For me, one of the great pleasures of visiting the library is perusing the new-book shelves: finding works from favorite authors as well as making interesting discoveries. Recently I happened across The Making of Gone with the Wind, a big, beautiful book, an elegant square, eleven by eleven, weighing in at a hefty five pounds.
I snatched it up, lugged it home, and began eagerly flipping through the pages.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a film buff. I’m not obsessed with Gone with the Wind. In fact, I’ll probably never be swayed from my stubborn insistence that Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler is not sexy. And that although Leslie Howard offered a wonderfully sensitive portrayal of Ashley Wilkes, he was just too old for the role.
The Making of Gone with the Wind is a fascinating book. I learned a lot. But my true joy in reading it came from an entirely different source. When I was eleven or twelve, living with my family in a remote agricultural area of southernmost California, Gone with the Wind was shown in the town’s old, shabby movie theater. My mom and I went to see it. She and I never did this sort of thing together, so it was a big deal to me. (I usually went there on the weekends with my friends, watching double features of horror movies that afterwards, I was extremely sorry to have seen.)
On this particular day, I remember where we sat — around the middle, toward the left as we faced the screen — and I remember also the feel of the velvety seat cushion and the hard curve of the old metal seatback. And the companionable feel of Mom, right next to me.
Scarlett — brave, foolish Scarlett. Rhett (not sexy), Ashley (too old so not sexy either), Melanie, Mammy, the Cast of Thousands. Tara, Twelve Oaks, Atlanta (burning). Those dresses, those hats. Love and war. Melanie’s death (yes, I wept). The fantastically ambivalent ending: will she, or won’t she, get Rhett back? I sat transfixed.
Long ago and far away. My mom is gone now; gone with the wind, you might say: her ashes scattered into the ocean. But reading that big, lovely book seemed to bring her close to me, quietly and vividly, for a while. A gift.
More about The Making of Gone with the Wind here.