Lady Bird

Our father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

Of course I only remember the Lord's prayer from my bygone Catholic days. Bygone, as in: of the past, used to be, I once was but now no longer am. My mother's side of the family is very, very Christian. My father's side is Filipino, and thus/therefore/of course, very Catholic.

I was raised Catholic, kind of. We went to church on Sundays, sometimes. I remember evening light leaking through the stained glass windows, a chimera of color. I remember the light brown wood of the pews, the worn leather of the bibles. I remember snacks after morning mass, snacks during Sunday school. I remember looking at people, counting their hats and coats and babies. I remember looking anywhere but at the altar. I was looking away.

I did not know, and I still do not know, how to reconcile religion & faith with addiction and depression and wanting more and original sin and anxiety and identity and name and calling into creation. So I don't remember the sermons, I don't remember the Fathers' names, I don't remember anything I learned in Sunday school. Maybe I willed myself to forget. Maybe I never remembered in the first place. I was scared. I wanted to understand, but I couldn't, not under the spotlight of that stained-glass light.

Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those
who trespass against us.

Lady Bird is a film beyond itself. I wish it didn't sound hyperbolic to write that this film is a manifestation of faith, the good kind, the whole kind, the kind I wanted but never found in a church or in prayer. But I felt that absolution, that deliverance, that salvation. There is something so whole about this film, even though it cruxes on the very moment when the world you've always known has been splintered into slivers of pieces.

Here are some fragments:

Call into memory your senior year of high school. Call back your friends, call back applying to college, call back the dank & hay-like smell of smoke, call back prom, call back your parents, call back who you were then. Do you remember how small the world felt? How everything was closing in on itself, everything was coming to a head, everything was getting smaller and smaller and smaller, and then there was so much pressure, and there was nowhere to go, so of course the only place you wanted to go was out? Anywhere but here?

Do you remember that like me?

And maybe like Lady Bird, maybe your dad lost his job. Maybe your parents call you a name like Lady Bird, too. Mine do: they call me Ladybug. Maybe you asked if your parents liked you. Not loved you -- liked you. To be loved by your parents is a privilege, because not even everyone gets that. But to be liked? I don't know what that is if not a miracle.

Maybe like Lady Bird you were shitty to your friends. Because maybe you were worried about you, you, you, shedding one skin of who you were and trying to step into a new sound of who you wanted to be, only that sound might not have fit as well as you hoped, so now what? You're naked. You're having sex for the first time and it's supposed to mean something, isn't it? Doesn't this count for something more?

Maybe you realized your parents are people. I think this is one of the worst things to be revealed: that Mom and Dad aren't just Mom and Dad. How do you bear the weight of your parents' identities when you aren't even sure of your own?

And maybe you listened to Dave Matthews, and maybe you went to prom with your best friend, and maybe you wanted more.

I'm sorry for wanting more.

And maybe you weren't sorry then. You weren't sorry for wanting more, because why should you be? But now you are.

When I was a senior in high school, I saw Boyhood. And if you've seen it, then maybe you remember what's being echoed here: I just thought there would be more.

Because maybe what you know now that you didn't know then is that it wasn't your old world getting smaller.
You were just getting bigger.

Which is okay. I am absolving you of that guilt, if you have any. It happens, just like when we come into existence, and here we are - it happens, it happened. So now what?

How do we move forward, the weight of who we were coming down on our shoulders, the burden of what we want (which is always more) ringing in our hearts?

Maybe you go to church. Maybe you say you're sorry. And I am sorry. But maybe, too, you forgive. You forgive your friends, and your parents, and yourself.

And that, I think: maybe persistence in the wake, not even the aftermath, of devastation & loneliness -- maybe that's faith.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

I do not know what may be done beyond earth. I do know horrible, ugly, violent things are done here... so maybe we shouldn't do that in a place meant to be better.
But the kingdom has come - the kingdom of 17-going-on-18, the kingdom of first boyfriends and first loves, the kingdom of friendship, the kingdom of dreams, the kingdom of our parents & their dreams. Lady Bird arrives with a crash of feminine force; this film is a love letter to Sacramento, to growing up, to mothers, to ourselves. The film begins with a Joan Didion quote, who might as well be the poet of California, speaking this state's soul with her ego & wit. The film is saturated in color, in warmth, in light - so much light, so much softness, so much tenderness. But the film is also full of rage, albeit quiet. Lady Bird knows what is gurgling just below the soil, calling for light & life: that wanting for more.

For me, for so long, that wanting for more meant answers. I wanted to know: how could there be a God and how could I feel so much? The two seemed mutually exclusive. The two seemed unfair, impossible, imposing.

There is something that sounds like salvation as the quiet credits roll at the end of a movie that touches your soul.

What I'm trying to say is this: for me, I did not know a religion that made my soul swell or soar or sing. I knew faith that made me feel small. But I know now, too, that there is art - there are books, and there are songs, and there are sculptures, and there are movies, and THANK GOD! Thank God We Can Create!

Because when we create, we call into existence. We beg forgiveness and we cultivate empathy. So here's to Lady Bird, which calls itself by its own name, and in that name there is love for a state, love for a people, love for a school, love for what we do not like. This film is paced perfectly, scored beautifully, shot so fucking sensitively. The acting isn't acting - I believe in Lady Bird and her parents and Julie. I know them, because I have loved people just like them; maybe we all have pieces of them inside of us, really.

This film is communion. And what an honor to be delivered into a greater light by something that made all of us want to call our mothers as we cried, the credits rolling, the house lights coming up, the kingdom having arrived.

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