As so often happens in my house, sleepovers are never really just one night. The last minute sleepover my youngest son threw together was slowly turning into an almost “all-weekend over”. It morphed from a sleepover to a sleepover with lunch and movie and, by the time we were done, the seemingly innocent one-nighter was beginning to span a second day. It happens like that when the sleep over guest conveniently lives right across the street and is also frequently a near-resident of our home. You never know, when you make that first night commitment, when the child will actually move back into their own home.
They are twelve. It’s sweet. I’m good with it.
I wasn’t even very surprised when they started talking about a movie. And when his mom asked if she needed to feed her boy lunch first, I of course said no and that we would find a fun place to eat before the movie. I just didn’t know the slow motion service at the boys’ choice of eateries would find us splitting those very last seconds of time in order to make it on time to the movie.
Okay, and honestly, we weren’t on time enough to see the pre-movie trivia part of the program but I’m happy to report, we plopped down into our fourth row floor-seats-before-the-steps seats in a super dark theater but just in time to see the first preview. Yeah, those seats. Since we were running a scoche bit late, we got floor seats. The ones that sit you down almost inside the movie screen where you are obligated to crane your neck to see the upper section of the screen. Tough seats but perfect timing. I was just settling into my seat and taking my first relaxing breath of our boy-brain-sleep-over-marathon when the previews began towering over my head.
That’s when it happened.
That fly-under-the-radar-sweet-guy, unassuming John Goodman, gobsmacked me right to tears.
I have always, on some level, been a John Goodman fan. Never a hater, perhaps lukewarm for the most part (and not a groupie by any means) but I will say with my first viewing of Always, with Holly Hunter and Richard Dreyfus and coinciding with the summer I worked/survived my wildland fire crew, he won quite the place in my heart. At 5’3″, and 110 pounds soaking wet back in college, firefighting was a hard gig for me that summer I was assigned to Plumas’ Engine 3-81. Somehow, Holly Hunter dancing in that white dress, making grocery lists in her sleep and John Goodman swooping in as that devoted friend to pull her out of the dumps when she was falling apart sure got me through that summer of my own personal deep waters. That troubling summer, I wished I had a John Goodman to be my rock, my puller-up-out-of-the-dumps-despite-my-protests.
But I am digressing. This is about John, not me.
Until I sat in that crane-your-neck-movie-seat, I’d never thought much about John Goodman. I’d loved him as Pacha and Sully and in a flurry of great performances over my life but despite the stack of performances he’s nailed over decades, the importance of John Goodman had not become apparent until that near-weekend-sleep-over. Not until the preview for Monuments Men towered over my craned neck did I notice the larger than life and wonderfully colossal qualities of this man I’d known for so long.
Larger than life is not a reference to the size of the man that John Goodman is. Though he truly is a mountain of a man, it wasn’t that kind of colossal that occurred to me in that moment. It was that colossal kind of mettle that molds a soul into more than who you thought them to be until they towered over you. The kind of colossal that sets a man apart from who life and his peers should have turned him into. A greatness that comes from so much more than merely the individual pieces that make up the whole.
You’re probably thinking, “Come on, Sparkles, he’s no Robert Redford, you know? He’s John Goodman. Good, kind, funny…but colossal?”
Yes. Colossal. Stay with me here.
I look at our autism community and we are a lot of things. A LOT of things, my friends. We are vocal, passionate, intelligent, educated, committed and brave but, there are moments, when we lack the colossal of John Goodman and that foundation that makes us all more than the sum of our parts. He is that. It’s a crazy time we’re living in, Wonder Souls. We spend an embarrassing amount of time giving our attention to the antics of celebrities, hanging on every dysfunctional word that comes out of their mouths, watching as they become obsessed with trivial things like fancy clothing, cars and being seen. In a community of crazy that celebrities become, John Goodman is a truly and magically a horse of a different color.
A horse of a different color because he is not merely a product of the place he comes from. He is so much more. In many ways he is a quandry, a mystery and he is so much more than the sum of the parts. Despite the acting community he resides in,he is not a man chasing fame. He is not a man catering his actions to please the masses or his peers. He is boldly himself. He is kindly himself. He is unabashedly himself…despite who those swirling around him choose to become. He is boldly an independent without harboring a need to crush anyone else.
We all need more John Goodman within our lives, within our communities.
Crazy, you say? No way.
Watching the faces of the Monuments Men, I remembered a lot of things about John Goodman and not one of them was mean. I see a man who is humbled, flawed and modest at a time when few people choose that path. I don’t remember one unkind word. Not one moment of blame. Not one moment when he was anything other than kind and true to himself. Over the last three decades, not once have I watched him be a follower of the masses. He may not agree with me and that’s okay because, you know what? He didn’t ask me to write this nor did he give me any permissions to see him the way that I do.
I give him a pass on this one.
But what I see, when I look at him towering above me, is a man who has always been just himself. Throughout the many decades he has graced those celluloid cells, he has been nothing but an original. In the acting community where so many of his peers chase a fleeting image of thin and fit, he balks at the stereotypes and chooses to simply be an independent without apology. What I see when I look at John Goodman is incredible strength and character in a world that does not make it easy to be that way. He is not a perfect man but he is honest and he is real and, no matter what happens, he is kind and smiling. Positive despite the trials and triumphs of troubles or failures.
That is what strikes me most about John Goodman. That is what I think is missing in the autism community and perhaps in life in general. He is comfort and kindness, he is a smile in troubled waters and a familiar chuckle…no matter how deep those troubling waters may be. We need more of that. More John Goodman in life and certainly more John Goodman in the autism community. Just try it. Be the John Goodman that’s missing in your life, in your circles, in the autism community.
More honest and less perfect.
More flawed, more real and much less camo and pretend.
More soft places to fall into and less finger pointer.
More acceptance and less blaming.
More being John Goodman.
I think he’s pretty darn sparkly and more sparkle is always good. Sparkle On, my friends.