Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper published a compilation excerpt from my book Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey! I hope you will pop over for a sweet and funny read: Adoption Becomes Reality. Peace Out and Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mothers!
Thorin and I were shopping at Hannaford’s. I noticed a petite women with brown hair pulled in a neat pony tail. I saw her first in the produce department. She almost ran into me with her cart because she was staring so intently at Thorin. Then in the aisle with soap and tooth paste she almost ran into me again. This time our eyes met briefly. Hers were rimmed in red.
After two more run-ins I figured it’s definitely about Thorin and likely his Down syndrome. Either that or she was trying to injure me. We got into line behind her– not by design but hers was the shortest line. She looked at Thorin, “You are a good looking boy.”
“I’ve been watching you– pushing the cart and helping. You’re a big help.”
I bet you’re a smart guy.”
She never looked at me. After she was done checking out she turned towards Thorin,
When we got to our car I saw her sitting almost directly across from us in her car– watching him. I asked Thorin to take the cart over to the stall about 20 feet away. She watched him look both ways, cross the lane, return the cart and then look both ways again and run over to me. As I started up the car my phone rang. Thorin whines if I talk in the car. I turned on music and stepped outside to answer. It was a short conversation. I hung up and looked across the way. She was still there staring. I walked toward her smiling and waving. She looked confused. I was confused, too. I continued.
When I got to her car she put down the window.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Is it hard?” she said pointing toward Thorin.
“Because he has Down syndrome?”
“He has to work harder then most people.”
“What about you and your husband?”
“He’s our only kid so I don’t know if he’s harder,” I said laughing.
Her eyes were wet, “Our doctor thought we should have an abortion.”
I put my hand on the edge of her window. I didn’t feel like I could reach in and touch her but I wanted to connect. I waited.
“We agreed. Now we have two girls.”
“He didn’t have anything good to say about my baby” she said shaking her head, “I think he was wrong.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“Did you know?”
“I did. We adopted him. So we never had the doctor full of gloom and doom but we did have family and friends that said awful things. People are really ignorant about Down syndrome.”
“It’s been seven years.”
“There’s grief support groups. Or counselors….” I trailed off.
She squinted at me, “I have no idea what I’d say.”
“Tell them you stalked a boy with Down syndrome at the grocery store. That’s a great opening line.”
She laughed which was a relief.
“You have a good son.”
“I do. Thanks.”
As I walked back to my car I heard her drive away.
author’s note: I am pro-choice. I also think any medical professional still frightening parents with never true information about people with Down syndrome is a menace.
Thorin had a minor surgery this week. Ward and I thought a nice recovery would be for me to take Thorin and the dogs to a friend’s condo in Bar Harbor. I planned it so we would arrive just as a snow storm was starting! We would be snowed in! In rural-ish Maine! What fun! What could possibly go wrong?
Thorin stopped talking at 6:00pm. Completely non-verbal except for the hysterical screaming and crying that started at 1:00 in the morning. He was burning up. Crap! How to get a sick, hot and screaming boy to the car, clean it off and drive in snow on black ice? I didn’t do any of that. I called an ambulance.
He had strep throat. Fortunately antibiotics turned a very-sick-boy into a not-as-sick-boy.
Ward joined us and then we caravan-ed home. Thorin was much better! So much better he had an endless list of demands this guilt-ridden-mother was only too happy to indulge. He wanted to watch Monster Trucks. I saw the Tomatometer was 31% and Audience Score was 51%. I did not want to watch that.
Picture Thorin– laying back on a mound of pillows, pleading: “I’m a sick. You stay a here.”
It’s was impossible not to cave to the charming dialect of an elderly Italian immigrant.
Rob Lowe is in the film– speaking in a Southern drawl! It was as distracting as Nicholas Cage in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married.’ Also Rob must have in his contract ‘aggressively tailored Oxford shirts only.’
The hero, Tripp, is a plucky, paternally-challenged, highly-motivated man-child. He’s played by Lucas Till. Till has the challenge of portraying an enthusiastic teen pushing 18 – played by an actor in his mid-twenties -which if misplayed could seem super creepy.
His mother is played by the terrific Amy Ryan. She has maybe three minutes of screen time. Is she a producer? Her character dates a real priss– the town’s Sheriff played by Mr. Barry Pepper. He wipes the car door of his Sheriff’s car with a napkin after she touches it. That’s straight up weird though, right?
This film is super hokey, corn ball and slap sticky. It has TWEEN BOY written all over it. There are obvious nods to E.T. and all the other movies where good kids help a misunderstood creature against the adults who want to kill it. Thorin laughed, giggled and sighed through out.
What’s the amazing Danny Glover doing in this movie? To start he’s in a wheelchair. I do love him but what about an actor who is in a wheelchair? Are these actors all producers?
Tripp’s potential love interest, Meredith, is played by Jane Levy who was a couple years older than Till at the time of the filming, playing an 18 year old. She got to be a producer. Bully for her!
Set up: A mysterious being will be displaced by oil drilling unless something happens!
Enter the film’s titular monster. He looks like a massive slug with octopus-like tentacles. He’s actually adorable. Think Flipper if you’re old enough.
He guzzles oil for sustenance. He and his species existence is threatened by tight-shirt wearing, drawling Rob Lowe who wants the oil they need to survive and doesn’t care who has to die to get it.
Thankfully — our monster crosses paths with Tripp. He is immediately taken with Creech — who he names after ‘creature.’ His relationship to Creech is protective, fatherly. Tripp’s biological father, played by Frank Whaley, has been a real disappointment. And now he’s stuck with an inferior substitute– Barry Pepper as Felix Unger. So Tripp will be the good father to Creech. He is so single-focused in his care-taking of his charge that he is completely unaware of the romantic feelings coming from Meredith. Later in the film she tells Tripp who is lamenting the loss of a father something like: “It made you who you are.” It’s then you realize she sounds like a 28-year-old high school guidance counselor with bad boundaries.
Okay, so everyone in this town has monster trucks except for poor Tripp. He has a shell of what could be a very sweet vintage monster truck save for the engine and all other mechanical parts. I won’t go into details but Creech stuffs his very supple body in the truck so that he is the full operating system of the fastest and most badass truck ever.
Brief aside: “Oh, monster in the truck! Monster truck!” I said excitedly to Thorin. He looked at me like I was uncool. I have experienced that feeling more than once in my lifetime so I get what it feels like. And I had even suspected Thorin might see me this way. But this look was blatant.
So Tripp and Creech are deliriously happy with each. In fact, during the musical interlude race scene– where Trip & Creech race Meredith and her horse it is clear the dreamy love song is about the boy and his monster truck. This– right here– is what I have discovered is safe terrain for Thorin. He is not ready, at least in movies or books, for the more serious aspects of romance. Ward and I suggested Karate Kid a few weeks ago. Thorin started karate. He informed us 30 minutes in: “No, not for eleven year olds. Older kids.”
Back to the flick. Fathers are in rare quantity in this film. Meredith’s biggest role seems to be able to offer her off-screen father’s vacated premises– both of which are perfect for Tripp’s mission to succeed. A complete barn repair shop– how convenient! And a little cabin by a lake– perfect for hiding out from the bad guys! Lazy writing or jokey?
We learn the cleaning Sheriff really loves Amy Ryan and that knuckle-headed Tripp. We see him fighting to protect Tripp against the head bad guy. It’s an almost nausea producing scene with both characters shouting in front of a high speed train. It was dizzying and I have no idea what they were yelling.
The kids get a hand from Thomas Lennon’s character– in a really good role for him. He also discover the creatures have hive mentality which means because of their super close vibes they can merely absorb learned abilities from each other. Sort of like the Trump Administration.
The movie ends in a predictable and uplifting way. Except maybe for Tripp and Meredith leaving town together at the end.
It’s a fun, easily digestible movie. But, I do have a question. There is an almost stereotypical character. Sam, played by Tucker Albrizzi, is the red-haired, fat kid with the lisp. He along with Meredith saw the true wonder of Tripp even before all the hoopla. Tripp enlists Sam’s necessary aide. Meredith tells Tripp, “You’ll have to go to lunch with him.” Tripp good-naturedly agrees. Then it gets weird for a few minutes. They take turns looking at Sam like he’s their pet. Meredith points out Sam’s plumber’s crack to Tripp and they both smile adorably. Now I think they want to adopt him.
The terrain changes quickly during the last part of the movie from a scenic green rural community to seemingly cut off mountains. It was great to watch it safely curled up on the couch with Thorin and the dogs.
August 25, 2017— This is the conclusion of my conversation with Michelle S. Hite, Assistant Professor in the English Department at Spelman College on oppositional consciousness and parenting. (Originally published September, 2015)
Kari: Do you believe there is a universal need to be accepted?
August 20, 2017: I am re-posting my conversations from two-years ago with Michelle S. Hite, friend and Assistant Professor in the English Department at Spelman College. It is back-to-school season and the topics we discussed are just as relevant, in fact they are timeless. This is the second of a three-part discussion. Click this link for Part 1 of our conversation.
Check out Macy’s back-to-school commercial. The soundtrack is Tears for Fears “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” with new lines including: “Everyone on their best behavior.”
Curt Smith, founder of Tears for Fears on the song: “The concept is quite serious – it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.”