Lady Bird

“It kills me when people talk about California hedonism. Anybody who talks about California hedonism has never spent a Christmas in Sacramento.”

I remember reading Joan Didion in my AP Language and Composition class my junior year, this year. The class read, “Los Angeles Notebook” and were asked to analyze it for rhetorical strategy. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but the only person who seemed to have a grasp on the purpose in the sheer whimsical nature of Didion’s piece was me. I found it lovely and captivating while the rest of my class stuck their nose up and stuck to the textbook structure of analysis. I find this a common theme in that class. Writing is my strong suit and I do it often, freelance and structured. My teacher loves my work and I try to love the assignments she gives me (as much as I can in an AP class my junior year of high school). As the year has come to a close, I remember reflecting, recently, with my friends, that nothing seems real anymore. This whole mess, this whole cataclysmic world being juniors and what that means on the scale of our tiny little lives in Colorado Springs, seems more like a purgatory than anything. At the same time where pulling all nighters and texting my friends for textbook pages and wanting to rip my hair out because of Calculus, it’s a lovely and simple in-between. The calm before the storm. The juxtaposition of enjoying the struggle is what grips me and tells me that I’m okay and that it’s okay to be here. It’s okay to be 16 and it’s okay to be just that. Today I was synonymous with Lady Bird. Today I was her.

I placed an anecdote of my grandma in relation with my thoughts on La La Land recently, and though I have a lot to say on her allocation in my life, I have more to say about my mother. My mom is my best friend. My mom, to put it simply, knows me the best out of anyone I’ve ever met or have come close to establishing a same level of connectivity with. It has always just been this way and I don’t know any other way to see her other than as my parent and as my friend. I realize this privilege, the ability to bond and grow coinciding with a parent in the ways of understanding and loving, and I’m so lucky. I know not everyone has that. My mom was born in San Diego, California. Just like me. April 28, 1970. My birthday is May 11, 2001. Taureans 31 years apart. My mom was raised in the lackadaisical haze of my Grandma’s free spirit who sought comfort in the peanut butter and jelly on white bread and the Barbie play house that she’d enjoy at her friend’s house on the weekends. My grandma was a excellent mother to her only child, and loved her as strongly as the waves crashed on the La Jolla shores. But my mom sought refuge in comfortability, in the structure of a 1950s’ household. My grandma was shaped by the 60s’ and my mom was a child of the 80s’ who was accumulatively a child of her predecessors. Spending a majority of her childhood at her grandparents’ house in between roller skating on the boardwalk and verbatim living the dream scene of every John Hughes film, my mom created a life for herself. In relation to me and how I fall into focus, my mom yearned for that structure that was never perfectly accessible to her. She was a teacher. 1st grade. My mom loves kids. She stopped teaching when I was born. It was probably to best for her; things are only good when they’re good. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that I’m not an only child; I have three younger brothers. In the respect that my mom was an only child, having siblings has been the weirdest testament to personality growing up and a factor in our generational differences. I don’t mind and in fact, I’m extremely grateful I’m accustomed to compromise and the rigid male mind. Being the only two women in the house, it only seemed natural my mom and I would be this way. That we would not think twice about the ridiculous inside jokes and me calling her Summer instead of mom sometimes, and me being comfortable around her. That I would be sitting in a movie theater next to her today, both of us silently yet knowingly crying. To ourselves and to each other. Because she knows as much as I know, that next year that’ll be me. Fly away from home.

I was promised a beautiful exploration of the faculty of growing up in the notions of familiarity and whimsical demeanor that I gathered from the rave reviews of Lady Bird. Of course, there was this voice in the back of my mind that pondered me not liking it, or even worse, having no connection to the aspects that made all of my peers love it. That voice was silenced. Lady Bird is genius and adaptable to every unaccustomed child and their adjusted parental counterpart. Lady Bird is a salute to the naive teenager and to the humble abode that awaits them at every twist and turn in their cumbersome life. Trailing behind our endearing protagonist, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, Lady Bird is one of the first of its kind in many ways. It is one of the first coming-of-age period pieces set in the early 2000s, (a humble and introspective choice by Gerwig). Behind its exposition is a female force, that of its debut director/screenwriter, Greta Gerwig’s pride and glory. It is fabricated by the intricate details of pop culture and economic struggle during the beginning of the 21st century yet does not rely entire on these elements to string the plot along. The film is incorporating of religious and familial themes that lay the foundation for the juxtaposed uniqueness of Lady Bird. Lady Bird is a real affecting glance at that little slice of time before it’s really time to grow up. Before it’s time to leave or stay or find where you belong. Lady Bird is where the magic happens; it’s where the heartbreak and first times and rebellion and freedom and revelation and maturity and love begin to find a semblance of concrete ness in the scope of who that young person is to become. Lady Bird flies above her peers on the whim of the dreamer and the oblivious. Lady Bird excels because she, like and unlike her counterparts and predecessors, is real.

I don’t know if I ever really, truly, believed in a God. Or just God. I went to church when I was younger because I was told to and I never really minded the watered down, childlike novelty of it. I just sang and enjoyed my time with my peers. It was just my life. My parents were never strictly religious people but every once in a while, my mom or my dad will fabricate in the “grace of God” in application to a life lesson moment. There was never a pressure to love or please a god, it was more so to please my parents, or my mother, to go to church without argumentation. I sang the hymns and listened to the doctrines but I never understood. This was not a lack of me knowing what the pastor was talking about in reference to holiness and purity and living life in “God’s light.” It was that I didn’t understand why this was such a big deal, so to speak. Understand, this is a personal recollection and connection to Lady Bird, not a direct attack on the faith of any. Just personal experience. I would imagine my favorite singer or actress on the stage to make the time pass (as aforementioned, my church was a diluted ideal of Christianity so as to apply to the masses that congregated in every Sunday at 11:00 am) and would think of what I’d do with my day when the service let out. I’d eat the bread and wine (grape juice) and sit back down. I’d wonder why there were people of every walk of life jumping and hollering and divulging their soul into worship songs. I never knew what that felt like and I never will. I haven’t gone to church since I was 11, ever since my unspoken distaste for organized religion dirtied my innocence. Part of me wanted to find sanctity and belonging in a church where a part of me knew that that would never be me. I’ve seen devout worshippers be the dirtiest, uncouth, most mean people and I’ve seen non-believers be the most believing in the natural functions of the universe. I’ve seen these lengths and I’ve seen the in-betweens and I guess now, I understand why my mom cared about going to church and why she gradually stopped going when I stopped going. There is a fine line between faith and being a conformant. My mom is faithful but she’s far from a conformist. That’s where we meet minds. As Lady Bird captures the essence of conforming and the falling into rhythm and invalidation or religion, as she is so immersed in it, being a student at a Sacramento Catholic High School, I began to find my balance between her value of religion from the beginning of the film to the end and my value of religion from when I was 5 to when I am 16. Where she finds comfort in the church, arguably not the religion itself, the sense of familiarity and home in this communal atmosphere a solace in her changing climate of adulthood. In the contradiction that what she initially was striding to get away from in the beginning of her senior year was what she would find comfort and a sense of personal (perhaps moral) obligation and magnetism in once she become unattached from it, Lady Bird subtly and brilliantly exposes the importance and unimportance or religion in the maelstrom of growing up. It is a construct that builds many people’s childhoods (including mine and Lady Bird’s) and it is something that we either grow with to hate or love or feel a spoken or unspoken obligation to, or it is something we abandon with our innocence and ability to make believe. Maybe it is something we visit again as a nuanced mind. Maybe it’s not. Maybe it is something tangible or maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s a lifeline. Whatever that religion, that doctrine, that system of beliefs that you were taught to abide by and respect, Lady Bird says that it’s okay for it to mean something else. It’s okay for you to let go. It’s okay for you to hold on. 

The value of relationships. Parental. Platonic. Romantic. Lady Bird finds commonality in every viewer, in any connected and susceptible human being to the condition of feeling. Lady Bird examines the traditional and the untraditional. I felt like this film was written for me or about me. The raw captivity of a first crush. The palpable electricity in the air as Lady Bird and Danny shared her first kiss and as they shouted at the stars. I felt myself in the way that Lady Bird told Danny that it was alright for him to touch her. Everything was precious and new. Things are not precious and magical after that prolonged feeling left her in the dark to realize how stupid she was. But how she’ll never have that again. I felt for Lady Bird. I felt for her failed relationship with Danny, and I felt for her reconciliation in non spiteful comfort for his internal conflictions. Human. I felt for her losing her virginity to a precocious douchebag. I felt for her sadness and regret that she would never be able to buy or connect back to that moment that meant nothing to Kyle but everything to her. I felt for that small world moment, that nothing was okay and he took her for granted. I felt it.

I could see myself in everything Lady Bird acted as in the relationship with her friends and her family. That moment where you lose yourself to the promising land of popularity but only are able to see, in your falling of grace, the error of your ways in abandoning the morals and familiarity your former friendships were built on. Those real friendships. Those real people only come around in small doses and Lady Bird, as I, have been lucky enough to realize. 

“I want you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.”
“What if this is the best version?”

I’m leaving for college in about a year and a half. Within the past year, I’ve expressed to my parents my desire to leave home and go to school where I was born. To deviate from my original life plan and go to school with the pretentious social climbers who I have already sold my soul to. I know this will be difficult for my entire family. My mom, especially. I’m the first child and only daughter, and in my own right, I’m special. I’ve been the first to everything and I will be the first to leave the nest. I don’t express any vulnerability towards this, as I know this is so tender to my mother already. There’s a sense of miscommunication and communication between her and I. As Lady Bird and her mother push and pull as they butt heads in a power play of love and family, there’s glimmers of true care. True yet unspoken gratitude and misunderstanding. As much as there is criticism and difference interwoven in the ability to reconcile and forge connection between the mother and daughter, the film offers the ambiguity that this establishment of understanding is possible. It is possible to make amends and to draw back the shouting, the slammed doors, the bitter silences. It is possible in person or through the wire. With Lady Bird’s call to her mother, the last of the film and one of the most emotionally raw scenes of the 2010s’, we see this glimmer of hope. Lady Bird concedes; she tells her mother that she loves her, and that her name, her real name, is a good one. Christine tells her mom that she never understood how beautiful and noble Sacramento was until she drove on it’s wound streets herself. The scene plays out where they have both driven these streets, offering the notion that these two characters do connect, despite their falling apart. The quiet yet struggling notion of a father who only offers support and love to his children is how I see my father. I know that next year, I will be Christine. Circumstantially different however spiritually intertwined, I will be that bird.

The integrity of home and the rush of that senior year. The grace of first love and the ability to appreciate what you have, as a child, as a teenager, and as an adult is the unspoken resilience of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. The endless bounds of applicability creates the overwhelming notions of nostalgia, calling back the audience to that time in their life or calling back that junior in high school to reflect on where they are now. How they’re doing. Why they’re turning out this way. Should I be an individual or should I be a conformist? My family will miss me when I go to school in California. I know that as sure as the summers are hot and the winters are bitter in Colorado Springs, I will be back. I recall how many of these precious moments I’ve had with my brothers. The talks I’ve had with my dad. The days spent with my mom. I have a good life. And it will be good wherever I go. My mom and I sat in the theater today and we could feel each other hotly crying. Sometimes over different things. Sometimes over the same things. She turned to me when Christine hung up the phone and said, “You’re my Lady Bird.”

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