Saturday, August 05, 2006

What Does Gatsby Have to Do With My Family?

As we start to recover from this recent heatwave, I keep coming back to the scene from The Great Gatsby where Jay, Nick, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan have driven in to Manhattan to find something to do away from home. Not being able to think of anything, Daisy says that it's too hot really to do much of anything, and so they head for (presumably) the Plaza Hotel and rent a room for the day. The next scene cuts to the five of them wilting in their room with the windows open and some sort of fan running, but not unfortunately finding any relief from the heat.

There's something that I've always enjoyed about that scene -- being able to live a life where the worst thing you have to worry about is that it's too hot to goof off in the big city, and so you compensate by renting a lavish room in a world-class hotel and having an afternoon slip away, borne only by gin and gossip. As I've gotten older, though, my opinion has changed considerably -- although it still holds a certain appeal for me. I can't imagine living a life where I've got nothing to do and nowhere to do it.

My friend Julie over at JulieUnplugged recently posted an entry about the idea of taking a vacation away from marriage, and there was lively discussion from many of the readers of both the pros and cons of trying to do something like that. In thinking about in the days since, it occurs more to me that trying to vacation away from marriage and family is trying to escape from something that makes life really wonderful. Leaving the spouse and children in an effort to find time to go somewhere and to do nothing (or something different from the normal routine) is to leave the people that help complete your identity. Throughout much of Gatsby, Tom and Daisy are taking a vacation away from each other -- Daisy with Gatsby and Tom with Myrtle -- and doing so leads to a tragic set of circumstances.

Vacations are nice, and as an introvert having a little time to myself to recharge is extremely valuable. But trying to escape from your life -- even as glamorous as it sounds through the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald -- isn't something anyone who truly values all the gifts they have with their family should attempt.

(But there's still something pretty cool about those parties over at Gatsby's......)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Those parties at Gatsby's held a certain appeal for us all, partly because of the glamorous era, and mostly because of the mystery of Gatsby himself...who may have wanted a family?

I am reminded of my favorite poet, William Wordsworth's words.
"As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation."

The Great Gatsby touches a chord in us, but we hope that we have more today in what we do with our lives and our families