"I suppose I was seeking the boundless possibilities that are said to live on the frontier,"
(Lydia in The Jump-Off Creek, page 168).
Today I showed clips from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers in my Oregon Literature class.
I use the film clips -- which make the West look squeaky-clean and loads of fun -- as a way for students to grapple with the contrasts between our romanticized mythology of the West with the difficult, sometimes grim realities Oregon's early settlers lived with.
Tomorrow on their final, students will compare the authentic literature we've read this term with Seven Brides, as a way to get even deeper into the texts.
This is one of my favorite teaching activities (thank you to Annemarie, who helped me develop it several years ago!). Even though the film is an oldie, it's a goodie, and through it, my students are able to articulate some things about literature that they haven't thought about before.
So today I was sitting in my classroom, watching the dance scene from Seven Brides with my students, and all of a sudden I found myself blinking back tears. I quickly brushed them aside before my students noticed, and ran through a quick personal inventory. What was going on? It wasn't a sad scene or anything...
Long before I began showing these film clips in my classroom, I watched the film countless times at home with my children. I think it was Polly who first introduced our family to the rollicking tunes and classic romantic plot. For a household full of girls, this was a winner. Definitely G-rated, set in Oregon, what more could I ask? Family members memorized some of the lines, and teased one another when they got it wrong. (Polly still defends her line of "That's the old pass," even though the rest of us are certain it's "That's Echo Pass.") I have lots of happy memories of laughter and family camaraderie around this film.
And now they're all grown and gone. Who knows if we'll ever sit and watch this funny, fun old film together again? It was some hard-core nostalgia that got me a little misty-eyed this morning. I'm happy for each of our children, living good lives in a variety of places, mostly a little farther away than I'd like, but strong and positive and making their part of the world a better place. I don't want to go back to being 35 and having all the kids at home. Through my children and their ongoing lives, I, too, experience some of those "boundless possibilities" that Lydia seeks in The Jump-Off Creek. But sometimes when I least expect it, a tender little feeling catches me unaware.
PS: The Jump-Off Creek is by Molly Gloss, one of my favorite Oregon authors. If you haven't read anything by her yet, check out these good reads:
The Jump-Off Creek (single woman homesteader in the 1890s)
Wild Life (woman lost in the woods / possible Sasquatch encounter)
The Hearts of Horses (a young woman, real-life "horse whisperer" set during WWI)
The Dazzle of Day (sci-fi, set in the future, her most challenging book to read, I think)