The Ninetieth Chart

July 19, 2013

By Ekta R. Garg

For their birthday the girls’ honorary great-grandma sent them, among other things, a 2009 movie starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.  The movie released in the States on DVD, never making it to the theaters, which is a shame because it’s a sweet film based on a true story of a dog and his owner.  In the movie version Richard Gere plays Parker Wilson, a professor, who finds an Akita Inu dog; the dog’s collar has a Japanese word on it, which Parker finds out says “Hachi” or the number eight — a number that means good luck to the Japanese — which is what he names the dog.

It’s easy to guess from the onset of the film that the story revolves around Parker and Hachi’s relationship.  But anyone who watches the film—and I highly recommend it to everyone—will be hard-pressed to watch the end credits with dry eyes.  When Parker dies and Hachi shows his devotion to his master in an unusual way on a daily basis for years on end, it’ll touch anyone’s heart.

My grandma sent the movie keeping Five, in particular, in mind, because Five LOVES animals.  She talks about them, she looks for opportunities to see them, and whenever she tells me what she wants to be when she grows up it always involves an animal in some way, shape, or form.  And, of course, movies about animals or starring animals always come high on her request list.

So when she saw the DVD cover of Hachi, she got excited, and within hours of receiving it she sat down to watch it with her big sister.  Seven got intrigued by the idea of the movie being based on a real-life story (although the real Hachi and his owner lived in Japan.)  When I took a break from unpacking, I sat down with them and watched and I knew right away that the director had made the right choice in picking Richard Gere for the part.  It seemed like a very Richard-Gere-type film, helping the downtrodden and becoming an emotionally stronger person in the process.

During the end credits we saw pictures of the real-life Hachi and his master, but after seeing the first two pictures I glanced at the time and realized I had to get into the kitchen and get dinner started if we wanted to eat that night.  I didn’t see the rest of the pictures.  When I asked the girls after they got up from the family room whether they liked the movie, they both said yes and chose it as one of the films to take with us on our road trip for our vacation to South Carolina to visit my parents.

On the second day of our two-day drive from Illinois to South Carolina, the girls chose to watch Hachi and even though I couldn’t see the DVD screen I could hear the movie.  Because we were driving through a few windy roads, I glanced back at Five a few times to make sure she felt okay (driving through too many windy roads makes her a little nauseous.)  Her face told me something had gone wrong, and I asked her if she felt okay.  She glanced at me and back at the screen and simply answered, “Yes.”

I heard the swell of the music during the end credits, and all of a sudden Five said, “I don’t want to watch this anymore.”

I looked back and saw something in her eyes, but I didn’t understand what she’d said.  The movie starred a dog, for heaven’s sake.  Why wouldn’t she want to watch it?

“Why?” I asked.

By this time the pictures of the real-life Hachi had begun to appear.  “Because I don’t want to watch something sad.”

On the last word her eyes filled with tears, and she began to cry.

I quickly handed her a tissue and tried to comfort her, tried to help her focus on the good part of the movie: Parker’s kindness, Hachi’s loyalty, and the fact that such a friendship and love could exist.  At the same time I turned off the movie and picked something less emotionally challenging—Tom and Jerry—and popped that into the DVD player.  After several minutes she began smiling again.

I turned around and faced the road after making sure a final time that she was okay, and I thought about this daughter of mine whose heart still remains as soft as rose petals.  Five will joke around a lot, and most of the time I describe her as “impish.”  She has a little smile that makes a person think she’s up to something, and her eyes laugh.  She loves to tease people, and even in her young age her sense of humor has become source of amusement for all of us.

She’s also, at times, incredibly temperamental and shows a strong tendency toward the visual arts.  If someone teases her past her personal threshold, she gets offended.  And when I see displays of emotion like I saw in the car that day, I can see in her an artist with an incredible amount of potential to view the world with a sensitivity and love that will give her heart a voice.

Since that incident a week-and-a-half ago, Five has mentioned once or twice that she doesn’t want to watch any more “sad” movies.  She might watch Hachi again at some point; she might not.  Either way I’m sure this incident has imprinted itself on her memory for good.

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