It’s so much easier to choose to love the things that you have. And you have so much, instead of always yearning for what you’re missing - - - or what it is that you’re imagining you are missing.

(Meryle Streep in One True Thing)

One True Thing, a 1988 American film, explores the subtlety of family relationship. The one true thing refers to the devoted mother who lights up her family’s life at the cost of her health. It’s touching because the three major roles reflect part of us, as a father, mother or kids. This article will examine three aspects of family relationship: father/daughter, mother/daughter, and husband/wife

I. Father / daughter

William Hurt portrays the father who pursues excellence and nothings else, who emphasizes mind over matter, who would rather listen to what a writer says than what his daughter tries to communicate, who pretends the outstanding academic achievement but deteriorates in creativity.

Such a father cultivates a daughter who is cold, insensitive, condescending and remote. Such a father wins his daughter’s respect before she knows more about his secrets--- his extra-marital affairs with female students, his running out of inner resources for writing a novel. Such a father gains his daughter’s forgiveness after she learns from her mother what love really is.

II. Mother / daughter

Meryl Streep plays the mother who tolerates her daughter’s remoteness, who wouldn’t be taken care of by her daughter, who wouldn’t say a thing about her suffering. And the last thing the daughter wants to do was to live her mother’s life---housekeeping, decorating, and socializing with neighbors.

The daugher, starring Renee Zellweger, learns to love and respect such a traditional mother in the end. The trivial things her mother does are so beautiful and significant if they are meant to help other people instead of filling in the emptiness in life. The daughter learns her traditional mother is not so shallow as she used to regard. She has the most sensitive eyes and ears, which can hear the sound of the tranquil town and see the needs of her family.

III. Husband / wife

Here is a model couple in the eyes of their neighbors. But there seems to be no such a thing as a model couple in the world. What we actually see is a selfish husband who wants to maintain a stable life at the cost of his wife’s health. What breaks our heart is a wife who runs everything smoothly in her household so that her husband can run his department without the least interference, who puts her pain behind, delaying the proper time for treating her cancer, who lights up everything around her until the light goes out.

What is this role we call “the Angel in the House”? A product of the bourgeois, patriarchal domination of women? Enough of the feminist argument. To make concessions doesn't mean submission; nor is it an act of resignation or bowing to a superior.  Instead, it's an act of liberation, an act to achieve freedom from ego by gratifying the needs of the beloved. Let’s hear what the wife has to say about this role:

You make concessions when you’re married a long time. . . . that you don’ t believe you’ll make when you are beginning. When you are young, you say, “Oh, I’ll never tolerate . . . “ But time goes by, and when you’ve slept together a thousand nights, and you’ve smelled like spit-up from the babies when they are sick . . . and you’ve seen your body droop and get soft . . . and some nights you just think, “Oh, God, I’m not gonna put up with it another minute.” But you wake up in the next morning . . . and the kitchen smells like coffee . . . and the kids have their hair brushed all by themselves . . . and you look at your husband, and no . . . he’s not the person you thought he was. But he’s your life. And the kids and the house and everything that you do is built around him. And if you take him out, that’s like cutting his face out of all the pictures. It just makes a big hole and it ruins everything. You can be hard; you can be judgmental. And with those two things alone you’re gonna make such a mess out of your life.

So, what’s the one true thing in our life? Unselfish love, the kind of love that aims to enrich other people’s life without the attempt to gain anything in return. If we haven’t got it yet, then, we create it ourselves. Be the change you wish to see in the world.

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