Sometimes just a phrase is all you need. For me, the other day, it was “Zuzu’s petals.”
If you love It’s a Wonderful Life as I do, you know what I’m talking about. George Bailey’s little daughter is upset because some petals had fallen off the flower she brought home from school, and he pretends to reattach them while tucking them in his pocket.
When Clarence the angel grants George his “wish” to have never been born, one of the consequences is that Zuzu’s petals aren’t in his pocket anymore, because if he was never born then neither was his daughter.
What happens next makes George want to live again, and when he’s trying to figure out if he’s really back, he reaches desperately into his pockets.
“Zuzu’s petals!” he cries. “THERE THEY ARE! BERT — WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THAT? MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”
Oh, damn, I’m choking up again as I write this.
George Bailey never existed, and neither did Zuzu or her petals, but these imaginary people, and their trials and tribulations, affect us as profoundly as the real-life experiences we go through all the time. Sometimes they help us process reality in ways that reality can’t offer.
Zuzu’s petals represent all the things and all the people I’ve lost over the years. Some of them I’ve found again, and some of them are indeed lost forever. Lost or found, they bring tears to the eyes and a lump to the ol’ throat, grief and joy in equal measure.
They make me want to cry out, with George Bailey, “Help me, Clarence, please. Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live!”