Beth died last night. She was supposed to die tonight, but my hard-hearted husband hastened her departure by going to bed early. Of course, he did not know that he was killing Beth by doing this. And the alternative would have just prolonged the inevitable. But still.
I had put off preparing for the death because I thought I would have more time. But Cap’n Firepants threw the zinger at me at our daughter’s bed time that he was pretty exhausted, and could I please read tonight? He stepped back from me a bit when I acted like he had just asked me to climb the roof at midnight and clean up squirrel poop. Generally, I jump at the chance for an extra night to read to our daughter. But I dreaded the chapter that I knew was next.
Cap’n Firepants reads a different book with Dimples, so he can be forgiven for not knowing that he had just asked me to walk into the Valley of Death. And, I am sure that he would point out that I was the one who picked the book in the first place.
It’s just that I did not realize that Beth’s death in Little Women would occur while I am still in mourning over the approximately one hundred and thirteen people who perished in Les Miserables. I am still reeling from that massacre, and the repercussions of its soundtrack, and now I had to add one more body to the pile.
Plus, Dimples and I had just recently had our class picture argument, and I was pretty sure that reading an entire chapter to her about the death of a beloved character was not going to endear me any more to her. She makes it a point to avoid sappy death scenes in books, and I had kind of tricked her into this one.
Of course, Dimples handled it much better than I did. She is not a middle-aged mother fighting depression and haunted by visions of Anne Hathaway dreaming a dream as she is dying in a filthy street in Paris. And, I think that it is entirely possible that she would be happy with all of the characters being killed off as I have probably referred to these paragons of virtue a little too often. (“Do you think Beth would complain if her mother asked her to clean the toilet? Do you think Beth even had a toilet?”)
Fortunately, she has not compared me to Marmee, yet. Because we all know how that Battle of the Moms would shake out.
So, at the end of the day I cried more than she did. And that night, I dreamed my dear daughter was in the hospital dying from the flu.
I try not to censor my daughter’s reading, but I’m beginning to think someone should probably censor mine.
It’s too late for me, but maybe you can save yourselves. If you have any kind of leanings toward depression, you might want to re-think going to see Les Miserables. I am not sure what illogical portion of my brain took control when I made the decision to fork out bucks to go see that movie, but I think my blind adoration of Hugh Jackman may have had something to do with it. You would think that the fact that it is titled Les Miserables (you don’t even have to speak French to translate that) would have clued me in. Or, perhaps, my experience watching the musical on-stage a few years ago… in addition to the repeated viewings of the anniversary celebration on PBS… and then on my treasured DVD. But, no, I just had to see the movie.
Many people would find it up-lifting. Parts of it were. But other parts were mind-searingly tragic. Especially trying to watch Russell Crowe sing. Unfortunately, despite Inspector Javert’s forgettable solo performances, I could not get the rest of the darn soundtrack out of my head.
And then I returned to work today. I was so completely busy that I had no time to mentally replay the musically accompanied deaths of a dozen horribly abused and mistreated characters.
My reprieve lasted until about 6:30 tonight. I brought Dimples to dance practice and sat in the lobby, listening to mothers chatting. One of them was lecturing another mother on her lost ATM card. She finished her advice by saying, “And at the end of the day, the bank is liable.”
Who says that?!!!!!!!! Who still says, “At the end of the day?” The whole friggin’ song washed over me in a second, and I thought, “I am never going to get away from the streets of 19th century France. Curse you, Hugh Jackman!”
So, I returned home, with the darn music playing in my head again, and I looked at Wonderbutt and realized that he is really a canine Javert, always alert and on the look-out for his quarry. And I am his quarry. Which would make me Jean Valjean.
And now life is very confusing, so I have decided to swear off all musicals except Grease. Because the only thing that ever depressed me about Grease was the worry about being a Beauty School Dropout. Since I am now 40 something and have a master’s degree in something completely unrelated to hair and makeup, that does not concern me so much anymore.
I can’t watch Grease 2, though, because I’m still bummed that we never had a graduation luau at my high school. Or Maxwell Caulfield. Or boys.
My new mission in life is to keep my 10-year-old daughter, Dimples, from ever watching the movie version of Les Miserables. Aside from the obvious reasons (the somewhat dark story line and Russell Crowe’s horrible singing which is only eclipsed by his steadfast refusal to do any acting), I am pretty certain that it would sever our mother/daughter relationship forever. Because the next time I tell her that we really don’t have enough money to spend on something, all she would have to do is pull the, “Fantine was willing to prostitute herself for her daughter, and you won’t even give me 75 cents to get a stick-on mustache from the vending machine!” complaint, and I will be forced to admit that I am pretty much the worst mother ever. Particularly since I am 99% certain that she does not know what a prostitute is right now (despite the fact that we once had a discussion about “skanks“, but there is a fine line between the two, I would say, and we never jumped over that line during that specific discussion). So, I will not only have exposed my daughter to the seedier side of life far too early, but I will also have armed her with the best guilt-trip weapon any daughter could possibly use. Although I suppose I could point out that, if Fantine was such a great mother, she probably should not have left her daughter with the despicable Thénardiers. But then my quick-witted daughter would say, “But at least I’d get to live with Hugh Jackman!” and I would have to admit that, all in all, that I don’t think I would be too upset if she went to live with Hugh Jackman. In a daughterly way, of course.
And here’s a thought. Do you think Hugh Jackman would let me come live with them, too?
But, I guess the real question is, “Should I give my daughter 75 cents to get a stick-on mustache from the vending machine just so she will not think I am a bad mom?”
And the answer is, of course, “Yes. Because that is small price to pay for not having to be a prostitute.”
P.S. – My other, more pressing, question is, “Why do the actors in Les Miserables always talk with a British accent even though it’s set in France?”