Cosmo’s Moon

By Chuck Sigars | May 09, 2012

Our myths about full moons are obviously primal, stretching from campfires to Joss Whedon, giving us something to think about while we look up.

There is really no increase in strange behavior, and werewolves are pretend, but being careful never hurt anybody. I stayed in last Saturday night and left the super moon to you.

I did mark the occasion, though. I watched “Moonstruck.”

It was a coincidence, really, the result of a couple of conversations with people in my life about that particular movie, one I was sure I’d seen but didn’t quite remember. Something about Cher, something about opera.

I had a free night and a sore back, so a movie seemed like a good idea.

It’s too easy to think of the 1980s as the heyday of romantic comedies, a decade that began with “Arthur” and ended with “When Harry Met Sally,” but really? It was more about sci-fi and sequels, and if anything the sweet spot of rom-coms would come a few years later, when Meg Ryan hit her stride.

But “Moonstruck” was the real thing, the third highest-grossing film of 1987, with three major Academy Awards. It gave Olympia Dukakis a career and Nicolas Cage a chance to polish his crazy act.

And it had Cosmo’s Moon. If the iconic image of young love from that era is John Cusack holding up a boombox, then surely Cosmo comes in second, even though we never actually see him standing outside the window of his future wife’s bedroom, looking up, a super moon behind him. We can picture it, though.

I loved “Moonstruck,” even if it suffers from the limitations of the genre, impossible coincidences, unbelievable events, compressed narrative. It’s a romantic comedy; we excuse things, we want to believe, we need to.

What this 25-year-old film did make me think, though, was how ill-suited movies are to portraying real romance, lacking the extra element of years. The best love stories take time. My favorite one did.

She has all the letters, the originals, although she transcribed them a couple of years ago on her computer, imagine that. Two teenagers, writing with pen and paper nearly 60 years ago, sometimes every day, sometimes more than that, now painstakingly digitized for posterity.

I’ve read some of them, although they seem almost too private, someone else’s passion. I have a stake in this, I have to remind myself, but it feels like none of my business.

And I’m even a little shaky on the origin story. They met at…a dance, I think. They were…14? 15? Younger? She was a bobbysoxer, she told me, but was that later? He was the funniest guy in the room, apparently, although I don’t remember him that way.

They dated on and off, although he seemed to never be far from her house anyway. I have no idea if he ever stood outside her window with a full moon behind him. As I say, I’m a little shaky on some of the details.

But love won. Even a year apart, separated by 400 miles, when they wrote those letters, didn’t slow things down. They were married in 1955, right after high school, and had three kids in five years.

If I shudder a little at this now, at two teenagers negotiating with life so young, I have to admit that it worked. I have a stake in the story, as I said.

I started writing this with Mother’s Day in mind, an easy call. I have a wonderful mother, and lots of stories I can spin. Maybe another time.

I also know something about being a parent, though, and about time. They will grow up and leave, eventually, and if you’ve over-invested in your children’s lives, and neglected the person who shares your home, things can get dicey. I learned that from my mother, too.

“Moonstruck” is a story about Who Belongs With Whom, about loving the wrong people until they turn out to be right, about time and family, about faithfulness and about love.

This is also my parents’ story, and the one I was reminded of last weekend, unexpectedly. There was just something about the mental image of a young man, standing outside a window, illuminated by a spectacular moon, not understanding how much of his life was still ahead, not knowing that it would be driven by that young love. I was just reminded of time, I think.

My father passed away in 2003, a year or so shy of his 50th wedding anniversary. My mom is fine, and I wish her a happy Mother’s Day. As I do all mothers.

But I wonder if she saw that big moon, and if in some way it reminded her of my father. I have no idea, but I do think that sometimes that’s exactly what moons do.

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