In response to James Cameron’s re-release of the movie Titanic, I thought you might enjoy the re-release of my newspaper column: “If you Jump, I Jump – Right?!”
Ever since I saw the “Titanic”, I’ve been haunted by the movie’s many underlying currents. I’ve plunged to the depths of despair, submerged (these metaphors are unstoppable!) in a sea of “what ifs”.
“What if the crew had heeded at least one of the 14 warnings that said, ‘Caution: Big hunk of ice straight ahead?’”
“What if there had been enough boats for everyone?”
“What if the hero, Jack Dawson, had survived? Would he then have learned the horrible truth, that Rose squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle?”
But the biggest “What If” was too terrible for me to even consider until one afternoon when my two older children forced it out of me.
While driving to basketball practice, my son revealed how he had risked personal injury at school that day to check on his sweetheart. He bopped himself on the head with his Social Studies book so that he could go to the nurse’s station where his blonde-haired beloved had gone moments earlier.
“I wanted to make sure she was okay,” my son explained.
“YOU DID WHAT?!” I shrieked, nearly colliding with the car in front of me.
“Mom, it was no big deal,” he assured me. “And it was during recess anyway.”
“Geez, Marcus.” I said. “Aren’t you going a little overboard? I mean if she jumps off a bridge, are you going to jump too?”
I quickly realized that this was not a good question to ask a puppy-love-struck-pre-teen who knew every word to the Titanic theme song, including the already infamous dialogue in which Jack tells Rose, “You’re the most incredibly amazing, wonderful girl, woman, I’ve ever known. I’m not an idiot, I know how the world works, but I’m too involved now. If you jump, I jump, remember?”
“Well, if dad jumped, wouldn’t you jump, mom?” my son asked.
What could I say in response? That you can’t compare a 15-year marriage to a five second fifth grade fling?
So I chose to ignore him, my insides churning. The biggest “What IF” now loomed dead ahead.
My third grade daughter piped up from the back seat, “Wouldn’t you, mom? Wouldn’t you jump in to save Dad?”
“It’s just that there are things to consider before just jumping right in, ya know. Like is he actually drowning? I mean, maybe he just dove in for a swim.”
“Mom, he jumped off a bridge,” my daughter gasped, reminding me of the scenario.
“Okay, well, then first I’d check for a life preserver, and then I’d call 911, and then if all else failed, I’d lean over the edge, look down at Daddy and say, ‘Swim, honey, swim with all your might! And stop swallowing all that water. You’re going to drown for gosh sakes! Oh, and wave twice if you’re really in trouble and once if you think you can make it to the river bank. Wait, wait, do that again, I couldn’t tell when both arms went all the way under the water like that.’”
The question now hung in the air like a dense fog. What if I had been on that boat? What if I had been Rose and my husband, the brave, handsome Jack Dawson, only with a pot belly and a slightly receding hairline, of course? Would my husband, Tony, fearlessly fling me atop a floating door and beg me not to let go? And even though he knew he was going to die, would he tell me it was all worth it because he had met me!
Ah. . . romance! It’s so easy in the movies.
Well, I honestly believe my husband would have saved me, although he might not have expressed himself as eloquently as Jack.
Here’s what he’d say:
“I told you I didn’t want to go on this stupid boat in the first place. Now look at the mess we’re in. Hoist yourself up on that piece of driftwood and don’t let go! No matter what happens. Because I’m not swimmin around this friggin ocean lookin for another piece of this stinkin, lousy boat! Unsinkable, my foot!”
As for myself, would I have taken the first dingy out of there or stayed back to die with my beloved?
If you have children, it’s an easier decision. Someone would have to stay back to care for them. But in these days of equality, why the mother? Fathers are just as capable. Who would be the better parent? If the boat doesn’t sink for two hours, you’d have time to discuss it:
“I’m the better parent because I can help with algebra.”
“If you stay, they’ll live on McDonald’s Big Macs. What kind of nourishment is that?”
Or better yet, let the kids decide, with the parent’s gentle guidance, of course.
“If you choose me, I’ll do your homework until you’re eighteen!”
“Remember how I said I’d never buy Nintendo 64? We’ll go to the store as soon as we hit shore.”
But children didn’t figure into the scenario for Jack and Rose. I confessed my fears to my husband later that evening. “Honey, I honestly don’t know if I’d be brave enough to stay back with you,” I admitted.
“I do.” he said simply. “You’d stay with me.”
And maybe he was right. Just as I believed he’d die for me, he believed I’d do the same for him. But just to be on the safe side, we’re steering clear of any icebergs. Metaphor intended.