children

April 4, 1995

April 4, 1995 Diary

My Cub Scout, A
My Cub Scout, A

In retrospect, it’s ironic my youngest son “vanished” the day after Vanished aired on NBC. (I wrote the teleplay, based on the Danielle Steele novel.) It’s about “a man and woman faced with an almost unthinkable tragedy – the mysterious abduction of their son.”


Vanished 1

My fascination with kidnapped children began with a Reader’s Digest condensed book, Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case by George Waller.  Half a century later, I’ve read almost every book on the subject (and there are a lot).  IMHO, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was innocent, but we’ll never know for sure. That enduring mystery is one of the reasons the case still captivates. Kidnappers Leopold and Loeb also inspired their share of films and books but in their case, the mystery wasn’t who did it, but why.  More recently, the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann is a hot case and the subject of a new Netflix documentary.

I didn't know this until today, but this version of the DVD lists me as the director and the director as the writer.
I didn’t know this until today, but this version of the DVD lists me as the director and the director as the writer.

Missing children – in fiction as well as true crime – capture public imagination because the stories speak to a primal parental fear. I suspect most parents survive at least one heart-stopping moment where their child appears to vanish and the previously unimaginable is agonizingly imminent. In a moment of clarity, you understand that one mistake – an instant of distraction – can shatter everything. Since all of us are human, all of us make mistakes. I made several. All my children terrified me with at least one disappearing act. Luckily, none of them were gone very long.

A, again.
A, again.

 

 

March 30, 1986

March 30, 1986

With my always above and beyond the call of duty parents
With my always above and beyond the call of duty parents

“I feel a little guilty – like I manipulated her” – seriously? Is there a manipulative tactic I didn’t employ? Easter was my father’s favorite holiday and one of the busiest days of his year.  Monday was his day off and I stole this one without a second thought.

Two arms full of love
Two arms full of love

That said, part of me doesn’t feel guilty – because every minute my children spent with their grandparents was blessed – and I’m pretty sure my parents treasured those times too. They were young grandparents, age. I’m not sure I was ready to be a grandparent when I was their age.

Special moments with their grandchildren
Special moments with their grandchildren

However, more than a decade later, I am so ready I have baby fever. Facebook friends post adorable pictures of their grandchildren and I ache and think, “I want that!” I see cute babies in restaurants and think, “I want that!” I have quite the opposite reaction on airplanes, when an infant breaks the sound barrier for the entire flight. When that happens, I shudder and think, “Thank God that’s not my problem.”

At the end of the day
At the end of the day

But I kind of secretly wish it was.

So nice having a baby
How nice it would be!

March 23, 1973

March 23, 1973 Plan B

Leaving Melnitz Hall
Leaving Melnitz Hall

I knew what I did not want to do – don a cap and gown and endure an excruciating graduation ceremony. My own Jr. High and high school extravaganzas were torture. What about those magical moments, watching my own children graduate? Don’t you just want to smile all over? Uh, no.

S's High School Graduation
S’s High School Graduation

Slow-roasting in bleachers without shade, surrounded by delirious parents straining to spot their spawn in a sea of black-robes several zip codes to the south – made home schooling appear an attractive option. For the record, the only things I dread more than rituals like graduation are parades and colonoscopies.

A at his graduation
A at his college graduation

Flash forward to my son CD, valedictorian for his UCLA film and television class. Two surprises awaited me, one pleasant and one not so much. The good news was, only film and TV students participated, making it more like a party than spectacle. Lulled into a false sense of security, I thought, “this is almost a perfect day.”

CD's graduation UCLA
CD’s graduation UCLA

CD took the microphone. He singled out his wife and his father – 100% USC Trojan, undergrad and law school. He thanked them for their inspiration. No mention of his mother and fellow UCLA film and TV alum. You know, the one who introduced him to Melnitz hall and UCLA’s campus.

CD and classmates at UCLA graduation

Amazingly, I recovered from this ego-shattering blow as well as a carrot that caused me to barf at the reception. Something deep and primal superseded my lifelong distaste for graduations, parades and vomit.  So what if CD forgot to thank me? I could not have been any prouder of him. I still am.

February 23, 1999

February 23, 1999

Citizen Kane

Growing up, there was one centrally located television set (without a remote) in our house and we watched TV as a family. “Leave it to Beaver” and “the Flintstones” were early favorites. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to watch the Three Stooges (my father disapproved of the cruelty in their humor) or cheap horror movies. (“If you want to see that kind of thing when you’re older, that’s your choice, but you will not be watching it here.”)

S'n'A around this time.
S’n’A around this time.

In my home today, there’s at least one TV (and remote!) for everybody, including the pets. Zelda barks her head off at any dog or four-legged creature who dares to make an appearance. J can watch football, S can watch anime and I can binge on a Netflix series simultaneously without crossing paths.

Zelda goes berserk at the sight of a dog on TV.
Zelda goes berserk at the sight of a dog on TV.And she watches carefully all the time.

For me, watching a program together is a far superior option but sometimes no one else is interested. That’s why I was so thrilled when S and A expressed interest in AFI’s list of the 100 greatest American films. (AFI’s 100 top films)

At fourteen, I knew nothing about classic films. If they screened in Santa Clara, no one told me. After UCLA opened my eyes to that world, I wanted to share it but some people just weren’t interested. (Their cultural loss, IMHO). I love sharing great entertainment with S and A even though some TV shows that looked hip and brilliant in the 80s (hello, Miami Vice) didn’t age gracefully.

The whole family, circa 1999.
The whole family, circa 1999.

Occasionally, J gives me a hard time about calling TV viewing “quality time” but I can’t think of a more pleasurable way to imbibe history, culture, art and the principles of storytelling than watching and discussing the boob tube.

 

January 29, 1986

January 29, 1986

J and I had CD when we were (relatively) young. None of our friends had children (yet) so we had no frame of reference. In retrospect, we assumed CD would be like us – that he’d want the same things, behave the same way. He was and is a lot like us – sometimes I read him so clearly, it’s as if we have mental telepathy. More often, though, he baffled us, especially when it came to education.

CD & me at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco
CD & me at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

I walked into my very first parent-teacher conference fully expecting to hear he was the smartest kid in the class.  His kindergarten teacher said, “I don’t know any other way to put this. He’s a space cadet.” Her exact words. J and I never doubted CD’s intellect but he refused to show it at school.

CD & me on the Golden Gate Bridge
CD & me on the Golden Gate Bridge

The Hillside Learning Center was one of many attempts to figure out what was going on. They confirmed he was gifted, particularly in verbal ability. This was a relief because I feared I might be over-estimating his brilliance due to maternal bias. And yes, I probably did, because what parent doesn’t? Still, he did “blow the top” off one of their tests.

Hillside 1

But he wasn’t the eager-to-please student I was at nine and never would be. He gripped his pencil in an unwieldy way and reversed d’s and b’s. We found solutions for those problems, but not the deeper issues that stopped him from fulfilling his “potential.”  I vividly recall him angrily telling me, “I hate the word potential!”

CD & me overlooking San Francisco Bay - perhaps from Alcatraz Island
CD & me overlooking San Francisco Bay – perhaps from Alcatraz Island

This story has a happy ending. Despite dropping out of high school as a sophomore, eventually he graduated valedictorian of his class as a film student at UCLA. Bottom line, he performed when he wanted to perform – J and I couldn’t force him. Our efforts had the opposite effect.

Another shot of us on the bridge during our 1986 San Francisco trip
Another shot of us on the bridge during our 1986 San Francisco trip

These were difficult times but we learned a lot. CD wasn’t – and never will be – a mini-me or mini-J and that’s great. Learning to lighten up and let go of expectations was excellent practice for parenting our other two children.

 

January 22, 1978

January 22, 1978

While combing my diaries for a suitable blog entry, if I find a snippet about CD, I usually send it to the adult CD just to give him some idea of his life as a two-year-old.  Since he has no conscious memories of his infancy, he can’t enlighten me about what actually ran through his mind.

CD at the park 1

A child psychiatrist might hazard an informed guess about which cognitive skills were in development but no one will ever know for sure. Odds are, my instincts were right and what amused him involved repetition.

CD at the park 2

As my diaries suggest, by nature I wrote down almost everything that happened, no matter how apparently trivial. I’m glad I did, now, since some of the things that seemed mundane – even then – acquired significance in the ensuing years. I forgot almost everything I failed to record for posterity.

CD at the park 3

As my firstborn, CD was the beneficiary – or the victim, depending on your point of view – of my meticulous record keeping. Sometimes, in bursts of energy, he’d run races with himself, up and down the family room, shouting “Go!”  a few seconds after he started. We could guarantee a smile by throwing a towel over his head, asking “Where’s CD?” and yanking it off. Hilarious! Two-year-old’s – the best audience ever.

J & CD at the park

 

 

December 20, 1979

December 20, 1979

CD's 1st Xmas program 1

Growing up PK, I performed in dozens of holiday programs but this was my first in a parental role. I wasn’t embarrassed when CD abandoned the stage – who could expect more of a three-year-old? I hoped he’d enjoy the performance but I don’t think he did.  A live audience flicks a switch in some kids – not CD, at least at age three.

CD's 1st Xmas program 2

I was a show-off at his age, desperate to drown out my younger sister Janet. After I belted all four verses of “Oh Come all Ye Faithful”, my father would gently suggest I let Janet take her turn. “No, Daddy, she’s too little, she doesn’t know the words, I’ll sing it! Joy to the World, the Lord is come…”  All of this was recorded for posterity on reel-to-reel tape.

CD's 1st Xmas program 3

I’m not sure when I lost my taste for performing – probably when we moved to California and I was the uncomfortable new kid in kindergarten. My concern shifted from wanting to share my genius with the world to obsessing about how the world rated me (as yet unaware that most people weren’t paying that much attention.) My fear of not being good enough silenced the raging diva deep inside.

CD's 1st Xmas program 4

 

November 16, 1994

November 16,1994

A little worse for the wear in Paris train station
A little worse for the wear in Paris train station

The Sea Cat might’ve been a problem even if I hadn’t forced a healthy breakfast down my family’s throats – but for sure, that decision turned merely disgusting to dire. Like my sister Joyce, I’m neurotically phobic about vomit – I get nauseous if I see or hear it in films and, yes, “Monty Python and the Meaning of Life” is completely out of the question. And that scene in “Bridesmaids” sent me running, too.

CD and myself enjoying a quiet moment in England
CD and myself enjoying a quiet moment in England
Sam and Alex striking a pose on a baggage transporter at the train station
Sam and Alex striking a pose on a baggage transporter at the train station

Consequently, even though a responsible parent and considerate traveler would’ve initiated clean-up, I couldn’t even look. When the kids lost it, one after the other like dominoes falling, I curled into a fetal position. Luckily, J had a stronger stomach and received aid from a compassionate stranger in military uniform. Nobody died. That’s the kindest review I can give our voyage.

John and Alex at Stonehenge when you could still get close to it
John and Alex at Stonehenge when you could still get close to it

Due to the above circumstances, no photos document this segment of our journey so I’m illustrating today’s blog with fun things we did in England before we boarded the Sea Cat.

Alex, Sam and CD enjoying the birds in Trafalgar Square
Alex, Sam and CD enjoying the birds in Trafalgar Square

November 9, 1985

November 9, 1985

Occasionally, my son CD appeared as an extra when his aunt Janet worked as an AD (Assistant Director). She was the 2ndAD on “Rocky IV.”

Janet with the other Assistant Directors from Rocky IV in front of Rocky’s house in Fremont Place. Was actually across the street from Muhammad Ali’s house in that elite enclave of Los Angeles.
Janet with the other Assistant Directors from Rocky IV in front of Rocky’s house in Fremont Place. Was actually across the street from Muhammad Ali’s house in that elite enclave of Los Angeles.
Stallone with 1st Assistant Director, Duncan Henderson
Stallone with 1st Assistant Director, Duncan Henderson

The original idea for the scene CD appeared in was for twelve “extra” kids to surround the two child actors playing Rocky Jr. and his buddy as they all view Rocky’s fight. Due to budget constraints, all the extras except CD were cut. CD got bumped from extra to the day player SAG rate (where you speak) because the scene between the three kids was lifeless until Stallone threw CD some lines. This made CD an “actor” who still gets occasional residuals from “Rocky IV.” Despite the Oscar worthy brilliance of CD’s performance, to this day it remains – sadly – unrecognized by the Academy.

A clip taken from the Rocky IV screenplay
A clip taken from the Rocky IV screenplay

I wasn’t on set that day, J acted as CD’s guardian.   A father and son day.  What could be better?

J and CD between scenes on Rocky IV
J and CD between scenes on Rocky IV – Awesome son, awesome dad – both still are

Although Janet worked with Stallone on several projects, my path never crossed his – a little unusual, since I’ve met more than my share of movie stars – Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Halle Berry, Robert Duvall and George Clooney, among others.  By “met”, I mean I said hello. None of these “meetings” led to soul-searching conversation, a lunch date or an invite to a wild weekend at Hearst Castle. (To be clear – Hearst Castle’s Hollywood heyday ended decades before my birth – but I wish I’d been around. What a blast!)

Stallone directing CD and the other two boys
Stallone directing CD and the other two boys

It always amazes me that at 5’9” in bare feet, I tower above most leading men. Trust me, with notable exceptions (hello Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery), actors are rarely the tallest kids in their class.

The Official Rocky IV Movie Magazine with the boys picture on page 14
The Official Rocky IV Movie Magazine with the boys picture on page 14

My point is, movie stars look so much bigger on screen. Many (hello, Halle Berry) are more beautiful than most of the human race. They’re stars (and I’m not) because the camera loves them – and, yeah, they can act. That said, I take comfort in the miniscule height differential. It reminds me we’re all equal, all mortal, earthbound humans. Their outer golden glow doesn’t mean they’re any happier than the rest of us, deep inside.   But they might be. I don’t know. We never got that tight.

August 24, 1967

August 24, 1967

 matt3

Once you see the cracks in the fantasy façade, it’s impossible to pretend they’re not there. At sixteen, I prided myself on being a cynic and eagerly traded wonder for the worldly superiority of seeing through everything.

Our family, circa 1967
Our family, circa 1967

The enchantment came back when I took my children to Disneyland. I suspect most parents feel the same way.

J and our kids at Disneyland - I'm evidently taking the picture.
J and our kids at Disneyland – I’m evidently taking the picture.

According to this entry, I liked the Matterhorn. The way I remember it, the first time I rode it with my father, I howled, “Daddy, make it stop!” My final ride on a roller coaster – Space Mountain, at the urging of my sister Joyce who assured me it was a metaphysical experience, not remotely terrifying – ended in hysterics. I staggered off, simultaneously laughing and crying, dimly aware of nearby teens asking, “What’s the matter with you, lady?”

My turn to be in the picture.
My turn to be in the picture.

Apparently, on thrill rides, I easily suspend disbelief.

animated-disney-image-0159

 

 

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