The Long Kiss Goodnight
My mother was an endurance athlete. Not in the gym or on the road….but of life. She did not want to say goodbye to it. She comes by that honestly; in our culture the long-suffering, tenacious, enduring woman is someone to be admired—a figure of virtue, of honor. This attitude was interwoven in her DNA; thick like blood, deep like marrow.
She lived up to this image, and down to it as well. For the same woman who was used to putting others first, often put herself last. She bought a set of fine china when she was in nursing school that to my knowledge, has never been dined upon. She had some beautiful clothes that were seldom (or never) worn. Same with jewelry. She was all about taking care of business, and not much on pomp and ceremony. Frankly, she was hard to buy gifts for. But…she had a lifelong love for action movies—even westerns—anything that had suspense, thrills, speed, gunplay, strategy, and most of all—where the heroes won at the end, and the villains got what was coming to them.
And it was with that thought, that several years ago, I got her some films for Mother’s Day; among them, The Long Kiss Goodnight. It’s an action-packed spy movie featuring Geena Davis, who plays an amnesiac kindergarten teacher with a very interesting past as a top CIA assassin, and Samuel L. Jackson, a disgraced former-cop-become-private-eye who helps her research her past and rediscover herself—much to the shock of her former colleagues, the architects of a false-flag operation designed to create a faux-”terrorist” threat (with real explosives) in order to secure greater funding for their department.
It had everything my mother loved in a movie: politics, intrigue, fast-paced action, killer fight scenes, revenge, redemption, the requisite good guys winning and bad guys dying, and a badass female hero….who wasn’t just a hero, but also Somebody’s Mother.
She watched this movie all the time. More often than The Godfather, another of her favorites. Every time she played it, she lived vicariously through “Charli Baltimore”, the fierce, never-say-die heroine of the film. Charli, who cheated certain death several times throughout the story. Who above all, fought for her little girl. Charli didn’t just save the day; she was the path through which Samuel L. Jackson’s “Mitch” redeemed himself as one of the good guys. Charli was tough, resourceful, and a tough taskmaster; one of the more salient lines in the film comes from her stern lecture to her daughter while teaching her to ice-skate: “Life is pain. Get used to it!!” Charli taught her daughter well, and realized this when she handed her the exact tool Charli needed to make yet another of her great escapes; hidden in her daughter’s arm cast—the cast she wore from the fracture she received ice-skating, from the fall that prompted the lecture.
Poet Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” My mother didn’t tell many of her stories; omertá was her modus operandi. I think on some level The Long Kiss Goodnight wasn’t just entertainment for her; it presented an authoritative statement on motherhood, and the intensity of a mother’s love. The lengths to which we must go for its defense.