Friday, January 15, 2021

The art of learning to tie your shoes


I recently watched the film, Jo Jo Rabbit.

It's an amazing story about a little boy in Germany during World War II.  Hitler is his imaginary friend.  I know, I know, but it's not as dark as it sounds.  It's actually funny and sad and poignant and ultimately very, very moving.

There's a subplot where the little boy is learning how to tie his shoe laces.  It's woven through the entire story.  Everyone tries to teach this little boy how to tie his shoelaces.  His mother goes through a little routine where she says the shoelace loops are bunny ears and you cross them over then under and that's how you tie your shoes.  

It takes a long time for Jo Jo to figure this out and in the meantime, the war is raging, people disappear, people are killed and so much more.  I won't spoil it for you.

Okay, one spoiler alert!  At the very end, Jo Jo finds his mother is dead and he recognizes her because he recognizes her shoes.  And then, he notices that her shoelaces are untied.  In a final act of courage and maturity, he ties his mother's shoelaces.

This moment left me in tears.  I know why.  It's because I spent many years tying my mother's shoelaces.


She was a tap dancer in Vaudeville, but when I was eight (the same age as the boy in Jo Jo Rabbit) we were in a terrible car accident together and her left side was crushed behind the steering column.  She broke her hip, her knee and her ankle.  She was in a coma for weeks.  The doctors put a steel rod in her leg and it remained there until the day she died.  Her left leg was 3/4 inch shorter than her right leg.  And so all her shoes had to be re-made with an extra heel for her left foot.  She had feet problems all her life.  

My mother had trouble with any kind of stairs and she couldn't bend down to tie her shoe laces or buckle straps.  (Oh, but she could dance.  She could always dance!) 

Now you may be asking--what does this have to do with creativity.

My answer is:  everything.  Creativity is born out of the way ordinary things in life  that can link together--the movie, the shoes, Jo Jo's mother, and my mother.

When we want to express true pain and sorrow, it may be too much to talk about a mother who is murdered by the Nazi's or even a mother who was in a horrible car accident and left crippled for the rest of her life.

So, how do we express the breath and depth of overwhelming pain?

My advice is to resist the urge to go big.

Rather, go small.  Very small.  And simple.  Look for the ordinary.  The everyday.

Trust me.  The immense mysterious beauty and tragedy of being a human is right there in front of you.  It's only a matter of opening your eyes and your heart.

 And here's this week's creativity prompt:  Shoelaces.

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