A few days ago I enjoyed watching Ben Stiller’s version of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” It was a story I thought I knew. There were some really silly scenes that gave me a good laugh, and unfortunately planted a song in my head I am still trying to discard: “Ground Control to Major Tom…” Arrgghh.
It also brought up some funny memories for me. My father always called me “the dreamer,” especially after the day he was driving to work and caught me crouching on the sidewalk playing with a bug instead of walking to school. “La ta da ta dah dah, there she goes, the dreamer!” I guess he thought I was a complete loser — he was an accountant so dreaming was not his thing — and didn’t think my imagination would come in handy one day.
When I was little I identified with the 1947 Danny Kaye version of Walter Mitty. Kaye portrayed a sweet person, but very passive, and always getting into predicaments because of his wandering mind. Yeah, been there. Stiller’s version is not quite so passive, and a larger part of the movie focuses on the grand adventures he truly has in trying to track down a photographer played by Sean Penn. It eventually recalls a bit of The Wizard of Oz, when he discovers he had in his possession what he was looking for the whole time, i.e. the ruby slippers.
Somewhere along the line I finally got the message this guy got: Why the hell not? Let’s go! And as a result have had some pretty good adventures of my own.
I realized that I had never actually read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, so I downloaded the short story by James Thurber, with an introduction by his daughter Rosemary. First published by The New Yorker in 1939, it gained wide appeal. There are a lot of dreamers out there, or maybe also a lot of people frustrated by the lovable dreamers in their lives. I think no matter how good a life can be, sometimes we all need a place to go.
A Facebook post today from Seattle’s Hay House quotes Edgar Allen Poe: “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.”
While dreaming, I have to say another movie captured my imagination perhaps even more than Mitty, and that was “About Time,” from Richard Curtis. It’s about being able to travel back in time in your life for do-overs. How many times have I wanted to go back and redo a situation so it comes out better? Hindsight, and all that. Particularly where my father is concerned, I have often dreamed how wonderful it would be if only I could go back and know him better.