One of my absolute favorite old black and white Jimmy Stewart movies is You Can’t Take It With You. That movie was one of the many puzzle pieces that inspired our family to start Notgrass Company when Ray and I were in our late forties. One of its many themes is this: life is too short not to do what you really want to be doing. After all, you can’t take it with you!
The movie is the story of two families, the Kirbys and the Vanderhofs. Mr. Kirby is a wealthy Type A banker; Mrs. Kirby is a stuck-up socialite; their only son Tony isn’t so sure he wants to be a banker.
Now, let me introduce you to the Vanderhof household. They are:
Patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (who collects stamps and appraises them — he’s an expert),
Grandpa’s daughter Penny (who writes plays),
Penny’s husband Paul Sycamore (who makes fireworks in the basement),
Penny and Paul’s daughter Alice (who works as a stenographer at Mr. Kirby’s bank and who responds in kind when the banker’s son Tony falls in love with her),
Penny and Paul’s daughter Essie (who makes and sells candy and practices ballet while she makes her “Love Dreams” in the kitchen), and
Essie’s husband Ed (who used to be an Alabama football player but now spends his days playing the glockenspiel and printing, because he likes it).
Mr. DePinna lives with the family, too, though he is no relation (he was an ice man who delivered the ice one day and just stayed; now he makes fireworks in the basement with Paul).
I could describe so many favorite scenes, but one of the best is when Grandpa Vanderhof stops by a real estate office one day and meets Mr. Poppins, a number-crunching employee who had really rather be making toys than working in a high-pressure real estate office. When Mr. Poppins shows Grandpa his rotating, musical, bunny-in-a-head-of-cabbage invention, Grandpa tells him that he should do that kind of work instead of spending his life making one column of numbers match another column of numbers. Mr. Poppins tells Grandpa that someday he is going to do just that — when his ship comes in.
Grandpa then invites Mr. Poppins to come and live at his house where everyone does just what he wants to do. Mr. Poppins asks, “Who takes care of you?”
Grandpa replies, “The same One who takes care of the lilies of the field.”
As Grandpa leaves, Mr. Poppins longs to follow him, but he reluctantly goes back to his number crunching. However, just before the elevator goes down with Grandpa inside, Mr. Poppins squeezes between the closing doors, gulps, and says: “The die is cast. I’m a lily.”
After that, Mr. Poppins spends his days creating toys in the basement, alongside Paul and Mr. DePinner who continue with their fireworks.
One of the joys of homeschooling your children is helping them to discover whether they want to appraise stamps, write plays, make fireworks, create toys, dance and make Love Dreams, print, or work as a stenographer at a bank owned by a Type A banker with a son named Tony.
Observe how the lilies of the field grow;
they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory
clothed himself like one of these.