I just have a lot to say.
March 14th, 2015 by

The Miserable

Her initials are LJ, and she is literal. She wants the facts. She is not good at reading undertones and sarcasm. She is the youngest of three girls. I tell her all the time that she is my favorite, because being the youngest of three girls rocks. This is a concept she can grasp.

She and her family are Our Beloved Lake Neighbors. They were our lake neighbors before they were our friends. We live in the same town, but we don’t run in the same circles. We don’t go to church together; our kids go to different schools; we didn’t swim at the same pool. I am not sure that we would even know each other if we weren’t lake neighbors. We might be “Hey” acquaintances, but certainly not friends worthy of a “How’s your mama?” Over the years, the familial relationship has gone from casual to friendly to Don’t Wanna Pass through This World without You.

I can count on one finger the times that Chuck and I have gone to a friend’s house in the past umpteen years simply to watch a movie with other adults. Our kids don’t do that much anymore either. But at the lake, we pop our corn in an ancient electric popper that Chuck and I received as a wedding present and wear our pjs to Our Beloved Lake Neighbors’ cabin to watch movies together. Oftentimes, the movie is more adult-oriented. This makes watching a movie with LJ a nightmare. She talks non-stop throughout the movie. She wants to understand what’s happening, so she frequently brings the movie-watching to a halt with machine-gun rapid questions.

The time we watched Bill Cosby Himself, she wailed:

“I don’t get it!”

“Why is that funny?!”

“This is NOT funny!!!”

The time we watched the two-disk Oliver! and put the second disk in first, none of the movie made sense to ANYBODY until we figured out what we had done. But for LJ, it was torture. Since LJ is neither my daughter nor the sibling of my children, my family finds this annoying trait delightfully quirky and entertaining. What we cannot fathom is how her own family can tolerate watching a movie with her. They seem numb to her.

The summer that the musical version of Les Miserables was released on DVD, the older sisters wanted to come to our cabin to watch it. Eleven-year-old LJ tagged along. It was late before we ever started the movie, and we knew we were in for a long night. Fortunately for my children, they had seen the movie several times. Literal LJ pelted us with questions:

“Why is that man in prison?”

“Why is that man so mean?”

“Why are they singing all the words?”

“Is that the little girl?”

“Who is that other girl?”

“Which one is her mother?”

“Is that his daddy?”

“Is that a river of blood?”

“Are they all dead?”

“Didn’t she die already?”

“Why did the dead people go to Paris?”

We sent her out of the room for the entirety of “Lovely Ladies” and “I Dreamed a Dream.” She hollered from a back bedroom:

“Is it over?!”

“Can I come back in now?!”

(Don’t fret. Emma left with her and let her play with the bunny. We didn’t strand her.)

In the past 30 years, I have probably listened to the Les Miz soundtrack 1000 times. Never have I been so happy for the ghost of Fantine to come take Jean Valjean to Heaven. The 2 ½ hour movie took at least 3 hours to watch, but it seemed much, much longer.

Not ever being one to leave well enough alone, I wanted to explain something deeper about the movie to the older girls.

“Girls,” said I, “this story is about grace. When the priest forgave Jean Valjean for stealing the silver, he modeled mercy and forgiveness. Jean Valjean grasped it. He understood that we make mistakes in life, but because of Jesus and Calvary, we are freed from the burden of our anger and disappointment. We are meant to pick ourselves up and go on and make a difference in this world. Javert never figured that out. He was not a bad guy. He was swallowed by the Law. He said himself, I am the Law and the Law is not mocked. I’ll spit his pity right back in his face. He completely missed the point. He missed grace and could not accept the mercy that Christ, through Jean Valjean’s actions, offered him.”

The air in the room was thick with thought. I was so proud of myself for my spontaneous midnight sermon. The girls were spellbound at my words.

Literal LJ furrowed her brow and broke the silence:

“Wait . . . Who’s Javert?”

I kissed LJ on the top of her sweet head. I hugged her sisters and watched them home:

“G’night girls! Thanks for coming! See you tomorrow!”

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