‘Mama always said dying was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t.’-Forrest Gump
One of the reasons I was so keen on coming to Monument Valley was my deep love of the film Forrest Gump. It is my favorite film and by a significant margin. In my opinion, it is the perfect movie. Tom Hanks brought to life a character that shows something I strongly believe in…life is a journey not a destination and you always end up where you are meant to be. Jenny is one of the most complex female characters to appear on screen, someone who tries to navigate the immense trauma of childhood sexual abuse, abandonment, feeling lost and, eventually, truly seen in the eyes of the only person who loved her for exactly who she was. Mama Gump, who allowed her son to find his way but always there when he needed. Bubba and those shrimp, whose death still makes me cry just thinking of it. Lt. Dan who found salvation through a friend who never judged him. The soundtrack is one of the best as is the score. While this is a part of why the movie means so much to me, this is not the main reason.
When the movie came out in 1994, my mom was being treated for breast cancer. I did not know it then but I would only have a handful of months left with her. I have a vivid memory of seeing this film at the very small cinema in Lake Arrowhead, California with my childhood best friend, Christina. We went sans parents (or at least that is my memory, it is possible her mom was in the vicinity but in my story, it was the first film I saw without adult supervision). I remember coming home and telling my mom about every aspect of this movie, I loved it so much. I’m sure I did not include any of the more mature themes, mostly because it was not until I was older that I realized why Jenny never wanted to go home or that Lt. Dan was dealing with severe PTSD. Later, after my mom died, I remarked to Christina’s mom that I was so upset that my mom never got to watch the movie and Nancy said my mom had told her about my dramatic reenactment and felt like she had…I will always be grateful for this. Grief is so strange, especially navigating it as an eleven year old. You latch on to the small moments of what they’re going to miss out on not necessarily the big things…its the going back to school shopping, watching Baywatch (a favorite of ours-a story for another day), and talking about my favorite movie-the small bits that make up a ‘life that is good.’
Fortunately my dad is incredible and did his best to fill the void. We went to the movies a lot together, just the two of us. Always my choice and one of the reasons I love Phenomenon so much.
Flash forward a bit, after my mom died, and we were going on a road trip. I don’t remember where we were going, I think it was to Houston, Texas (where my mom is buried) but I am not sure. What I am sure of is prior to leaving, my dad brought home a VHS copy of the movie to watch in the back seat. See, my dad knows how to do a road trip. We had a minivan growing up and he would take out the back seat and he hooked up a small tv via the cigarette lighter. I kid you not, B and I would lounge in the backseat, with a cooler, watching movies and playing Sega Genesis. It was awesome. We must have watched Forrest Gump on repeat lying on B’s NFL bedding across the American West.
Now you know a bit why Forrest Gump means so much to me and why I was so excited to finally go to Monument Valley. And, because I try to be honest, I almost missed it. I came from south of Monument Valley and headed north. When you are on Highway 163 this way, you will drive down a straight road and see the famous monuments seen in the film. However, the spacing is strange but I figured it was movie magic. Besides, plenty of people had pulled to the side of the road and took pictures. But something was nagging at me…so I did what I should have done the first time, I looked it up. Turns out I was about 20 miles and the opposite side from the actual point. As Page isn’t too far, I decided to return for sunset.
Forrest Gump Point (or Hill) is located around mile marker 13. You know you are there because there is a turnout, the speed limit reduces from 70 mph to 35, and multiple signs to be aware of pedestrians in the road. There were several cars there but I was able to be the first in the line (originally, I was behind another but they left before sunset so I moved forward). I had bought a Bubba Gump hat specifically for this occasion-I had also purchased a Forrest Gump sweatshirt but it didn’t arrive in time. I wish I had a really cute photo of me, in the road, with my hat and looking amazing but…a huge downside of solo travel is it is hard to take the photos of you that you want. My dad had got me a great selfie stick before I left for my trip Down Under but between two moves, I couldn’t find one of the pieces. I then stopped at Walmart near Moab and they only had a cheap one. It was fine but not great. So I am just going to have to go back-fingers crossed for September as I am trying to get a lottery spot for ‘The Wave.’ I am also going to go to Glacier National Park this year, as it is about 5-6 hours from me, and stop by the bridge Forrest runs across with the mirror lake (again, Toyota, sponsor me…I would like a new car better suited for these epic road trips).
Even with my selfie complications and that I could not shoot my run, the sunset was spectacular. I sat there, on the side of the road, for about an hour and a half. The clouds parted and nature really showed off. I like to think my mom knew I needed this, in that spot, to have a full circle moment. Art matters, films matter, and no film means more to me than this one. Now off to watch it again.