Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our Town

The play was really wonderful. All of the kids were fantastic in their roles. Kevin, the young man who played the stage manager and narrated the play was amazing. Sometimes when you see kids take on a play as sophisticated and stylized as "Our Town", the result is lackluster. But this young man committed himself to the role and had no inhibitions about the way he might appear onstage. He set the tone for the whole play. I was impressed.

The play is staged with minimal sets and no props. Our lovely daughter came down a set of stairs to the raised platform holding a table and chairs that served as her home. She pantomimed her way through making breakfast as Kevin narrated the scene. When she called to her "children" halfway through the scene, I was startled by her voice. She had changed her intonation and meter, and she sounded almost matronly. My husband leaned over and said, "She sounds just like you."

Apparently women spent a lot of time snapping beans at the turn of the century. And cooking. Other than attending her "daughter's" wedding and funeral, our lovely daughter and the other young lady playing a mother were cooking or snapping beans most of the time they were on stage.

A heart to heart with her daughter, about falling in love. (They talk while snapping beans, of course.)

The mother of the bride had a little monologue. Standing on stage in the spotlight, she voiced her concerns, worries and hopes for her daughter's impending marriage.

I don't have a good shot of it, but one of the most poignant moments in the play, for me anyway, came during the funeral scene in the third act. My daughter had no lines, but she was grieving, held in the arms of her daughter's husband. I could see her shoulders shaking. She was clutching at the young man's shoulders as he held her and seemed to whisper in her ear. I was quite surprised how much emotion she was able to convey with her back to the audience.

It was only later that she told me the young man spent the entire time telling her that he had killed his wife, and how, varying his method during each funeral scene. She was laughing, and trying desperately not to laugh out loud.

When the poor, dead girl left her grave and returned home to re-experience her twelfth birthday, it was heart wrenching. I have to admit to shedding a few tears.

"Way down deep, there is something that's eternal about every human being." Indeed.

This shot is of the entire cast and the crew. Our lovely daugher is middle left in her mama costume.

Monday, October 29, 2007

wild kingdom

Autumn has finally arrived here in The Sooner State. Night temperatures have dropped into the high thirties and during the day we're not quite reaching the seventies. I am in heaven. This is perfect weather for me, and we get it all too rarely.

At this time last year we had just settled into the old house in town. It was spacious with a big yard and a wonderful large living area upstairs with the bedrooms, complete with a little kitchenette. The house was dated but so livable that I didn't mind at all. We had two cats and two bettas, but hadn't yet gotten Jack. Life was much . . . quieter.

We got Jack last December, and we lost one of the bettas after the move. Instead of another one, we got a larger tank and got Nemo, the remaining fish, an African Dwarf Frog and a golden colored snail for tank mates. That frog is the cutest dang thing you've ever seen. I love feeding him. He pops up to the top and snatches food so quickly you miss it if you blink. It's almost like watching a cartoon frog catch a fly with his tongue.

The back yard is full of rabbits, squirrels, blue jays, cardinals, all manner of finches and a pair of red bellied woodpeckers. I love feeding the birds. Every few days we see deer walking through the field behind our yard. There are five of them, and three are small, probably born this past spring. As soon as the weather cooled, I put out suet and seed in feeders in our blackjack oak tree. The blackjack oak is native to Oklahoma and Texas in an area called Cross Timbers. It is a scruffy looking tree, especially when it's young. We have a large one in front, about 30 feet tall, and a small one in back, just about 10 feet tall, with a cedar tree next to it. The oaks can grow as high as 65 feet and live up to 400 years. Our trees are just babies.

All the wild life in the back yard gives Jack and the cats fits. Jack whines and yelps, racing from one window to another, keeping up with his latest sighting, usually a squirrel. The cats especially love watching the birds. They both make an odd little clicking or smacking noise when one of the birds gets close. It makes me laugh every time I hear them. There is a yellow cat that looks just like Streudel who wanders into our backyard every now and then. My heart always skips a beat until I find Streudel safe inside. Losing Lucy has made me paranoid.

On Sunday my husband and I were watching birds and squirrels in the back yard. I wanted him to look at a squirrel and a bluejay playing a game of chase. It was so funny to see the squirrel run for the bluejay, the bluejay take to the air, and the squirrel retreat back to the fence away from the tree. The bluejay would then swoop over the squirrel back onto the ground and they'd start all over again. They were fighting over seed that had fallen on the ground from my feeder. I was delighted. As I was watching and pointing this out, my husband started laughing. I wanted to know what was so funny. He said that he thinks it's hilarious that I am so interested in all the animals in our backyard. When I asked why, he told me it's pretty funny for a farm girl like me to be so easily amused. Hmph.

For those of you who were worried about it (or offered me alibis), I have not killed any of my children. It was touch and go there for a while, but I have managed to control myself. Just.

We have three children, two cats, one dog, one betta, one frog, one snail, and a back yard full of squirrels, rabbits, birds, and the occasional deer. No wonder my husband calls our new home Wild Kingdom.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

happy birthday

Today my baby boy is nine years old.

He arrived exactly a week before Halloween in 1998. At 4:15 in the morning. Three weeks early. Since the moment he arrived, he has been completely different from his brother and sister.

My first two arrived on time, one even arriving on his exact due date. They came into the world at perfectly reasonable times instead of putting me through night labor. They were easy, sweet babies that I nursed from the day they were born. They were both bald.

My youngest had a head full of thick, black hair when he was born and even three weeks early, he weighed seven pounds. He was jaundiced. The first time he nursed, he gave me a blood blister. On my breast. This is perhaps the most unpleasant thing imaginable. The nurses gave him suck therapy in the hospital. Suck therapy. I am not kidding. After we took him home, a home health nurse visited us to assist me with nursing. I thought it was ridiculous when it was scheduled. I had nursed two babies to their first birthday (well, one beyond, but that's another story); I was an old pro, what could they possibly teach me that I didn't know? Turns out, quite a lot. Tears ran down my face every time I nursed him for a week. I was so pitiful, the nurse came back. That time she brought a light for the jaundice that slipped underneath his little gown and made him look like a glow worm. He did sleep like a little angel.

He learned to nurse properly and the jaundice passed. Turns out that he was sleeping like an angel because he was jaundiced. Then he developed colic. I thought I was going to die. No, really, die. My husband would walk in the door from work, and I would almost throw a screaming baby into his arms, go into our bedroom, shut the door and run a bath. Then I would sit in the bath and bawl. For an hour.

That, too, eventually passed. And for a little guy that started out his life giving me nothing but trouble, he's given me joy ever since. He's sweet, sensitive, and mild tempered. He is as big as an ox. Huge. He towers over the other boys his age. He's only a foot shorter than his (admittedly not tall) fourteen year old brother. When I look at him I see his father's dimples and big brown eyes lined with heavy, long lashes. He has my chin, complete with a little cleft, and just a touch of my olive complexion. He is built just like my tall and slender husband, but he is bulkier, like my father. When I look closely, I notice he has my father-in-law's hands.

The baby in the picture is all but gone. There are fleeting glimpses now and again, in the way that he laughs childish giggles with his head thrown back, or the peculiar way he falls asleep with his feet tucked up under his tummy. I miss the tiny, chubby hands in mine and the way I used to be able to hold all of him curled in my lap. He is my last baby, and he's growing up. But I love the little boy he has become and I cannot wait to see the young man he will grow into, although I know even now that it will be a bittersweet journey.

Monday, October 15, 2007

cimetière visitant du Pere-Lachaise

When I made a mental list of all the places in Paris a sixteen year old girl might want to visit, a cemetery did not make the cut, no matter how famous. Much to my surprise, Pere-Lachaise was high on my lovely daughter's list of places she could not miss.

I had always wanted to visit Jim Morrison's grave. I was something of a Doors fan in my teenage years. When the Val Kilmer movie was released in theaters, my daughter was an infant. I took her with me in the middle of the afternoon. That must be where she gets her affinity for the Doors.

I visited the cemetery's website before our trip to get an idea of where the grave was situated. I found the graves I knew were there that I wanted to visit: Jim Morrison, of course, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Eugene Delacroix, Moliere, Isadora Duncan, Edith Piaf. To my surprise I found Bizet, Chopin and Maria Callas were also laid to rest in Pere-Lachaise.

We visited late in the week, a day or two before we returned home. We started out with the group, taking the Metro from Oberkampf, changing lines at Republique and deboarding at Rue St. Maur. We walked up Avenue de la Republique and turned onto Boulevard de Menilmontant. The neighborhood was different from the area around our hotel which was situated between Avenue de la Republique and Boulevard Voltaire. This area seemed more common, more like everyday people might live here. The smells coming from the boulangeries and food shops were heavenly. I wanted to stop and look in every window.

The day was gray and we walked through a light drizzle. It was unusually cold for March, and I wore an ankle length sweater skirt and wool cape to keep the chill away. From the street, the cemetery was not that impressive. Once we walked through the gates, though, it was old and musty and absolutely spectacular.

The first thing we did was search for Jim Morrison's resting place. The graves are laid close to one another; some large, some small, some very old, some recent. The cemetery is on a hill, and we started walking up, following curved paths and the occasional graffiti marker (the one below was scratched onto a bench).

Like everyone else, I'd seen pictures of the stone adorned with a bust of Jim Morrison and we'd seen postcards of it in some shops in Paris. I couldn't remember just how the new headstone looked, all I could remember was the odd Greek inscription, "kata ton daimona eaytoy", which has been variously interpreted as "according to his own demon", "down with his own demons", "true to his own spirit", and "to the divine spirit within himself", just to name a few.

We walked through the cemetery, following the winding cobblestone paths. The atmosphere is eerie and a bit macabre, especially on such an overcast and chilly day. Some of the crypts and graves we saw along the way were gorgeous with age.

We had heard there were sometimes crowds around Morrison's gravesite and were expecting to fight our way through or wait in line to get close enough for pictures or to place a flower on the headstone. But when we arrived, there was no one in sight.

It was obvious others had been there, the headstone and the grave were covered with flowers, along with the occasional joint, and empty liquor bottles were nearby. We added our flowers and one of the girls had a picture of her father's rock band that she left on his behalf. My daughter and I lagged behind so that I could pour my little bottle of vodka on the grave without other teenage eyes watching. My daughter hummed a bit of her favorite Doors tune as I poured the libation:

All your love is gone

So sing a lovely song

Of a deep blue dream

Seven horses seem to be on the mark

Yeah, don't you love her

Don't you love her as she's walkin' out the door

She stopped short and told me to turn around and look behind us. There was a cat watching us intently from the top of a coffin shaped crypt. He continued watching us for a moment and then turned his back as if we had bored him. I think I've mentioned before how imaginative and dramatic my daughter can be. She became quite convinced that the cat was inhabited by the spirit of Jim Morrison, come to watch the ridiculous rituals that fans perform at his grave.

We walked through the stillness alone, just the two of us, taking our time and snapping photographs. There were graves, crypts and memorials both beautiful and haunting.

My lovely daughter had to stop by and give Oscar Wilde a kiss and sing a little "La Vie en Rose" to Edith Piaf. We wandered through the narrow, curvy paths and along the wider ones paved with cobblestones, reading names both foreign and familiar. We lingered at holocaust memorials and spring flowers in bloom. A couple of hours later we found ourselves at the entrance on Rue des Rondeaux opposite where we entered. We decided to walk around the cemetery rather than backtracking.

We walked on the sidewalk along the high stone walls dotted with moss, turning to go back to Boulevard de Menilmontant. The stone wall stretched out in front of us, but the sidewalk ended abruptly along with the street we were on. We took a pleasant detour through quiet streets, passing an old church along the way. We passed apartments where we saw young boys playing soccer in a courtyard and followed a young mother pushing her baby in a stroller while her toddler ran behind to catch up. On a corner we were greeted by young men passing out flyers for a coming election, each one advocating a different stance, and good naturedly competing for our non existent vote. We smiled and took the colorful papers lined with French, pleased that we didn't look like the lost tourists we were. Just as we decided we had been wrong not to turn back, we came upon this staircase that led us back to the street. The Phillipe Auguste Metro stop was a welcome sight, and we descended underground to plot the path to our next adventure.

Paris is a wonderful place to be lost.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

small town traffic court

Today was judgement day for our lovely daughter. She was summoned to court to answer for running into a school bus.

We arrived half an hour early, so we walked to Java Dave's for a warm drink. Even though we live in a large, metropolitan area, the suburb we live in is not that large and has a wonderful small town feel. The brick sidewalks are lined with lovely little shops selling clothing, antiques, gifts and art. It was a beautiful morning, cool but promising a warm afternoon. If it weren't for the fact we were downtown for court, I think we would have enjoyed it immensely.

We entered the municipal court and asked which of the two court rooms held the traffic court. The room was only a third full as we walked in and found a place to sit in the old style theater seating. As we waited the room filled up and we were grateful for our seats. The defendants with representation were heard first.

The judge was probably in his late forties or early fifties, and he handled the proceedings with kindness and humor. There was one youngish man who went before the judge for public intoxication. It was obvious the judge was familiar with him. Even though he handled most of the cases with hushed tones, we were near the front and could hear most of what transpired. I heard the judge say, "Do we have a special program for him, something like frequent flier miles?" I wanted to laugh, but repressed the urge. He asked the young man how he wanted to plead and was rewarded with a shoulder shrug. "Young man, I am trying to get you out of jail. How do you plead?" The answer was too soft to hear. The judge looked down at some paperwork, looked up at the young man and said, "This has to be some kind of record. You have 74 arrests for public intoxication." The woman to the judge's left informed him that the young man had been arrested 74 times this year. "There is really nothing I can do for you here, son. Bail is set at $10,000." The judge seemed upset about the whole situation.

After a while, those with representation had all been heard and the judge began to call the rest of the room. Our lovely daughter was the first person called who had actually bothered to show up. She froze, so I said, "Present", and we walked to the bench and stood before the judge. Keep in mind there was nothing at all intimidating about this judge or this court room. The bench wasn't raised, the room was small, the judge was personable. "Young lady, you have been cited for careless driving. You were involved in an accident, is that correct?" A head bob from my daughter. "You're sixteen?" Another head bob. "May I see your driver's license?" She hands him the license, which he looks at, then lays down on his desktop. "At your age, I should probably suspend your license temporarily. Tell me why you think you should be allowed to continue driving." Silence. Tears. I lower my head and speak softly, encouraging her to say something. Anything would do at this point. He hands her a tissue and tells her not to cry. As she continues to do just that and remain mute, the judge says, "I am going to keep this temporarily. Go sit back down and think about why I should give it back to you. And don't tell me because you won't do it again. I'll call you back up."

We sit back down and he continues on through the alphabet. After about 45 minutes of hearing people get fined and sentenced for speeding in a school zone, failing to wear a seat belt, or ignoring a signal, he calls her again. She almost immediately tears up.

"Young lady, do you know why I do this?" She manages a "no, sir". "Because your parents put you into a vehicle and trust that you will be safe. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that you are hurt in an accident. Was anyone hurt in your accident?" Another, "no, sir". He finally realizes she is never going to be able to get a whole sentence out of her mouth, let alone a defense of her driving skills. He looks at me and smiles, then says, "How are your grades, dear?" "Very good." "What is very good?" She tears up and chokes. I tell him she has seven classes, six As and one B. "Excellent. If I give this back to you today, do you promise to keep those grades up and work on making that B an A?" "Yes, sir", she says. I am praying he is almost done. Handing back her license, he says, "Alright, your sentence is deferred. If you do not receive another ticket in the next 90 days, this offense will be removed from your record. The fine is $244. Young lady, I do not want to see you in here again." She looks up at him and smiles and says, "Yes, sir, I won't let you down. Thank you, sir." Finally, he knows she can fashion a complete sentence.

We got into line and she paid $100 on the fine. We decided to make her pay it herself, thinking it would be a bit of a deterrent. We made it to the car before she started sobbing. "Mom, I'm so glad it's over!" I softly told her she got off easy, and that the judge was kind and gentle, and she was lucky we were living in a small town. She looked at me with disbelief and said, "If that was easy, I can never do anything illegal again. It will kill me."

My immediate thought was: Good.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

on the run

Our lovely daughter called after school to say her truck wouldn't start. After I made sure that she remembered to put it in park before trying to start it (really), she revealed that perhaps she'd left the lights on all day. Well, crap, was all I could think to say. How's that for a positive and supportive mother? She had play practice after school, and a full dress rehearsal at 6:30pm, so I waited for hubby to get home, for company, and because I just don't like jumper cables.

About 7:15pm we drove our VW Passat to her high school, jumper cables in the trunk and Jack in tow. This isn't the first time I've had to rescue her, so I knew just where her assigned parking spot sits on the enormous school lot. After hubby hooked the cables up, he said we needed to charge it a while and I should take Jack for a walk. I hadn't brought his leash, but we were in a completely fenced parking lot. There is a thin sliver of grass running between the curb and the chain link fence, a perfect place for Jack to walk. So I got him out of the back seat of the car and sat him down. He was off like a shot, going in the wrong direction (toward the street), but came right back to me when I called. I picked him up, turned him around, and he ran for the corner. I walked leisurely along, knowing the fence would keep him in. That is, would have kept him in, had it been intact.

All the way from our house to the school, about a fifteen minute drive, hubby held Jack in his arms with the window rolled down and let Jack feel the wind on his face. He loved it, closing his eyes and craning his neck to catch as much of the breeze as possible. Maybe that's what put the idea into his head to run.

There is construction at the school, and the fence is down, but it's recent, and I didn't know. I yelled for Jack. He looked over his shoulder at me and in that instant, I knew he wasn't coming. I took off in a dead run toward him, which Jack saw as his cue to run faster. He veered left and ran up toward the auditorium. I cannot stress how large this parking lot is. I don't run a lot anymore because of a bad knee, but I can walk an hour on my treadmill at 4 mph with no problem. I ran flat out until I couldn't run anymore, then resorted to calling Jack. Every time I would stop running, Jack would find an interesting place to pee. I think he was just letting me catch up so he could make me chase him a little more. I finally caught up with him, not because he let me, but because he ran himself into a corner where the wings of the old and new buildings meet and couldn't get out. I picked him up and put him on my chest, his front legs over my shoulder, the easiest way to carry him now that he's too big to be tucked under my arm. Then I sat out on the two mile trek back to the truck in the parking lot. I'm really not kidding.

As I walked past the auditorium, I saw a blue light and was drawn to the open exterior door. Across the large foyer, the door to the auditorium was propped open, probably for the cool night air. Standing there outside with the dog in my arms, I had a perfect view of my lovely daughter from stage right, pantomiming a scene from "Our Town". She was in full costume with her ashy blonde hair piled on top of her head, my Capezios peeking out from under the full skirt. It was quiet, and I was winded, so I stood there and watched the silent scene.

I watched maybe five minutes before it occurred to me that hubby probably wondered where the hell I had gone. I started at a fast pace back toward the parking lot just to see him, in her truck, coming along the path Jack and I had run. He was quite amused and quipped that he would have liked to see me chase Jack. Smart ass.

We retrieved the VW and parked her truck near the auditorium under a streetlight. I drove hubby around behind the auditorium to show him where I spied on our daughter. We watched for a few minutes from the car as she poured transparent liquid from a non-existent pitcher into imaginary glasses. I felt calm and serene, sitting in the dark with my husband and our dog, watching her in that ethereal blue light.

Jack almost always comes when I call him. I like to think there was a reason he didn't tonight. Without that little wild chase, I would never have seen her like that, bathed in blue light, blonde hair shining, pale skin shimmering, her performance peaceful in a way it will never be when I can hear her words.