In 1964, Goldwyn-Mayer released “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” a film starring Debbie Reynolds. This fictionalized biopic movie is based on the life of Margaret “Molly” Brown, born into the John and Johanna Tobin family of Hannibal, Missouri in 1867. The movie starts with a scene in which Molly, her father, and brothers return home from a fishing trip.
As the family gets out of the wagon, the brothers start teasing Molly quite boldly and abrasively, knowing of course that she will react and fight back. She is a fighter and won’t take anything from those guys, and they love this side of their sister.
On this occasion, they pin her down in the dirt, pushing her face in it, and still she fights them off. Finally, she prevails and gets to her feet. She’s angry, and her brothers know better than to get too close. She points her finger at them and yells, “Nobody wants me down MORE than I want me up!” This statement made an impact on me as well as her brothers as she chased them knowing that they were bigger and stronger than she was, but she was not going to let anyone hold her down and stop her from doing what she wanted to do.
Molly later leaves Hannibal and moves to Leadville, Colorado, determined to start a new life and marry a rich man who can take her out of poverty. She meets J.J. Brown, a miner about as poor as she is. She debates with herself whether to marry J.J. for love or to hold out for a wealthy man who could give her the things she never had. She has quite the personal debate and love wins out.
J.J. is a self-educated man who studies mining engineering and eventually becomes the mine superintendent. Under his leadership, they discovered the Little Johnny Mine, the most valuable vein of gold in the United States, which eventually produces more than one hundred tons of ore per day. Needless to say, J.J. and Molly Brown become wealthy and buy a mansion in Denver. Molly achieves what she set out to do (marry a rich man), only to find that money doesn’t bring her the happiness she had hoped for, but she still hangs onto her life’s motto, “Nobody wants me down more than I want me up!”
Molly travels the world, learning to speak fluent French, German, Italian, and Russian. She makes friends all over Europe, many of whom are in the upper classes of society and social prominence. While in Paris, France, in 1912, Molly receives a message that she is needed at home. She books a first-class passage on the fateful voyage of the Titanic. After the ship strikes the iceberg and starts to sink, she helps others get into lifeboats until she is finally persuaded to get in one herself. She, along with the others in Lifeboat No. 6, watch as the great Titanic sinks. At home, Molly Brown is recognized as a hero.
In many ways, I’d been living by Molly’s motto throughout my life, but I didn’t have the words to capture it so perfectly. I wasn’t formally diagnosed with Tourette syndrome until quite late in my life, and after receiving the diagnosis, I decided that I would adopt Molly’s motto as my own. Doing this made me feel re-energized about living my life and taking what I had been given and not letting it stop me from anything I wanted to do.
I finally had some tangible philosophy to hang my hat on. Today I have a better vision of some of the challenges that haunted me for so many years. I have a better understanding of why learning was so hard and why my memory didn’t work the same as other people’s, of my impulsivity and the effects it’s had on me and my family.
Not long before my father died, he and I had a conversation at my wife’s family cabin, high in the mountains. All alone with the man I admired more than anyone else, he told me that while I was growing up, he and my mother worried about me and my tics and other symptoms of Tourette, (which neither they nor I knew I had) and the effect it would have on my future. They worried whether I was going to be able to earn a living, have a family, or attain any kind of success. But he told me that they prayed every day for me and trusted the Lord to help me. They watched as I struggled through and met each challenge that came my way. And, most of all, they were proud of who I became.
All my life, I was determined that “Nobody wants me down more than I want me up!” I don’t know where I got this drive from, but it was at least in part from an inspired mother who had also suffered many physical and emotional struggles. She believed in me and instilled that drive, motivating me to not be afraid to be what I wanted to be. Do what I wanted to do. Become an independent and honest man.
Today we face unprecedented challenges associated with the COVID 19 worldwide pandemic and all the ways it’s impacting our lives. This is a powerful opportunity for us as parents to recognize the challenges our children are facing and help them develop their life motto to live by. Hopefully we can help them learn that no one can keep them down if they want to be up. They can achieve what they want to achieve through hard work, perseverance, and desire. Let’s love our children enough to help them embrace their challenges and the opportunities they bring for growth and moving forward.
Here’s to helping our children ‘Fail’ forward,
Calvert and Anne
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