A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
A FIDDLER IN THE FAMILY
I had been waiting for an opportunity like this for months: a quiet Saturday evening, no plans, no commitments and nothing on TV.
The perfect time to introduce Elizabeth and Jon to "Fiddler on the Roof."
I know, I know – I should have done this long ago. I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I was just waiting for the perfect moment. And this was it.
Or so I thought.
"You guys are SO gonna love this!" I gushed as the first violin strains began drifting from the TV speakers. "This is great stuff!"
"A fiddler on the roof," Tevye intoned from the TV screen. "Sounds crazy, no? But here in our little village of Anatevka you might say that every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy."
I've loved this movie since before it was a movie. When I was a high school junior I played the rabbi's son in our school production of the musical. It wasn't much of a part, but then I wasn't much of an actor, so it worked out pretty well.
"You may ask, why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?" Tevye continued. "We stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!"
Oh yeah. This was the good stuff. Great music. Great performances. And a great and powerful message about the traditions that bind us as families, cultures and civilizations. How could my kids not love this?
Well, OK – the movie is long. And it's shot in a 1970s style, complete with stop-action sequences and blurry camera work. And the only person you've ever heard of in the cast is . . . well, that one guy from "Starsky & Hutch."
And Elizabeth and Jon haven't even heard of "Starsky & Hutch."
Still, I was sure they would love it just as I do. They would love the music. They would love Tevye's gentle comedy. They would love the robust dancing. And they would love the family-faith orientation of the storyline, just as I do.
I was sure of it.
But about 15 minutes into the movie Jon headed downstairs to play Nintendo. Oh, well, I reasoned – he's 10 and male. There weren't many wizards or monsters or fight sequences in "Fiddler." It was probably a bit much to expect of him. But then 12-year-old Elizabeth, an actress and a musician, grew sleepy about an hour later. What was up with that? My wife Anita lasted through the wonderful "dream" sequence – and then she was gone, too. By the time Tevye was looking up to heaven, wondering why God had allowed the Russians to trample through his eldest daughter's wedding, I was on my own.
And the movie was only half over.
And yes, I'll admit it – my feelings were hurt. But the next day we had a pretty terrific Sunday together, and it became clear to me that my family hadn't rejected ME – just a movie that I like. And I guess that's OK. Just because we love someone doesn't mean we have to love everything they love. In fact, sometimes we love them DESPITE the things that they love.
Which, come to think of it, is ANOTHER great message from "Fiddler on the Roof."
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.