Friday, November 19, 2010


The first time I watched the movie Napoleon Dynamite, I couldn't decide what I wanted to do more - laugh or cry. So I did some of both.

A friend, one of those exceptional sister friends, recommended Napoleon one afternoon shortly after it came out in theaters. She was on her way with a couple of her kids to watch Napoleon for the fourth time in two weeks. "Girlfriend, you have got to see this movie!"

Months passed. Finally, we rented Napoleon Dynamite from the corner video store for family movie night. I knew nothing about the movie except that Linda had insisted I must see it - and I knew Linda was a wise woman whose advice was well worth heeding.

An hour and a half later, sitting on the sofa as the credits rolled past, I thought, "I have to have a copy of this movie." I don't own movies, people. I prefer books. Sure, as a family, we have collected an odd assortment of DVD's over the years - Christmas presents to the kids, cast-offs from the library, history lectures, etc. But, for the first time in my life, I wanted a movie, my very own copy.

Steve's reaction the first time he saw Napoleon? "That has got to be the stupidest movie I have ever seen." He thought it was a wash, a total waste of time. Too totally unrealistic and unbelievable to even be entertaining. Two thumbs down. If he thought the movie such a complete dud, why did I feel so strongly the opposite?

Why? Because Napoleon Dynamite is MY high school story. That tall, frizzy-haired, socially inept dude? I was the female version of every awkward, self-conscious, clumsy, misfit quality and all the teen angst he embodied. Pedro and Deb? They were my lab partners in science class, my study hall buddies, the kids I hung out with while we waited for our parents to pick us up each afternoon after school.

Steve thought Napoleon Dynamite was too goofy to be real. It made me cry because it was so real that it hurt. Steve thought it was too bizarre to be funny. I laughed because the movie recreated so many ridiculous scenarios I had lived myself.

Last night, Steve and I attended the opening of a local art show, complete with wine, cheese, fruit, and opportunities to socialize with the local elite. A very hoity-toity affair for a small town like Union City. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the artwork on display - beautiful paintings, prints, photographs, pottery. For a cool $1500, I could have carried home the electric-hued Jersey cow who captured my heart as she gazed at me from underneath long, lush eyelashes. Fun evening, yes, but....

Once again, I was Napoleon. Surrounded by pencil-thin women wearing stiletto-heeled boots and long tailored coats, this frumpy Momma felt like Deb in the midst of a roomful of Summer Wheatleys. A flock of Barbies - tanned, toned, tweaked, and dyed - delicately sipped their wine, while I tried to not trip over an easel or crash into a display of hand-crafted pottery. Attendants (or were they fashion models, maybe some kind of living art display?) floated about, purring, "Let me know if I can help you with anything" - like I looked like a woman who could drop a bundle for a spattering of oil on canvas!

Yes, I definitely felt out of my element. Waaaay out of my league. Like Napoleon at the dance, searching in the speckled light of the disco ball for a friendly face, someone to reassure him that he was okay - even while chomping a mouthful of BigLeague Chew and wearing an orange leisure suit picked up at the local Goodwill store.

And now this where I get all sentimental....

In the display rooms filled with businessmen and socialites, philanthropists and patrons, there was one person whose charm, grace, beauty, and ease disarmed all my timid insecurity. "Hi, Mom!" My oldest son, one of the evening's featured artists, greeted me with a bear hug. "Come this way - I want you to see Mrs. Shaw's paintings!" He led me from room to room, describing the various artwork on display, pointing out favorite pieces, explaining unfamiliar media and techniques.

In one room, we met the generous patroness who organized the show and who was hosting the opening reception. "Mrs. Anna, this is my Mom....," Reuben began introductions. I was surprised to find that I no longer felt like Napoleon at all. No, I was Reuben's mom - and I felt like the queen of the world.

(In Steve's defense, I have to add that after 10 or 12 viewings, he has discovered at least some of the charm of Napoleon Dynamite and can now quote the movie almost as well as the rest of the family!)

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Camille, I love this post, but not as much as I love you. But I can't pass up the opportunity to say..."Heck, yeah!"