A few days ago, a line from the film David Lean’s classic Great Expectations popped into my head like a lyric from an old song.
It’s from the opening scenes of this beautifully rendered version of Charles Dickens’ novel where the hero, Pip, a young boy living in the marsh country of southeast England, is visiting his mother’s grave when the escaped convict Magwitch jumps him.
Magwitch orders Pip to bring him food and a file so he can break free of the chains that are weighing him down.
And just to make sure the kid comes back, Magwitch invents a sadistic sidekick who, he says, will come after Pip if he doesn’t do what he’s told.
“There's a young man hid with me,” Magwitch says with extreme malice, “in comparison with which young man I am a Angel.”
I can’t recall anything that prompted this particular memory. It just cropped up in my head, but I have to say it’s most welcome since watching this movie was part of my family’s Christmas tradition.
Great Expectations isn’t a Christmas story, of course, but it was written by Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, which we also watched every year.
Saturday was my late mother’s birthday and, as I think of Pip & Co., I recalled another line from the film, where Joe, the kindly husband of Pip’s wicked sister, forgives the adult Pip for treating Joe so harshly after the young man had moved up to high society.
“Ever the best of friends, eh, Pip?" Joe says.
Whenever my mother wanted to make sure everything was all right on the home front, she used to ask us this simple question.
Wish I’d Said That…
Now I always believed that my mother was borrowing a page from Dickens’ novel, but I have just learned today from my auntie that this was not the case.
“Bestus friends,” it turns out, dates back to my mother’s childhood and has nothing whatsoever to do with Great Expectations. I’m not sure of the origin, but it ain’t Dickens.
The things you learn when you, ah…ask questions.
My mother’s phrase was an olive branch that she’d extend to us after an argument. Whatever the problem, she wanted to put the misery behind us.
That’s the way to live. To often I chose to carry grief around like a set of chains that can’t be filed off. I see the great expectations I had for my life fading away and I do whatever I can to make things worse.
I think the best birthday present I could ever give my mother would be to abandon this negativity and try to find some joy in my life.
I was running low on cash on Saturday and I decided to several blocks out of the way to the Chase bank on 75th Street.
It didn’t occur to me until I was walking through the door that I had made an accidental pilgrimage to the bank where my mother worked for so many years on the very day was born
As usual, I made sure to stop by the spot where her desk used to be and recalled the times I visited her here.
It felt good being here on this most special day and I blessed myself on the way out the door.
Bestus friends now and forever.