Nothing Gold Can Stay

In September of 1983 I turned eleven. I was in the seventh grade. For my birthday party I wanted to take my friends to see the movie The Outsiders, which we’d probably already seen eleven or twelve times. The film directed by Francis Ford Coppola spoke to the stuff which we had not yet been exposed; serious themes of love and hatred, socio-economic distrust, death and murder to name a few. Being cast with cute teenage boys was (I think) its initial appeal.

Afterward, my parents took the dozen or so of us to Ernesto’s on Clement Street (in San Francisco) for pizza. The memory of that night has not faded with time.

When we entered the restaurant a gaggle of girls with bright red eyes and puffy faces there was no doubt that what we’d experienced was powerful. We’d cried and sighed and reached for each others hands. Despite the difficult themes, we loved every minute of the entire movie; the evidence not totally clear by the sight of our tear smudged faces.

Yesterday, my grown up girlfriends and I watched as a row of fifth grade girls filled the seats in front of us in a darkened theater, all of us eagerly waiting the start of The Hunger Games. 

Their arrival prompted a discussion between my friends and me regarding whether or not the movie was appropriate for their age.

I had to think about it, but my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

Even so, today I’m still thinking about my response, which has prompted this post.

My kids are little and everyday I’m faced with the challenge about what I choose for them to see or do, to eat or say. What is allowed?  What is okay?

How did my mom make her decisions? How did the parents of those kids in the movie come to the conclusion that their kids were ready?

The girls in front of us at the movie yesterday demonstrated all of the appropriate behaviors of children being faced with some pretty serious subjects like the end of our civilization, death, murder, love, power and redemption.  They giggled when Katniss kissed Peeta in the cave and sighed when they watched Gayle’s breaking heart.

For me, the movie didn’t pack the powerful punch that the book did because it lacked Katnisses beautiful internal thoughts, which made the reading so special.

I wished I could have had a round table discussion with those fifth graders to see how they felt when it ended and I watched them carefully as my friends and I left to say our own farewells.

The kids were smiling and laughing, texting and hugging; not a puffy face in the bunch.

Children today may be more mature than they were when we were young. They may be less or more connected due to technology. Their bodies might be growing faster because of the gunk in the food they eat and they might watch more t.v. All of this might be true.

But when you are ten or eleven or twelve you are still a kid who not so long ago came into this world as gold.

The Outsiders quotes the famous Robert Frost poem entitled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

The girls in front of us yesterday may be a few years younger than my friends and I were the night of my eleventh birthday. They probably are more mature, but are still little girls based on the short amount of time they’ve spent on our Earth.

They may not have cried at the end of The Games, but I’d venture to say if they watched The Outsiders today they’d be just like my friends and I were twenty-nine years ago; wet faced from filled up hearts with day dreams of life and love to come.

Because that’s what little girls are made of.

8 thoughts on “Nothing Gold Can Stay

  1. Interesting you just wrote this! At the same time you were watching I too was there with 3 fifth grade boys. My kids are great readers and don’t scare easily but I was very unsure last summer when they were dying to read the books.(a 16 yr Kbia instructor who they worship was raving about them). I said no originally, and then I heard the movie was coming out. So I bought the book checked it out and decided to let them read it. Needless to say they devoured all 3 in a matter of weeks. As for the movie I thought they did a great job but it is certainly not for every fifth grader I know many of their friends opted not to go as they thought it would be too scary so it is really a kid by kid thing. Fifth grade is an interesting age some are interested in girls others still not at all every fifth graders maturity level varies greatly! We all loved the movie and the boys would go back today! This whole parenting thing is hard, knowing when to let your kids leap forward and when to slow them down.

  2. I turned 11 in August of 1983… and my parents didn’t let me go see The Outsiders. As I recall it, they let me read almost anything I could get my hands on, but we didn’t go see many movies. I guess I didn’t even think to want to see it? I’ll be taking my son, who’s in 5th grade, to see The Hunger Games over spring break. My daughter, who’s in 3rd grade, is a voracious reader and has read books one and two. I do feel that reading is very different from seeing someone get killed (or stung to death)on screen. She won’t be going to see the movie in the theater with us. I think even she knows that she’s not ready for seeing everything up close and personal. I guess each child is different. And… I think we all make parenting decisions that may (or may not) be the right thing at the time.

    1. Totally agree about parenting decisions.

      As far as the movie, I was a little less impressed because I loved the books so! I do agree with many people who said the movie was very well done. The film wasn’t too terribly gory and in some ways and definitely geared toward a younger crowd.

      I should mention that the eleven year old girl in me did participate in a little swooning over the movie version of Gayle. He was dreamy! 🙂

      In a few years your daughter may enjoy it! Maybe with some distance from when she last read the book it’ll compel her to read it again.

      I have my own favorites that I read over and over again!

      p.s. How funny we’re basically the same age!

  3. I *love* the Outsiders. Incredible movie. Looking back now, my parents let me watch a lot of movies that were inappropriate for my age. I was only 7 when the Outsiders came out and I remember watching that along with St. Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night, and Risky Business in the theaters (with my Aunt trying to cover my eyes during the steamy parts). I think that it was partly due to the fact that I was one of the youngest kids and my brother, sister and cousins were all 5-7 years older than me and I really wanted to tag along. I think that it’s also because they were Chinese and they had no idea what the hell these movies were about.

    We went to see Hunger Games Saturday night and I had similar thoughts as I watched the various groups of young kiddos watching the movie – what a formidable experience it is to watch a movie like that with your friends. I liked the movie overall but definitely had some critiques of it. Just read a great review here:

  4. Parenting decisions are so hard sometimes. I tend to err on the side of letting my children experience MORE things, rather than fewer. And the things that fall into the “iffy” category I try to use as discussion topics. I was very sheltered as a child (no Dirty Dancing for me!) and I feel like when I got on my own I was a lot wilder than I needed or should have been. I’m the one that gives them more freedom to explore life in general, until they prove that they cannot handle it. I try to have very open, frank discussions with all of my kids and sometimes the best ones are about controversial subjects. But, I do say that I draw the line at graphic violence and/or sex in movies/tv as I do think that one can become desensitized.

  5. I remember when my girls were young and the Harry Potter books came out! Talk about controversy!! I think as a parent you know your child better than anyone else.

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