My Daughter’s Hundred-Foot Journey

Writing now in the post European adventure era is a little more daunting than I expected. What can compare to journeys abroad into parts unknown and experiences that, in moments, changed our lives? Well the answer surprised me, too.

Last weekend, Shannon and I had a daddy-daughter night out while Sue and friends had Bunco night, the ethereal and mysterious ritual that only women seem to know. Still, off Shannon and I went to dinner and then to a movie–but not to a typical daddy-daughter movie.

When Shannon was as young as three, I would take her to movies. In the summers when I wasn’t teaching, the local theater would do free children’s movies in the late morning and off we’d go to see Jimmy Neutron or Milo and Otis. Sometimes, we’d even make it through to the end of the film.

That tradition has lasted and it is still one of our favorite things to do. Most of the time, we see a kid’s movie or at least one innocuous enough not to frighten her or bore me. But last week was an exception and it was one of those, “where did the time go?” moments that was so poignant and everlasting.

The Hundred-Foot Journey was playing and I wanted to see it so I showed her the trailer and she agreed, it looked good to her. I was both elated and intrigued. All of a sudden, the little girl with whom I saw the Smurfs and Santa Clause’s One, Two and Three and all of the other Disney favorites including every Pixar film to come out since she was born, wanted to see a movie with some complex themes and even some difficult and violent moments.

This is not a film review, so I won’t go into too much detail but the Hundred Foot-Journey was so rich and so spare all at once. Lasse Hallstrom succeeded in weaving together a tapestry of rich cultures, complex ideas and timeless themes in which circumstances create experience, but emotion, connection, love and transcendence create relationships and it is a joy to watch.

Shannon soaked up everything from the French, British and Indian accents to the textured and gorgeous landscape shots of rural France and India and the subdued, even constrained food shots that allowed titillation but not obsession. It’s so easy to make “food porn” as it’s called in films and the Food Network has helped see to that. Hallstrom reigned in the film crew just enough to allow the audience to imagine the fragrance of the spices and the short in-motion shots of food as people dine stirred imaginations instead of indulgence.

She was enthralled by the moving portraits of people from different places learning to live together. It must have fed her soul, somewhat, after she’d just returned from Europe where she experienced so many things that were alien to her. I cannot tell if I enjoyed the film more or watching my daughter experience a film with depth and power beyond the basic ‘overcoming the odds’ and simplistic hero’s journey renditions of children’s films. My baby is growing up.

Eighth grade began for her this year and before it’s over, Shannon will be prepared for high school and will travel with her class and without her parents across the U.S. to the east coast to experience American History. She’s running for office in her school organizations and she’s struggling mightily with advanced math (as does her father). She’s now been fortunate enough to experience travel abroad before she became an adult, something neither her mother and I ever did and she’s applying all of these life lessons and finding her own joys, passions and interests.

Sometime in the very recent past, my little girl embarked on her own hundred-foot journey. She’s walked out of the corridors of early childhood and begun embracing both an exciting maturity and a clear-eyed acceptance that the world’s beauty can be tainted by ugly things. She’s having to choose which one will win her over and she’s allowing experience to blend with love, conscience and the frail grasp of all human things into a 21st Century that has not yet decided how it will choose to go.

Perhaps she’ll help decide.