My mom and I have a special gift when it comes to selecting movies.
We always inadvertently choose a cinematic adventure (thank you, Dane Cook) that is so weird that it ends up being good.
Super weird. Super good.
Super weird. Super good.
Super weird. Super good.
We’re pretty much batting 1000 on random movies that end up rocking our world. It’s a gift. You may always get a front-row parking space or know exactly which line in the grocery store will move the fastest. We always know which cinematic stinkers will actually smell like roses.
To each her own.
Anyway, none of the movies we’ve ever selected has been as weird or as wonderful as this cute little Keri Russell film called, Waitress.
The story centers around (you guessed it) a waitress named Jenna (played by Keri Russell) who lives in a small town in the South. Jenna works at a diner where she makes exceptionally delicious pies. She learned the love for baking from her mom and gets inspiration for her pies from her everyday life.
In fact, we’re introduced to one of the other major characters, Jenna’s husband, at the outset of the movie when she gets inspired to name her next pie, “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie.” Another waitress at the diner, Dawn, suggests they can’t put that on the menu, so Jenna changes the name to “Bad Baby Pie.”
It’s a quiche of egg and Brie cheese with a smoked ham center.
As you might have guessed here, Jenna is not in a happy marriage. Her husband, Earl (played by Jeremy Sisto), is an overbearing, emotionally-abusive, loser-butthead (my words, not IMDB) who keeps her trapped in a life of servitude to him. She even has to give him all of her tips from the diner at the end of the day. In the second scene in the movie, while he’s being horrible to her once again, she starts creating her second pie in her head—“I Hate my Husband Pie.”
You take bittersweet chocolate and don’t sweeten it. You make it into a pudding and drown it in caramel.
Everything seems pretty dire for poor Jenna until she goes in to visit her doctor the next day. The scene opens with her holding a pie and staring around the room full of “baby stuff.” Pictures of uteruses, diapers piled to the ceiling, screaming children in the background. She looks terrified.
Then… he walks in.
Jenna’s regular doctor has been replaced by a new town doctor, Dr. Pomatter (played by the luscious Nathan Fillion). The two of them share an incredibly awkward exchange in which she refuses to give him the pie because it’s her real doctor’s favorite, and he attempts to explain how he came to inherit the practice.
The tension starts from the first minute they see each other.
Jenna goes back to work, and one day on her way home, she sitting at the bus stop inventing yet another pie—“Baby Screaming Its Head Off in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life Pie.”
New York-style cheesecake, brandy brushed, with pecans and nutmeg.
All of a sudden, she’s interrupted by a voice.
It’s Dr. Pomatter.
He compliments her pie. He tells her about a pie diner in his home town. He mentions the cute waitress he had a crush on when he was a boy.
He tells her how she reminds him of that waitress.
Jenna’s nearly never received a compliment in her life, and it makes her wildly uncomfortable. She barely knows how to receive it. The tension grows.
The next day, Jenna calls in to the doctor with a minor complication. Dr. Pomatter suggests she come in to see him to talk about it. The next morning at 7:00am, she visits the doctor and they have the most awkward exchange yet. He tells her that her symptoms are perfectly normal and that he will see her at her next regularly scheduled appointment.
Jenna, outraged, demands to know why she was asked to come into the office if her problem was “perfectly normal” and why the doctor was willing to open the practice two hours early to tell her that.
He has no response.
She tells him that she’s uncomfortable and doesn’t want him to be her doctor anymore. She storms out.
But… she forgets her purse.
He comes out of the front door, holding her purse, and then…
The scene in the movie is perfect. Time stops. Music starts. The camera does a 360 degree circle around the couple. Angels sing.
Until you realize they are both cheating on their spouses…
Now, I’m not condoning cheating, but later in the movie, Dr. Pomatter gives Jenna what I consider to be the greatest gift of all time. He shows up at her house one day when she’s in a particularly self-loathing mood. In fact, she’s created another pie to commemorate the moment—“Pregnant, Miserable, Self-Pitying Loser Pie.”
Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in it… flambé, of course.
She answers the door confused. He notices that she looks bad… not just bad… but sad. He asks to come in. She says no. Then says yes.
Then she says, “What now?”
“I thought maybe you could teach me how to make a pie,” he shrugs.
“I could do that… sure.”
Then he says, “Come here.”
And he just… holds her.
The moment is so dear, so special, so unexpected. Afterwards, she writes a letter to her future baby about it. The letter is my absolute favorite part of the movie. It also describes the best gift that anyone can give you. The gift… of presence.
I hope someday, somebody wants to hold you…
For 20 minutes straight, and that's all they do.
They don't pull away.
They don't look at your face.
They don't try to kiss you.
All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight without an ounce of selfishness to it.
Let the questionable moral ethic of this movie sit on the sidelines for a moment, and think about the humanity here. One person… being present for another person… in their moment of need.
No advice. No platitudes. No excuses. No expectations. No motives.
How beautiful is that?!
Think back on the last time you went through something really difficult. Or maybe you’re going through something really difficult right now. Maybe this season has you thinking about things that have gone wrong or things from this year that you’d like to change. Situations you could remedy or issues you could rectify.
What if it could be as simple as your presence in someone's life?
What if it could be as easy as someone else’s presence in your life?
I challenge you to remember the last time you were held for over 5 minutes. Hell, how about over 30 seconds! Being present feels like an ironically lost art in our world of “constant connectivity.” Sure, we can always be “in touch” with others, but how real is that touch? How human? How authentic?
I received this gift recently. The gift of arms wide open. The gift of holding on tight. The gift of not letting go. The gift that came without an ounce of selfishness.
It was like a breath of fresh air.
This Christmas and New Year season, I want to push you a bit. Forget about the expensive gifts and the vacations. Forget about the regrets and the resolutions. Even forget about the meals and the conversation.
Look around you.
Who needs your presence? Who needs your physical touch? Who needs your selflessness?
And who do you need to lean on? Who can you let in? Who can you open up to?
This year, give the greatest gift of all. Give the gift of you.
That’s all you have to do.