Do you know that scene in It’s A Wonderful Life where George, having attended the last S&L board meeting after his father’s death, delivers a rousing “f*ck you” to Mr. Potter and storms out? As he’s turning to leave for his delayed freshman year of college, hat tilted determinedly over one eye, Uncle Billy stops him in his tracks by saying “The board will vote with Potter otherwise!”
And of course George stays.
George has been trying to leave Bedford Falls since he was a young man. He dreamed of adventure, of “shaking the dust of this crummy little town off [my] feet, and… going to see the world”. But he was thwarted every time he tried to leave.
I left my hometown once. I was gone for 12 years. While I didn’t have a burning desire as a child to escape, the freedom I discovered when I went away to school and the realization that the world was much bigger than the narrow-mindedness of my hometown made me never want to return here. Yet return I did, under less-than-kind circumstances, two children in tow. Once I got my children set up in school, there was no going back. I promised them I wouldn’t make them change schools again, so we were committed to being back here in my hometown for at least 12 years.
This is year #11.
Two years ago, my stepson made the courageous choice of leaving his mother’s unstable life and coming to live with us. He graduates in two years. So my
sentence stay in this hometown has been extended by a year. It took me a few months to adjust to this new schedule. My revised countdown clock now reads June 2013 as the last date I am required to live in this town.
But the scene with George Bailey gives me panic.
This is how I felt when I found out I had another year here.
I have always thought the movie missed the point of George’s unhappiness. His biggest disappointment wasn’t that he “failed”. He didn’t have grandiose ideas about becoming a huge success. He wanted to GO. He wanted to not be stuck in this little town forever. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his wife–he very much did–or his children, he just wanted to see the world. I don’t equate that with a great desire for “success”. Can’t a man have a change of scenery?
The fact that he never got to leave that small town is, to me, the most suffocating moment of the whole movie. That they gloss over this deep disappointment with the shiny veneer of “But see? You’ve got FRIENDS!” at the end is a neat slight of hand that makes me squirm.
I have the same problem with The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy doesn’t have everything she needs right there in Kansas. That crappy little dustbowl farm is one of the most depressing places ever recorded on film. She left all of the wonderful colors and diversity of Oz behind and returned to a black and white existence and I’m supposed to believe she’s HAPPY about this?
It all smacks of accepting less than the things you’ve dreamed about. All I want is to take myself out of this beige, tedius, uninspiring, stultifying environment and go to one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I want to move the life my husband and I have created to a different location. I don’t want to escape my kids or my husband or my dog, just this suburban purgatory. I am done accepting the man-made, concrete landscape designed to contain humans and control nature. I want to be part of the natural world, to walk in meadows and climb mountains and breathe clean air every single day.
And I don’t CARE if the board is going to vote with Potter otherwise, I’m leaving, damnit.