The point of continual remakes of the “movie classics” had long eluded me.
I am not a movie person, though a friend I know through work is. When I emailed him about the (to me) remake phenomenon, he enlightened me.
The ideal remake “refines” a story to impart a sense of “current time,” and therefore relates the essence of the story more effectively to a whole new generation of viewers by making the talent, scenes and jargon more familiar and “up-to-date.”
So, I get that.
This year I caught a front-row seat to an old classic, A Sprout Is Born.
Never heard of it? You may have lived it. It’s about coming-into-your-own as a “youngest.”
Much about this remake is similar to the classic, though much couldn’t be more different.
Including the species of the subjects.
Which are – wait for it – humans and dogs.
Mike has three Border Collie dogs that work the Farm – Liam, Mara and Conor.
Liam is the oldest. His coyote charm peeks out from those fluid yellow-to-green eyes just the as winter sun will slide through a green hemlock bough to cast blue shadows on sparkling fresh white snow. He has little desire to either please a handler or perform the task in any way other than the way Liam feels it should be. He is not obstinate or lacking ability – it’s that pleasing a handler is not necessarily important to Liam. He is a renegade cowboy. He is irresistible.
In the middle is Miss Mara – she is all Mike’s. Pleasant and defined, she is a diminutive, regal, powerhouse worker. Her top priority is to do the work Mike needs her to do in the manner he wants it performed. She possesses a natural sense of balance, energy and timing. Often there is no need for a spoken word or a whistle for them to communicate in running the Farm.
Mara is a card-carrying member of the elite group known as “the ones.” Mara’s pairing with Mike is serendipity.
Handsome Conor is the youngest.
He is lightly tethered to the Earth by small, fleet paws – when he moves it’s as if he does not touch the ground. A flowing half-white, half-black beard, amicable disposition and open smile fill a spirit that is flooded by Liam’s powerful presence and Mara’s force field.
Conor is comfortable with this because of an exceptional trait known to those of us who are “youngests.”
Conor expects nothing.
Much is expected of Conor.
Conor is not only one of “the trainer’s dogs,” he’s also Mara’s son.
We had been coming to the Farm for over two years when I felt his deep-water eyes watching me. My heart skipped at the connection as my soul slipped sideways on a note of old familiarity.
Why had I never asked Mike if I could walk Conor?
Conor caught my thought, looked away, then back, as if to see if anyone would hear us.
“Because you didn’t think of it,” said his soft voice in my head. “It’s okay. I know that you – know.”
Those words spoke to a place I hadn’t visited in over forty years and unlocked a door to a room where he and I have become friends.
Conor is about eight months older than Boo and they have much in common in a casual-observer sort of way.
Both dogs are high-energy and they share an electric field that many other dogs do not like – metaphysically it crackles and sparks. Both are highly sensitive, empathic souls. They each have difficulty remaining focused and are extremely intelligent especially in an intuitive sense and both are uncommonly biddable – once they settle and take direction.
They are both often mis-understood.
I had watched Conor as Mike had been training him though I hadn’t put much thought into what I was watching.
I asked Mike if it was okay for me to walk Conor.
The energy shift when Conor realized I was coming to the kennels for him clutches my heart still – it was so familiar – and a little painful.
How could I have missed you, Conor?
My spirit groaned under the weight of a place and time where I was a very different person – just a sprout of a soul.
Growing up at the tail end of a large family prepares you for life better than any self-help book or therapist money can buy as long as you keep your eyes and ears open. Usually, somewhere along the way as a youngest, a suitcase of expectation that is packed by others is given to us.
That first day Conor and I went out to the big field in the back we just sort of listened to the wind.
Yes, we had known one another.
He knew all along – I had just realized it.
As time went on, we began to build trust. We walked, talked, ate lunch and worked on leash stuff together.
Then as the winter months spread out before us, Conor and me got down to business about how to unpack his suitcase.
On a windswept day we sat in the big field and I told him about my tipping point as a youngest.
Growing up I had twin brothers who were four years older than me. Through a series of events and destiny, seven young men – two of whom were my twin brothers – from a black-dot-on-a-map town became a unique force in high school cross-country.
When I reached seventh grade, the suitcase of expectation was dropped at my feet. Not knowing what else to do, I bought into it. The inability to fulfill my brothers’ running shoes haunted me. I allowed the expectation to devour and define me. Even though distance running was something I previously enjoyed, I began to hate it.
When I was in the ninth grade I had a class with their coach, a long-time distance runner who taught business studies at the school.
One day he asked me to stay after class.
He simply asked me why I ran. Was it because my brothers did? I nodded yes. Was I having fun? No one had ever asked me this before. My eyes locked on his.
“You are not having fun,” he answered for me. He sighed heavily in the way he often did and said in that slow and purposeful manner of speaking he had – (that always seemed to emphasize the improper syllables), “You don’t have to run because your brothers did. You are your own person. Go find out who you are.”
“That day changed my orbit,” I told Conor as I finger-combed out that magnificent beard and gathered his soft, wide head in my hands.
“And today – today your orbit changes – you are a Sprout unto yourself. It’s time drink the water of your natural life, absorb its rich nutrients and grow your own roots.”
I’d like to think that The Sprout squared his shoulders a little, puffed his chest just a bit and placed those light paws with more purpose as we walked back to the front that day.
Conor and Mike have been developing a new relationship separate from those Mike has with Mara and Liam, and it’s been really cool to watch Conor come into his own.
I guess there is something to be said for remakes of the classics after all.