitating concussion and subsequent amnesia (this was about 5 years ago), and my short term memory would reset if something changed. For instance, a friend took me to the grocery store, and told me to get a tomato. A woman rushed in front of me with her cart and I had no idea where I was or what I was doing there. I kept having a nagging phrase in my head so I finally posted on my Facebook status; “What is ’50 First Dates’? Is it a book?” The resounding answer was, “It’s your life right now!”
When James and I started dating, there were many things that I forgot. One of the nice things was that if I slept three times, I would forget any misunderstandings or disagreements that we had. It was nice for him to have a reference when explaining me to other people…and the movie was the quickest explanation. I wish I could honestly say that I beat the crap out of a criminal with a baseball bat like “Lucy” did (just kidding 🙂 ), but again, Drew’s movie stirred up hope in me that someday, a kind man might decide that I was worth the effort it would take to make me his bride. Eventually, my hope was realized when James did indeed make me his bride.
I was overjoyed when James took me on a date to see Blended this year. We laughed through the whole thing, saying, “It’s so true! Dating after your divorce is really that awkward!” Looking back on our marriage with the lens of this romantic comedy was funny yet reassuring. The script reiterated the humorous awkward moments that are strung along in our journey of blending a family.
I marvel at how God can take the artistic talent of an elegant actress like Drew Barrymore, and somehow intricately weave a beautiful story of redemption and hope into my life. Thank you seems too small a token of my gratitude, but I hope that this heartfelt expression reflects my genuine appreciation.