A one-act play inspired by a real event, this dramatic story takes on the hurt and frustration created by deep religious differences in a family. A minister father debates with his grown daughter until both are shouting and then crying. Through the conflict they finally reach other, relieved to find a very human connection.
A man in his 70′s and a woman in her early 30′s walk along a beach. We hear sounds of surf, gulls, children.
MOLLY: Are you alright to walk? You feel okay?
JOHN: Sure I’m fine, fine. I try to get a good walk whenever I can. Get the old body moving, you know. (laughs)
MOLLY: Well you always were a good walker weren’t you ? …… All those years on the mission field. Every day for an hour, isn’t that right?
JOHN: Yup, that’s right.
MOLLY: It’s good that you still enjoy it……… really good………… it’ll give us some time to catch up. . . Just the two of us.
JOHN: Yup . it was a good idea.
MOLLY: (Pause. She puts her arm around him briefly) I love you.
JOHN: Molly .
JOHN: When are you going to settle down?
MOLLY: (laughing) What does that mean?
JOHN: You know.
MOLLY: No, I don’t. (Pause) You mean get married and have children?
JOHN: It isn’t right , the way you live.
MOLLY: The way I live.
JOHN: We all know about the things you do.
MOLLY: Hmmm, I work, I play, I go to movies, I eat yummy food, I see friends, I pay my taxes, lemme see, what else. . .
JOHN: You live for the present, as if that’s all there is. . . and . . . you live with your. . . your. .
MOLLY: My partner? She has a name,
Dad – Joanne. You’d like her.
JOHN: Don’t be ridiculous. . . your lifestyle is breaking your mother’s heart, you know.
MOLLY: I think Mum would like her too actually. . . maybe I should bring her around.
JOHN: I think you’ve lost all respect for the values you grew up with. . . you only care about pleasure. What do you suppose people think of you?
Molly looks around at the sea and children playing. We hear their joyful sounds.
MOLLY: Oh. . . that’s not my problem. . . (pause. She stops him.) Look Dad, what do you see?
JOHN: What, you mean the ocean?
MOLLY: Yeah, what color is it?
JOHN: Blue. . . so?
MOLLY: I think it’s a muted aqua-marine this morning. (breathing in deeply). Ahhhh. Do you smell that? I love salty air. And feel that breeze. Isn’t that nice?
JOHN: Yeah. . .. Fine day. Molly laughs and takes his hand.
MOLLY: Damn right, it’s a gorgeous day. Now feel the sand under your feet as you walk with me okay?
JOHN: Do you have to talk like that?
MOLLY: What? (Pause.) Oh, you mean “damn”?. Now why do you have to be like that? Picking on words and being a killjoy? Here we are, the sun is shining, we haven’t seen each other for a long time — we could be enjoying our time together, and you have to do that. Why can’t you just be with me for a change? Good god.
JOHN: There you go again.
MOLLY: I’m sorry, but I have to tell you something, Dad. I am not a little girl any more. I am not you and I also want respect for being who I am.
JOHN: I know that. But it’s not my opinion that counts in the end.
MOLLY; Well, right now I’m trying to talk to you, and I’m going to explain a bit more, because you don’t know me very well now, it’s been a long time. . .
JOHN: Okay, what do you want to tell me?
Molly turns in front of her father, forces him to stop, and addresses him face to face.
MOLLY: Hmmm, I’d like to tell you. . . if you really want to know, I’d like to tell you about what I think and feel nowadays, I’d love to.
JOHN: So go ahead.
MOLLY returns to JOHN’S side and they resume walking.
MOLLY: Well. . . .I try to notice what is right in front of me and appreciate it. The sand, the sea, the wind, the birds, art, music, literature, travel. I like to eat artichokes, swim in the surf, love other people, and dance as much as possible. (she dances around.) I am trying to respect life, I think. Do you have any idea what I mean?
JOHN; Did you get this attitude from. . . what’s-her-name?
MOLLY; Oh, for Pete’s sake, no! She tries to enjoy life too but that’s not the point.
JOHN: What is the point?
MOLLY; Dad, even Jesus said to consider the lilies, remember? Everybody works too hard. . . You’ve had a hard life.
JOHN; I don’t know about that.
MOLLY: I think you’ve worked very hard all your life, taking care of your family and trying to do the Lord’s work, and maybe you’ve forgotten. . .
MOLLY: How to have fun.
JOHN: Fun? Is that all you think about?
MOLLY: No, but look at those kids over there. (Pause). Do you hear them?
JOHN: Yes. But when you become grown, you put away childish things. Life isn’t just playtime.
MOLLY: NO! You must be like a child! You know that.
JOHN; Humble like a child, not childish.
MOLLY; No, alive like a child! Look at them rolling in the sand. And look at that little girl digging with a little stick. That is eternity, dad. Alpha and omega! That’s it! Beginning and end.
JOHN: Where do you get these strange ideas. . .
MOLLY: (calming down) Well, partly from you, Dad. . . yes. . . When I was a little girl you played with me at the beach. We buried each other, remember? and planted things all around in the sand — little flags and shells and stuff we found on the beach. We made castles and stayed until the sun went down, and the tide came in. I remember you looking around and asking “Where has the day gone?” and then on the way home you said we still had the day in our hearts and we could keep it for as long as we liked. . . something about the kingdom of heaven is within.
JOHN: Hmmm, I said that?
MOLLY: (playfully) Ha, gottcha.
MOLLY: Is pleasure really so bad?
JOHN; Not if you mean having a nice time at the beach occasionally, but that’s not what we’re concerned about.
MOLLY; So what are you worried about?
JOHN: Sin, of course. Do I have to spell it out, Molly? God’s laws. If you break them, there are consequences. You can’t just do whatever you want with total selfishness, thinking only of yourself. What about the rest of the world? What about after you die?
MOLLY: Is that what you think I am? Selfish? I was the one who asked you to go for a walk, to spend some time together. . . Or, maybe that was selfish of me, wanting that now and not later in the afterlife. I want all the pleasure of human love, which includes you.
JOHN: You used to love God.
MOLLY: And you used to enjoy life. Long pause.
JOHN: Molly, Jesus suffered and died because of our sin. His life wasn’t fun and games. And don’t you think God suffers as he looks at the world now?
MOLLY: So because God suffers, you have to suffer? You feel guilty when you have a good time?
JOHN: I don’t need to have a good time now.
MOLLY: Well, I find that pretty tragic.
JOHN: It’s not tragic at all. What’s tragic is what you are doing with your life, your destiny. You’re an intelligent girl, what happened to you?
MOLLY: I want to be happy now. Unlike you with your eternity of bliss, this is the only time I’ve got, so I’m making the most of it. And I don’t feel guilty. If God wants to suffer, that’s up to him. . . or her. I don’t think it makes sense for life to be about suffering.
JOHN: It’s a fallen world. . . it wasn’t full of suffering when God created it. Man caused evil to come into the world.
MOLLY: You mean woman, and you mean sex.
JOHN: I mean sin. Don’t you think God has feelings about your lifestyle? After what he’s done for you?
MOLLY: Oh great, now you’re saying I am personally causing God pain. That’s incredible.
JOHN: You cause all of us pain. . . we pray for you.
MOLLY: Well don’t! Pray for yourselves. . . I’m doing fine.
JOHN: Are you?
MOLLY: Yes, I am! I am living my life and I am enjoying all those things I said. Which I don’t see you enjoying, or anyone else in the family. You don’t go to concerts or art galleries, you don’t read poetry, you’re letting the whole world go by. And you don’t express yourself in any way either.
JOHN: Those are the things of this world, Molly. The music of heaven will be better than any concert, and the handiwork of God is better than any artist. (pause as he picks up a shell). Look, I can pick up a shell and see the signature of God. I don’t need to add any inferior creation of my own.
MOLLY; (taking the shell) Well I see a beautiful shell, not some signature.
JOHN: And you’re pretty superior for that, eh? Your beliefs are so much better than what you were taught? You drink and dance on tables. You paint pictures and play guitar. You’re better than us now and you think we’re pretty stupid? She stands, staring, moves away, then back.
MOLLY: I don’t believe this. You’re accusing me of judging you? (she stops and jabs her finger into John’s shoulder) Hey, I suggested this talk and I’m the heathen. Why is that? Why don’t you want to have love and respect and real communication?
JOHN: Of course we do, Molly. Those are the Christian ideals. What do you think? We pray for those things all the time.
MOLLY: But you won’t make any effort? You’ll just settle for what this sorry world hands you and wait for better luck in the next? I think that’s pathetic.
JOHN: Now you sound like you have a lot of anger.
MOLLY: Well I’m the kid and you’re the parent. You should be wanting. . . but I’m the one who said “I love you.” You didn’t say you loved me, I noticed. I’m your child reaching out to you.
JOHN: Oh, I see. Is that why you wanted to talk? To tell me I’m a terrible parent?
MOLLY: No! I wanted to. . . Dad. What is the point of getting your ticket to heaven if things aren’t any good now?
JOHN: (sternly) The point is obeying God. What you need to do is get clean before God, and not just be focused on self-indulgence.
MOLLY: Self-indulgence? Trying to have family relationships that have some depth and meaning instead of being destructive, hypocritical, hostile and painful? Is that what you call self-indulgence? John starts to walk again at a quick pace and Molly matches his energy.
JOHN: Well, now your hostility is really coming out. It looks to me like you’re the one with the hostility.
MOLLY: (Louder) I’m feeling angry now. I’ve been trying to reach out to you but you’re so stuck in your religious stuff that you can’t give back. You can’t just say, “I love you too. I’m glad that you’re happy; I’m glad for you that your life is good.” You can’t say that to me, can you? Do you love me Dad? John stops – shocked at her question.
JOHN: (Awkwardly) Of course I love you. (pause) You know that. (annoyed at his embarrassment) What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you. . . of course, I love you. How could a father not love his child? I know I’m not that expressive. . .. Your mother’s complained about that for years. But just because I’m not always saying it doesn’t mean I don’t. You should know better than that. The idea that I don’t love …. It’s absurd….. You know I love you………………..You’re my daughter.
MOLLY: (slowly, purposefully.) Well, I don’t seem to feel it. In fact I can’t say I ever felt it. . . So tell me. Say it . Go ahead. Say it. ‘I love you.”
JOHN: (perfunctorily) Well. . . I love you. MOLLY: OK, that’s great.
JOHN: Well if you don’t choose to believe me I can’t help what you feel. What you choose is your responsibility……. Like living in sin.
MOLLY: Oh geez, here you go again. As soon as we get on to real human feelings you run back to the safety of your moral system. (pause) You know what? If I get married … If and when I do get married, I’m not even going to invite you. In fact I’m not even going to tell you. I could well be married now. I could be married now and I wouldn’t even let on to you.
JOHN: Well you sure have a lot of venom in you.
MOLLY: Yeah, I guess I do. It’s built up over the years. There’s been a lot of turmoil in our family. You know what I mean.
JOHN: So now you’re blaming me. . . now the real feelings are coming out. Now you’re telling me what you really think.
MOLLY: Well Dad, there has been a lot of pain. You’ve never owned up to what you. . . .you never apologized for any of the violence we’ve had in this family. …. your infidelity….the fighting. What do you think we learned in this family? Love and respect?
JOHN: I did the best I could. But I guess that just wasn’t good enough for you.
MOLLY: Oh Dad, be honest! For once! You know I don’t think you’ve ever been really honest in your life.
JOHN: (Sarcastic laughing) Oh now it’s all coming out!
MOLLY: (Walking around) You have the convenience of a religion that allows you to do whatever you want and not be accountable. That allows you to be saved by grace and be forgiven. You’ve got your life insurance all lined up . . . So you can be as mean as you want to your family; you can be a tyrant; you can ruin people’s lives and then just walk right into Heaven and take your place and nobody will ever ask about it. How convenient!
JOHN: (Hurt. nasty and sarcastic) Well, perhaps now you’re satisfied. I hope you’re happy. Now that you see yourself as the good person and you can blame me and criticize me. Of course it’s me. I’ve been a monster of a father. That’s what you wanted to tell me.
MOLLY: (Angry) No! I was trying to get closer to you. And all you’ve done in return is to tell me to change my whole life and bow down to your beliefs. What about me? What about just loving me? For who I am? Little Molly, that little girl, who’s this big. . . (She holds out her hand, palm down, by her thigh) who’s three years old? What about her? Would it be so terrible to have some fun with her? A little pleasure being a father? Does she have to deserve loving? You know, Joanne loves me, plain and simple. With you, I’ve always felt that I have to do this and do that. And then what? If I get married and get right with God, then you’ll love me? If I do those things that you want me to do, then you’ll love me? Only then? I wish you could just care about me. . . for what I am…….without your religion.
JOHN: (Quietly, looking away) I do.
MOLLY: (Overlapping. Now in tears.) And I don’t think we have forever, Dad. At least I don’t. I’m here now. . . I’m real now, and I think you are too. To me it’s now or never, here on earth. . . And you know what? I’m not going to earn your love. ….. I can’t . . . And what possible use is a love that only comes with conditions anyway? I’ve tried to please you……… I’ve tried hard enough …. Too hard. And I’m tired. . .So very tired and….. I guess …. In reality …. I’m still a little girl …. A little girl crying out for love that I’ve never been given and I DON’T WANT A HEAVENLY FATHER! WHAT I WANT……. WHAT I NEED… IS A REAL DADDY ! Do you understand that? I just want a human Daddy!
JOHN reaches out, grasps MOLLY’S wrist, and pulls her close into his arms, crying. Tears are streaming down his face, MOLLY cries too, and he strokes her hair.
JOHN: Yes, and I love you. I am your Daddy. I am your Daddy.
They both cry and hold on to each other. Molly sighs and leans heavily on her father.
MOLLY: (Quietly) I know you’re in there. I know you’re in there somewhere.
JOHN: (Huskily) I am. I do love you and I want you to know that.
MOLLY: (Choked up) I’ve always wanted to be close to you.
They cry and hold some more. The sound of the children is playful again. Then they gradually release and walk back together, arms around each other. A minute goes by.
JOHN: (Awkwardly) You are. We are close Molly. I’m sorry. We’ll keep talking and I’ll work on being more expressive. I’ll work on it. Being more demonstrative.
MOLLY: (Smiling and looking up at him) Dad. . .I love you. I’m not asking you to change. Just give me your love. . . as I am.
JOHN: Yeah, okay. They embrace in silence. After a minute they break apart and walk. Molly points.
MOLLY: Hey look — swings. John looks and smiles, understanding.
JOHN: You want me to push you?
They take off running toward the swings, laughing.