Friday, November 30, 2007

John Drove For This One

Scarlett wraps up one Guthrie gig and immediately auditions for another: a read through of Little House on the Prairie.

The only problem is that she's already in a SteppingStone Theatre show during the week of the read through. Doesn't matter. She wants to audition.

Translation: she wants a parent to drive her to Minneapolis during rush hour, wait in long lines, cower in the face of Competition, make excruciating small talk (perhaps even comparing notes: "Oh, what has your daughter done?"), and then drive her back home again.

This brings me back to October, when she begged to audition for a play while currently rehearsing for The Home Place at The Guthrie.

I held up the schedules -- incompatible. "You can't do both," I reason. "You're already booked. Why bother?"

Scarlett: "I LOVE to audition. Please, please, please. I NEED to audition!"

She auditioned for the show she couldn't do.

The current Guthrie audition is for children who sing well. Scarlett does. Many sing better. They are to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

This is The Guthrie. You can bet there will be quasi-pros queuing up, rehearsals held, lessons had.

I ask Scarlett: "Do you know the words?"

Scarlett: "Sorta."

Me: "Do you know the tune?"

Scarlett: "Mostly."

So once again she wants to audition for a show she probably can't do and to boot, is ill-prepared for.

For the year she's been acting--the shows and all the auditions--I have kept my mouth shut. I have taken her to stages with uncombed hair (its natural state), mismatched clothes, and rings of chocolate (or spaghetti or sucker) around her lips. There has been neither tutelage nor immersion in topic of play. John and I have put cross-country mileage into this child's transportation needs. Her older brother says of the crowd around his sister: "I am openly jealous." Her younger brother told a friend he could have Scarlett's room because "my sister lives in a play." Bedtime during October turned into midnight, all that Guthrie juju shooting through her addictive little veins. When someone called to tell her that she was on TV, she said, "So?"

So. So I say: "I think you should know the words."

Scarlett runs to her room in outrage, screaming.

You know those cartoons where the character morphs into someone else? Their face contorts and plasticizes and they snap into someone new--like a Super Hero?

This begins to happen to me, only the emerging figure is a uniquely pathological mixture of Joan Crawford and Gypsy Rose's mother, Rose. Electricity actually popped off my fingertips and my head spun, twice.

I'm going to rent The Shining and start working on my novel.

Things are looking up around here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

That Kid

Remember the student I love--from a couple of posts down -- the idealist who stood up to his older peers?

He wrote a really lousy rough draft of an essay. I spent a lot of time mulling over that draft, trying to find my way into its interior workings, trying to find the key to help him revise.

While we were discussing his essay in class, as a group, I made some apologetic gesture toward my comments, which were fairly critical in content (if kind in tone). Trying to be careful not to hurt his delicate (possibly left-leaning, a kindred spirit in a foreign class) feelings.

His response? "Oh, I knew it was bad. I just sort of pulled this one out of my butt."

Lovely. Here I remain, stranger in a foreign land.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All Male

A couple of years ago, Stryker called me "missy." I told him he couldn't. So he asked if "babe" would be better.

Just a glimpse of things to come.

So today he asks: "The next time I'm over at a friend's house and the mom is making dinner, can I yell 'HEY WOMAN WHERE'S MY FOOD.' And then when the friend looks at me inquisitively, I say, 'oh, can't I talk to the help?' Can I do that one, Mom?"

At least he asked first. And, he did say 'inquisitively.' I love that he imagines that's all the reaction he'd get, you know, a raised eyebrow from his friend instead of the frying pan whacking him on the head.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Santa's Hunky Helper Needs Spanking (Or if That's Too Much Fun, How About Nose Hair Yanked Out?)

Immediately after publishing my last post, I checked my email.

First, a message to John and me, from John's sister, letting us know that their Mom wants a new computer case for Christmas and would we buy one?

Second a message from John just to me: "I said yes. Don't we have an old case in the basement?"

Still My Birthday

Remember Saturday's post, More to Love?

Yesterday, John took the children out on Mysterious Errand. Stage whispers were made and furtive exits taken. That sly Merrick has mastered the art of the raised eyebrow.

While they were gone, I discovered an urgent reason to phone. "What are you guys doing?"


Me: "Really! Tell me! Are you shopping for my birthday?"

John (easily broken): "I know you know."

Me: "Where are you?"


Me: "Come one! Tell me! The Bibelot?"

John: "Nope."

Me: "Nordstroms?"

John: "Ha-ha."

Me: "Guthrie gift shop?"

John: "No."

Me: "Picky Girl?"

John: "What?"

Me: "Macy's, even?"

John: "No. But what do you mean by 'even'?"

I listen intently to sounds of commerce in the background, assessing precise tenor.

Oh My God.

Me. "Target?"

John (clearly thrilled by his ingenuity): "YES!"


John: "Mary?"

Today is My Birthday


The second half of my life will be black
to the white rind of the old and fading moon.
The second half of my life will be water
over the cracked floor of these desert years.
I will land on my feet this time,
knowing at least two languages and who
my friends are. I will dress for the
occasion and my hair shall be
whatever color I please.
Everyone will go on celebrating the old
birthday, counting the years as usual,
but I will count myself new from this
inception, this imprint of my own desire.

The second half of my life will be swift,
past leaning fenceposts, a gravel shoulder,
asphalt tickets, the beckon of open road.
The second half of my life will be wide-eyed,
fingers sifting through fine sands,
arms loose at my sides, wandering feet.
There will be new dreams every night,
and the drapes will never be closed.
I will toss my string of keys in into a deep
well and old letters into the grate.

The second half of my life will be ice
breaking up on the river, rain
soaking the fields, a hand
held out, a fire,
and smoke going
upward, always up.

Joyce Sutphen
Straight Out Of View, New Rivers Press

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Fast Lane

My neighbor, H, must in his mid-sixties. He's been retired for 18 years. From what I can discern, he has no hobbies, no volunteer commitments, no destination.

He does work on his house, though: contemplative nail by contemplative nail for eighteen years.

He also takes care of quality control on our block. When you see him standing in front of your house, you know you've got trouble -- crack or crumble, detected.

The folks on the corner are doing a massive remodel. H stands vigil, at least half an hour a day, watching the wood without a word.

Stairs are crumbling across the street. H pondered those yesterday, then moved to the longish grass next door to stare at that and send meaningful glances toward the windows.

He did tell me that he's going to teach Merrick to park his tricycle on the grass. Too untidy left on the sidewalk.

This morning I saw him in front of our house. I ducked and scurried another the windows to a hidden vantage point. H stared at our crumbling masonry. For a long, long time.

Then he sent the look (toward the window I had been before) and moved onto the next yard.

I may really get wild and have the kids leave toys in other people's yards, just to give the poor guy some genuine problems. Encroachment.