Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Today I realize I want to see the recently released movie Jarhead.

This is not a small matter. Two years ago at this time, my younger son declared that after much thought he was enlisting in the Marines as soon as he graduated from high school. He and I went on a reading bout: Frank Schaeffer's Keeping Faith, Thomas Ricks' Making the Corps, Daniel DaCruz' Boot, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead. ("In time of trouble," Joan Didion writes in The Year of Magical Thinking, I had been trained since childhood, read, learn, work it up, go to the literature. Information was control." Certainly she wasn't the only one who believed information was control.)

In fact my son picked up a first edition of Jarhead at the wonderful bookstore "Bound to be Read" in St Paul, MN, where were on vacation in the summer of 2003, visiting a family member. It's by a sensitive and intelligent writer on what his experiences were to become and be a Marine in a strange and puzzling conflict. It is, in fact, more than that. I appreciated Swofford's journey in the book very much.

Somewhat like the father Frank Schaeffer in Keeping Faith, I was a graduate-degreed liberal who was aghast at the idea of my child choosing an occupation in which I thought, perhaps mistakenly, he'd lose his individual identity, learn to point, shoot, and kill, and become insensitive and cruel. I had campaigned for McGovern in '72, for crying out loud. I wore the original tie-dye, bell bottoms, and jean jacket.

So after he told me of his intention to enlist, I drove to Carter Park, a small park with ball diamond where my sons used to play, and cried. Probably he thought me a wimp. Probably I did not care. I considered him a sensitive and intelligent young man, and much as I tried to dissuade him, I was ineffective.

One week after his graduation, he departed for Parris Island, South Carolina. For those of you familar with the USMC, you know that to some extent loved ones and friends are incommunicado with the recruit except for letters. Perhaps I'll share some of these wonderful letters with you, as I desperately tried to hold on to a young man growing up and to an idea of myself that no longer exists.

For now, I think I'll just go and see the movie, and see what it has to say, even though the reviews are not especially positive. I want to feel re-connected to who I was, and who we were, at that time. It is, in fact, a good feeling.

I think I'll go this weekend, and I'll let you know how it goes.


alphawoman said...

I would cry my heart out too. Welcome to blogger.
Mary aka Alphawoman (I am so saddened to close Alphawoman for the time being...)

V said...

Hi Beth!
Just Found you!


Theresa Williams said...

Beth, It is taking me a while to figure all of this out, too. But it really is necessary for me to move my blog. I can't stand those horrible ads. Good news is that this actually seems to be a better place to blog. The AOL people we came to know really care about keeping connected. We will figure everything out here at Blogspot eventually!

Vicky said...

Beth - nice to find you over here.

What a hard pill to swallow - to see your much-loved son making a choice that makes no sense to you. Has the movie helped at all? Did the book help at all?

Thinking of you, as a mother of sons,


Cynthia said...

So glad I found you here. I've got you on my bloglines feeds so I can relax a bit about losing another another online acquaintance.

Gannet Girl said...

DH amd I went to see Jarhead tonight. I had read it when it came out ay a time when I thought my ds, too, might join the Marines right out of high school. He is so adrift in his life right now that I still wonder if it will happen. DH asked after the movie if I had read the book and I said, "Yes, and it's no more uplifting than the movie."

Not a movie for the faint of heart. Or for mothers, really, of any soldiers from anywhere.

My heart so goes out to you. To all of us.