Jacqueline Bisset walks into the movie theater and sits next to Mom. And while it may seem like an intro for a bad joke, it’s not.
Always polite, Mom tells Jacqueline hello, and she responds pleasantly in her intoxicatingly amorous accent and holds Mom’s gaze, as if awaiting a starstruck photo request.
But Mom smiles, turns back to the screen, and dips into her popcorn. So, there we are: me, Andy, Laura, Mom, and Jacqueline Bisset. After a few moments, Jacqueline realizes she’s in the wrong seat. So she gets up, tells Mom goodbye, and moves a few rows back.
Before long, Red 2 fills the massive screen, and my gaiety hits a record high when Dame Helen Mirren totters onscreen wearing a strait jacket, declaring she’s Queen Elizabeth.
Afterward, Laura–TMZ aficionado–whips out her phone and confirms Jacqueline’s identity. Scrolling through Google images, she nods approvingly.
“Yup, that was her alright.”
Mom calls Dad to check in.
“And guess who sat down next to me in the theater? Jacqueline Bisset!”
“Really?! Is she still hot?”
“Yes. So, how’re the dogs?”
A report of dog shenanigans later, we’re re-tracing our path through Beverly Hills.
As most family visits go, this one ended too quickly. There’s this and that to see, and so many places to go.
Like a West Hollywood bar for martinis and burgers and fried Snickers, where we crowed about the early ’90’s music videos playing on massive screens flanked by disco balls and drag bingo posters. And where Mom reiterated how proud she was of her two sons.
Or a hike up one of our favorite trails, during which every tree and bird and plant gave Laura and Mom plenty of photographic fodder to pique their curiosity and fuel future scannings of California wildlife identification books.
Or a trip to the beach, which ended with John Leguizamo puttering up to us on a Segue, then promptly about-facing and motoring off when he saw that “You’re a celebrity” look reflected in our eyes.
But interspersed between our day trips and hikes and walks were moments that made it a family trip–the laughs, the hugs, the acknowledgments of inheriting unfortunate physical ailments.
And a few that reminded me how someone qualifies as a role model.
Like when we pulled up to an intersection and Mom rummaged through her bag to give the man with the sign some cash.
“Mom, as hard as it is, you can’t help everyone. That’s something I’ve had to realize in a larger city.”
“But it can make a difference to him.”
The light changed and I accelerated. And felt like a terrible human being.
The next day, as we approached a flea market entrance, Mom shuffled through her bag when she saw a man whose prosthetic leg had a “Please Help” cup taped to it. We stopped at the crosswalk, and I looked over and assured her that I understood.
“I already have some money.”
“So do I.”
Familial consonance once again. And after more stories and experiences and revelations and understandings, I looked at both my mother and sister with immense pride. And was constantly reminded of what Mom taught us both.
“You can only do your best. No one can expect more than that.”
We’re not super heroes or machines. We’re fallible, fleshy creatures. And the sooner we realize we’ll stumble and trip, the sooner we’ll realize we can dust ourselves off from any fall, any slight, any bad day. And, with hope, recognize the amazing capacity we have to show compassion to one another.
At least that’s what Mom says.