How Small Pebbles (And Paul Newman) Illuminate Gaps in My Heart

It happened again – a trigger that jolts me into a memory when I least expect it. Last weekend, I watched an old Paul Newman movie, HARPER, with my friend Doris. Newman leads a cast that is pretty iconic: Shelley Winters, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Janet Leigh, Robert Wagner – with a screenplayby William Goldman. Forfilm nerds like Doris andme, that’s pure ambrosia. That said, the movie has an unwieldy mess of plot points. But I digress.

Paul Newman and Lauren Bacall in HARPER

I’d watched HARPER years ago with my husband, David. We both had such long lists of shows we wanted to watch, and they tended to be quite different. David was interested in old classic movies. I loved them, but also wanted to keep abreast of the ton of new original productions, which I needed to be aware of as a film and TV writer. Most of the shows on my “to watch” list tended to bore him. So we took turns picking out our nightly entertainment together.

Since David’s passing in March, I’ve been able to do all the things he didn’t like so much – including an all-you-can-consume menu of fairly new productions. But watching HARPER, the kind of vintage movie he loved to watch, turned me to emotional mush. Little wonder that I began to pen this blog post the next day, sitting on a bench in Doris’s forested backyard, as pictured below. (Is that magical, or what?)

My writing bench last weekend

In a similar way, I just about broke down a couple of months ago hearing Franco Nero sing a song from CAMELOT. You probably know the lyrics: “If ever I should leave you, it wouldn’t be in springtime …” Fresh as yesterday, my mind called up David singing that song while we danced in the living room. I’m not a musical kind of person, so at the time, I remember being charmed, but I didn’t feel it as deeply as I do now, thinking about him sending me such quiet passion.

Because these memories are hitting me like a swift kick in the back of the knee, I know there’s gold there, from a writer’s perspective. I can use versions of the experiences to deepen scenes in the novel I’m developing now, which is a sequel to THE JUICE, a dystopian sci-fi rollercoaster ride, with a touch of romance.

I’m not alone in feeling this sort of thing. Recently, David’s mom, Joycelyn, told me that she used to grumble internally when her brother-in-law, George, showed up at the house and got into long debates with her husband, John. She found it tiring. But after Joyce and John moved from New Orleans (where George lives), and later John passed away, she missed those conversations.

And so it is that the past pebblesin our shoes can illuminate great gaps in our hearts – ones that we never would have imagined would hold such significance.

Have you felt something that triggers your heart, your memories, in similar ways – moments that seemed trivial, which left you impatient or slightly indifferent at the time, but which you now hold so close, and never ever want to forget?

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