I would explore the vague, conservative undercurrent of disapproval felt by these two men, who would refrain from kissing each other in their driveway to avoid agitating the high schoolers across the street, or offending the families with religious lawn ornaments and crosses displayed on their homes, or alienating the dog-walking senior citizens or the stroller-pushing soccer moms or the Little League dads.
What fears and mechanisms drove these two characters to adjust so completely to a life with which they had little connection, languishing like lovely plants in pots that were too small? Could they find joy and humor among people who had effectively never left high school? Would they lose themselves to contentment? Or would they escape, and reinvent their lives?
But the tone was eluding me.... There were good stories buried in this little burb, but I could not seem to uncover them, or make them live.
Ours is not a bad suburb...the people, for the most part, are accepting of us. Perhaps I was misguided, and responding to my own preconceptions, and not dealing with the reality of our situation. Maybe I placed too much responsibility on our street for not providing me with the creative stimulation I get in a busy city, or even a crowded coffee shop. Maybe.
Then I noticed the houses...all the same, uninspiring, as though the very architecture were stifling creativity or growth. I knew the same mild despair, and ennui, that I felt upon returning home from a day in the city.
And that's when I was inspired...by "Harold and Maude".
"Harold and Maude" tells the story of a young man who is obsessed with dying, and the soon-to-be 80-year-old woman who opens his eyes to living. They fall in love, and Maude infuses Harold with all her joy and energy, despite her own secrets about her battles with death.
Maude's entire philosophy, and the film's, is distilled in one wonderful scene in a field of daisies. By looking closer, Maude tells Harold, things that we think are all the same reveal marvelous variety, strength, and beauty:
Maude: yet allow themselves be treated as that.
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The two men in my stories will find, as they evolve, how to see themselves as "this" and not treat themselves as "that"....and the deceptive "sameness" of the houses contains some noticeable gems: the ethnic histories, the family dynamics, the dogs, the kids, the aged, the dying, the acts of kindness....
The work begins...
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