Most of us can relate to Tom Hanks’ adolescent wish to be Big in the delightful movie comedy of that name (1988). One of my first memories was of yearning to be tall enough to see over store counters. There were times when I felt that I would never be Big. Why did it seem to take forever? In the meantime, I was missing out on all the unknown wonders behind the counter that I was too short to see!
Implicit in the movie’s premise, and in all of us seemingly trapped in childhood, is the conviction that Big means being grown up – and the freedom that comes with it. Nobody to tell me when to go to bed, what I could or couldn’t do, being my own person. No rules. After all, if I were grown up I could do whatever I wanted!
The point of the movie, of course, is be careful what you wish for. Fortunately for movie audiences we were treated to a clever and unpredictable scenario creating a delightful entertainment experience. The lesson was there, but the journey was enjoyable.
After a series of sometimes hilarious mishaps and faux pas, the adolescent Josh in a grown-up body, gradually starts acting like an adult – much to the disgust of his best friend, who was in on the secret. Reports and endless meetings became more important than spending time with someone his own age. The very thing that made his innovative toys appealing to kids (the fact that he was a kid himself), was threatening to leave him, turning him into a typical workaholic adult!
Surprisingly, he was actually doing quite well. He loved his job and was doing it well. He earned the respect of his boss, and enough money to afford a ginormous Manhattan loft apartment equipped with bunkbeds, a commercial soda dispenser, a pinball machine, and a trampoline. He had a girlfriend (and managed to hold his own against her jealous former boyfriend). But he also missed his Mom. And his best friend. And even school.
This being both a fantasy and a product of Hollywood, it demanded a happy ending. But this one was bittersweet, because he had very likely met the woman he was meant to marry – and she was twenty years older than he! But since he had spent the entire movie trying to get back where he belonged, he said good-bye to her and went back to his not-so-big life as a seventh grader.
Josh was actually the lucky one. He experienced a glimpse (the centerpiece of another one of my Time Travel favorites, The Family Man) and was able to take what he had learned back to his previous life. One hopes that he slowed down enough to enjoy riding his bike, and acting silly again with his 13-year-old friends.
Now, with two granddaughters and three great-grandchildren, I’m tempted to urge them not to be so anxious about getting on with life. Enjoy each phase while it lasts.
But they won’t listen. They are just as anxious to grow up as I was. They haven’t benefitted from Josh’s experience, nor my perspective from this high hill of my life: the growing up phase is actually the shortest one we’ll ever experience!