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Smile — Modern Times

11 October 2023

This afternoon, I sorted through a box of photographs from my early days as a mom. I’d had no idea how much fun I was having. In fact, before this day, I’d tended to look back upon those years in the Suburbs as unhappily battle-scarred.

Battle-scarred they were, and battle-scarred I was. Unhappy, though:


I was having a lot of fun, enjoying life as best I could amidst miserable beings. I just didn’t know why there was so much hostility toward me from so many of those Suburbanites!

And that’s the point:

I was smiling, and happy, sincerely jubilant. With ebullience, I laughed and loved and plowed my way through the garbage those people were throwing in my path.

Life is a matter of fore-arming the miserable beings who stumble, or trample, upon your thoroughfare.

Les misérables were born that way, and they will probably die that way. It’s a caustic, brutal statement, but I’ve known, and experienced, too many whiners, winers, and winos, to think otherwise.

There I was, journeying and jousting, merrily and bluntly minding my own business, eagerly and nimbly forging ahead. The obnoxious individuals pulling their sh— just got more obnoxious toward me, and pulled more of their sh—!

I guess I figured those unhappy souls would find a way to be happy, somehow, someday.

I’m an optimist!

There is a certain type of person who defies the deed of any good heart to cheer him up, to soften the blow of an unkind fate. Knock your head against a brick wall and you’ll feel a gentler touch of gratitude!

No kind deed shall be rewarded!

We all go through rough patches, and, Lord knows, I was going through mine during those late 1980s through the mid-1990s. The rough patches didn’t get easier during that phase, but I didn’t let them get any rougher.

I looked to the Light, and I tried my best not to waste a moment in regret, or resentment. My focus was on the future. I kept my eyes on The Prize.

The Prize, and the future, are my offspring.

My Dear Son and My Dear Daughter were, and are, my anchors, my buoys, my pride and joy. The smiles on each of their faces reflected the smiles on my own; but, more than that blessed reflection between parent and child, those smiles became the most precious investments in a life well-lived.

Life can be what you make of it; it can also be what you let others un-make of it. In a world where misery has become monetized, try to see the silver lining in the dark cloud that someone else inhabits, daily. Try even more to create your own ray of sunshine when others stomp out the first light of dawn.

My days, and nights, of writing THE DAWN, and then of composing L’AUBE, brought home to me many of the truths of life that I’d unintentionally, almost unwillingly, learned during those early years of becoming a mother.

It’s quite possible that I put off, or My Muse restrained me from knowing, those truths until the writing of that fiction. It’s equally possible that I wasn’t ready to realize those verities until my children had attained a certain age, a necessary phase of their maturation.

I try not to analyze those matters. Creativity is, for me, a free-flowing stream that stays within its banks. That effort is work, both conscious and unconscious, and I relegate it to My Muse. Me, Debra, I can be impatient about the finalization of a project, such as THE DAWN, that was, ummm, decades in the making!

The making of any work of art varies, depending upon the artist, and depending upon whether that person is really an artist! And if the artist is a real person!

I have come to appreciate, thoroughly, and with a profound but serene sense of My Maker, that my art is worth nothing without my life, my loved ones, my private sphere. That private sphere, like any treasured domain, has known its ups and its downs.

The ups are priceless because of the persistence and the tenacity that I’ve achieved while plowing through the downs, usually with my head down, and my draft-horse discipline moving me — forward. The downs are equally priceless, albeit in a rather different sense, because they form springboards that served, and serve, as a jumping-off point for me. For someone with a fear of heights, that positive use of momentum is brave indeed! That’s how my strength is in my counter-punch.

Thus, my days, back there, back then, in Suburbia, that were not joyous, they ultimately galvanized me, and My Muse. Looking back, I can see that I was only beginning to get to know My Muse. She helped me in countless ways that I recognize upon this day.

I acknowledge how far I have travelled from those years in terms of trust. My Dear Husband and I came to deeply know deception and betrayal from people who ought to have been very trustworthy, and who pretended to be trustworthy. “Ought to” and “should” thereby became words I put to the far periphery of my useful vocabulary. My spouse and I solemnly, and permanently, accepted the reality that those persons had chosen, and preferred, the devious over the honest road in life, and they always would.

Grieving what a person became, that task can feel endless if you refuse to attest to the simple, but sad, truth that she, or he, wanted to go that road.

Such a cowardly creature doesn’t want to have to pay the price for his destructive lies, or her pernicious double-dealing. Drawing the line, somewhere, does have its cost. That cost isn’t even contemplated by the cheater of life, the fraudster of faith. He keeps right on smugly offending others, while bemoaning he’s the offended party: the victim.

Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr., or Charlie Chaplin, was both an offended, and an offending party, a victim and a victimizer. He’s not my idea of a role model, but he had to survive a savage, gruesome, and grotesque childhood. He managed to create film art as a means of prevailing over those inhumane memories.

Chaplin was an inventive comic genius who carried his emotional scars with him until his dying day. It’s true that he never fully matured into adulthood because of those scars. It’s also true that he composed music that’s beautiful and heart-rending. Perhaps his heart wasn’t all bad. He smiled, and he helped millions of Americans to seek the sun, come shining through the darkness of the Great Depression.

His song, Smile, began its humble life as an instrumental theme in his 1936 film, Modern Times. In 1954, Geoffrey Parsons and John Turner wrote the lyrics and the title for this composition, based upon the themes in the film.

I can’t say that Chaplin agreed or disagreed with the import of these lyrics, but I think the message meshes perfectly with his sublime melody.


Smile, though your heart is aching

Smile, even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky

You’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through

for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time

you must keep on trying


what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life

is still worthwhile

If you just smile.


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