I don't remember the play. But I was about 12 and I living with my parents in New York, and they decided to take me to the theater, or as my dad preferred to say: "expose me" to the theater. I wore a white turtleneck, itchy gray pants, and a blue blazer. I never liked blazers, with their doubloon-like brass buttons. Even the word--blazer--rubbed me raw. But there I was, flanked by my parents and wearing my blazer. Entering the upper tier, the first thing I noticed about the structure was its profound gravity, the way the stairs clambered up each balcony, stepping over each other to keep from being sucked down into the orchestra pit. Once seated (and past the initial sense of vertigo), I looked down at the people, milling about, finding their seats, and then up at the ornate trim, paint, and plaster work of the ceiling. Then I slipped into the type of meaningless idle daydreaming that only yields anxiety and sadness. Did I leave such-and-such textbook at school? Why doesn't so-and-so girl like me? Then the lights dimmed to near blackness, the murmur of the crowd stilled, and the play began. Thinking back on it now, all I can remember is how silly and fake it all seemed. The actors shouting their lines, mincing around the stage, the characters too self-absorbed to see that the nature of their problems lay within themselves. By the second act I had this nearly overwhelming urge to climb down to the stage and solve their problems for them. Realizing that would be problematic, and likely involve the police, I went back to daydreams. I can't say my view of the theater has changed much over the four ensuing decades. I still have the urge to climb on stage and tell everyone what's what. It's clearly a mental defect of mine. So for everyone's benefit, I'll stick with movies.
6YO: Meow meow meow meow meow.
Me: Honey, please stop meowing.
6YO: It's not ME. It's my KITTY.
Me: It was YOU. The kitty is stuffed.
6YO: You don't BELIEVE me! You don't believe in Santa! You don't believe in God! You don't believe in ANYthing!
Me: Fine. It was the kitty.
6YO: Meow meow meow meow meow.
When I was a kid the bus to Bethlehem broke
down. My parents were taking me to my grandparents' place for the
remainder of the summer, and somewhere between noplace and a cornfield
the bus coughed and died. The cell phone was decades away, and there
wasn't a phone booth for miles. The driver radio'd dispatch and was told
it would be an hour until another bus could reach us. So we sat there
and sweated. Some stretched and sighed,
then walked outside into the slim shade to smoke. I remember staring out
at all that corn and nothingness and feeling bored, frustrated, and
utterly helpless. I thought about all the things I would do if we ever
reached our destination. The fishing. The swimming. The long evening
walks to skip stones across the green still water of the old flooded
quarry. In about an hour, as promised, the rescue bus arrived. The tired
people dropped their smokes, grabbed their bags, and climbed aboard. My
dad wiped the sweat from his face. My mom combed her hair. How I hated
that place as we drove away--and strange how often my mind drifts back
there now. The quiet shushing of the corn. The buzz of the occasional
fly. The faces of the people like creased cardboard. The smell of Kents
and Tareytons. The whole drowsy world laid out like a meal on a lazy
breeze before us. The future a place we could only imagine.
I shared this entry on Facebook a few days back, and it seemed to strike a resonance with lots of my readers, so I'm posting it here again.
When my daughter was a baby, often the only
way she could get to sleep was to hold my pinky, her torch as she
ventured into the dark caverns of sleep. As recently as last year she
still occasionally asked to hold hands at bedtime. Then she stopped. A
big girl. Unafraid. Tonight, quite unexpectedly, after lullabies she
asked again. Her hand filled so much more of mine than it once had. The
room was quiet and dark, as if we alone were tumbling through space. I
felt her grip loosen as she relaxed into sleep. Finally she let go. But I
held on. Just a while longer.
During the harsh winter months, you may tend to see fewer homeless people on the streets. That doesn't mean they don't need your help. Often to escape the elements, they will flee to underground subway concourses, panhandling during the busy rush hours and retreating to the shadows or shelters at night.
This is Nick. He lost his left hand in a fireworks accident.
Join me in handing out gift cards to those in need. As little as $5 on a convenience store gift card can mean a meal. A $10
Subway sandwich shop card can mean two
sit-down meals out of the rain and cold. A
drugstore card from CVS, Walgreen's, or Rite
Aid can mean basic first aid or medicine or
even a pair of gloves.