In the quiet of the morning this morning, between waves of family – one group up and out the door to work and school, the others still snug in their beds – I watched a movie all by myself. For the first hour, I had the leisure of no interruptions except my own thoughts. Then the second wave of family started coming downstairs.
Laurel stood behind me for a few minutes, then asked, “What are you watching?” as we saw a mother laying her sleeping child down to bed. I looked at my little girl and remembered the many times I had participated in that very scene.
“It’s a movie about a camel,” I told her, but it sounded so lame. She kind of shrugged at me and got her bowl for cereal.
I should have called her back to me and told her that it was a movie about parenting and family and the things that draw us together and the things that push us apart. “A movie about a camel” — the words barely scratched the surface of what it was about.
Recently one of my friends posted on Facebook about the push-pull relationship parents have. Sometimes, parents say things about dreading the summer vacation because their children will be underfoot. Probably because I homeschool, I’ve never really felt that way. Season blends into season, waves washing in and out on an unseen shore, the ebb and flow of time that happens even in Mongolia. With camels.
The camel for whom the movie was named experienced a difficult birth with her first calf. It was painful. I could relate. Giving birth is painful. With one of the other camels, the people had noted that her nostrils were flaring and therefore her time must be soon. I don’t know if my nostrils flared, but I do know that I felt like kicking at people when I was feeling the pushing pains. This leading lady camel also kicked at people.
When her calf was finally born, they began circling each other warily. The beautiful white calf wanted milk; the hurting mother wanted nothing to do with it.
Thus began a parenting dance — young and old circling each other, one wanting the other near, the other pushing away.
The parenting dance of the camels was primal. It had to do with survival. I’m not going to anthropomorphize the camels and say that they had human feelings. The mother battled pain. The calf battled hunger. In so doing, they were at odds with each other.
In the film, however, there was another parenting dance going on, a multi-generational one, in the little huddle of yurts. Great-grandfather kept the stories alive by telling them to the young ones. Grandmother bribed the baby with sweets when her mother went out to help with the herds. The older brother guided the younger brother on his first big trek to the town. Mother and father together kept the herds. From the outside came the push and pull with civilization/modernization in the form of television and video games.
I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that technology came to the human family, but it is not what saved the camel family. This is a movie worth watching. In the quiet. Alone. In the morning.