10:43:43 am on
Tuesday 23 Jul 2024

Little Triggers
AJ Robinson

Peter Falk as Columbo.

Source: nbcut.com

I’m so stupid, I’m so stupid.” That’s a quote from a favourite movie of my mother¸ Terms of Endearment. It’s spoken by Aurora Greenway, portrayed by Shirley MacLaine, following the death of her daughter, Emma. I remembered that scene the other day.

It’s never a relief.

I wept as I remembered her next line. Greenway says, Somehow I thought when she finally went, that it would be a relief.” It wasn’t.

That’s what I thought, too. To be fair, there was a small sense of relief when my mom passed away, recently. She’d been so sad and so miserable these last few months and so the attitude that she was at peace, she was out of her pain made sense.

That’s easy to accept on an intellectual level. Sadly, the mind has little control over the heart. The heart always seems to win.

In these last few weeks, I’ve noticed how many little triggers there are that can set me off and, no, I don’t mean merely bring me to tears. Although, truth be told, that happens much more often than I care to admit. Tears help carry off my grief.

I remember years ago, after my Aunt Marny passed away, the movie, When Marnie was There could reduce me to a blubbering mess inside of thirty seconds. The film, a very fine anime is about a girl named Marnie who lives in a house by the sea and likes to paint. That hit too close to home for me.

Well, now there are so many other little things that summon up images and memories of my mom. I drive by a restaurant she liked and think of her cooking. I originally used the word likes” instead of liked” in the previous sentence; it’s still hard to used past tense in connection with her.

I buy groceries. I recall helping mom shop for groceries, either long ago when I was quite young or, most recently, helping her when she needed to get things off a top shelf. Some items were too heavy for her, others too bulky for her to grip. Those memories always make me smile and laugh.

Food and movies, that was mom.

Food was something at which mom excelled. If I don’t dwell on eggplant parmesan and spinach, the recall is a positive one. Long time readers will recall the infamous eggplant parmesan Frisbees of yore. If you don’t know that one, I invite you to look up the story Island Vegetables and enjoy.

There were also television shows. As a kid I used to watch The NBC Mystery Movie with mom and thus I developed a love of detective stories. To this day there are certain episodes of Columbo I can’t watch without thinking of her.

In one, Columbo has a man mimic blindness to get the murderer to state the witness can’t have seen what he claims he saw because he’s blind. When he challenges the man to read a magazine. He reads and the look on the face of the villain is priceless.

I hear the voice of my mother when I watch or recall that scene. Oh, he’s not blind, he’s just pretending. You watch Columbo is tricking the killer.”

Movies were a favourite pass time for my mom. She had quite the library of films to draw on and she always made a point of checking the movie channels each morning to see what films she might want to catch that day. We always enjoyed a good movie.

These days, for some reason, there are several anime films that truly get to me. It took a while, but I finally figured out why. They all feature girls facing some sort of struggle that they overcome.

In Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Mary must defeat a horde of magical people to save her friend and get home. In Ponyo, little Ponyo wants to become human and love a human boy.; he pledges to take good care of her. In the best of the best, Spirited Away, the hero must fight, practically claw, her way to ultimate victory: reclaiming her true name and save her parents; along the way, she helps and befriends many of the workers in the bathhouse.

Yes, I see much my mom in those characters. Often, I watch those movies alone. I always end up in tears during certain scenes. Yes, I know, ridiculous, and I should get over it. I will, someday.

Evoking emotions.

For now, occasionally, usually when I think of mom and want to hear her voice, I watch a movie and have a good cry. Of course, when I want to smile and laugh, I watch Columbo. When he lights a cigar, finds a small clue or uses his catchphrase: Oh, just one more thing.” I hear her, her laughter echoes within my mind and I’m happy.

I like to hear her laugh. She had a good laugh, a sweet smile. Her joy made my childhood so very bright.


Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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