Friday, November 5, 2010

When God-Allah-Buddha-Oprah-the Universe Speak

Last week, Scarlett was invited to a callback for the show with the biggest child-actor buzz in the history of local theater: Annie! At the Mother Ship, no less.

Text message between child actors were flying! Much intrigue, drama and hope.

The day of the callback, the Matron's diva woke up, sick. Head cold: congestion, drip, head ache, low grade fever, entirely unwell.

Here is Scarlett, on the way to the audition: "Mom I can't sing. I just can't sing. I'm never getting in."

Here is Scarlett, after being summarily released from the callback: "That was the worst audition of my entire life. I can't sing!"

That evening was stormy, and we're not talking the sky. Scarlett took to her room and refused to speak to anyone, except to say: "Why do I have to have a COLD on the day of such a big audition?"

Today? She found out that she is definitely not invited to be in the show -- one of her two major disappointments in theater (the other the role of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, for which she was a contender).

Her response? Overwhelming joy that two of her dearest friends are orphans.

Scarlett: "Mom, there's always another show. What can we get for winter? I need a winter show somewhere and then there's a summer show I found, too. The good thing about being an actor is sometimes you're sick or have a bad day, but there's always another show."

Now, the Matron has written two novels. She had -- has, she thinks -- a very famous, nationally respected and influential New York-based agent. Said agent once shopped the Matron's second novel extensively.

One day, eight months later, the Matron received a packet from her agent. The packet -- can we say mortal blow -- contained 27 rejection letters from publishers and an unsigned, dictated note from the agent.

No book.

Yours truly retired to her bed for the afternoon. It took her nearly a year to write again. Indeed, this blog was part of that initial healing process.

Scarlett? Rebounded and happy, after 24 hours.

Scarlett: "If all these kids are in Annie, there's more chance for me to be a lead in another show! Can we start looking? There's tons of good stuff to be in-- I just know it!"

Thank you, God-Allah-Buddha-Oprah-Universe. Sometimes, the parent has nothing to do with what happens.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Home Schooling 102

Here is the Matron, busily working at home -- at the dining room table, because the Musical Bed situation has rendered her off-the-bedroom office frequently unavailable.

She has been up since 5:30 a.m.

First, sending off HWCBN into the morning darkness at 6:30.

Then dropping off Merrick at school.

Digression! Do readers know Merrick's nickname, once referred to with some regularity on this blog? For origins of said nickname, scroll back even farther to two weeks after his birth.

Matron: "Scarlett, what do you think of your new baby brother? Isn't he beautiful?"

Scarlett ( who is four and a half): "Not really. His head looks like a big chunk of meatloaf."

Matron: "And do you love him?"

Scarlett: "Not yet. I actually half hate him and maybe a quarter love him."

Thus was born the nickname Meatloaf Head. To this date, Merrick is referenced in family calendars and in parental conversations as MLH, the fond acronym for Meatloaf Head.

Back to the present and the narrative. So Meatloaf Head gets to school. Then the Matron drives Scarlett to Minneapolis for her performance--and shuttles home in a major hurry for the one thing she loves best: privacy! Being alone in the house!

Yes, it is better than sex when you're 48 and live with four other people (three of whom need you quite a bit), one sixty pound blood hound puppy and Satan's Familiar. An even better day would be if the dogs escaped.

John (phone call from his office): "Um, Mary? I was thinking of coming home for lunch. Is that okay?"

Matron: "NO. No human contact, nothing -- I just need a couple of hours."

John: "You got it, babe." What a good guy! But let it be known that there is one person in the house who actually thinks sex IS better than solitude so he tries to be nicer than he feels some days.

So here is the Matron, after all this fuss, finally working at the dining room table, enjoying the solitude and peace.

Until . . . .

Beep, beep!

Text message from Scarlett: "Mom what are u doing right now?"

Beep, beep!

Text message from Scarlett: "i am backstage waiting for my scene. can you call a friend for me?"

Text message from Scarlett: "can u call my old school to see if i can visit 2day after the show?"

Text message from the Matron: "Stop texting me! We'll talk when I pick you up."

Text message from Scarlett: "why? what r u doing. this is kind of important."

So it goes. .. the Matron is loath to turn off her cell phone, as there are other children and this is the main route for emergencies. Meaning the child that never goes to school can now conveniently never leave her alone, either (unless she's on some stage).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Actual Conversation

Merrick: "Is thewe election tonight?"

Matron: "Yes there is!"

Merrick: "Is that why you have the wed 'I voted' stickew on?"

Matron: "Yes it is."

Merrick: "Did you vote fow me? I want to be elected billionaiwe."

Matron: "I'll always vote for you, honey."

Pause. The political animal in the Matron rethinks this position, strategically. Blood has some boundaries.

Matron: "Well, I'll always vote for you as long as you swing to the left."

Merrick? Immediately jumped off the couch and swung to the left. Arms, legs, torso -- bounding left. Good job, honey!

Merrick: "How's that? Who was youw fiwst evew vote for the King?"

Matron: "You mean President?"

Merrick: "Wight. Because Minnesota is pawt of Amewica, wight?"

Matron: "Yup. We're part of America. My first vote for president was for Sonia Johnson."

Merrick: "A giwl Pwesident -- or maybe Queen?"

Matron: "Well, she didn't win."

Merrick: "You lost!"

Matron: "One of many."

Merrick: "Mama, I will swing to the left again fow you."

And he did.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nostalgia (okay, it's not the right title but that's the blanket word for history)

This is a repeat. But she thinks well worth it, for the prose and drama. And the doors in her house tonight? Locked.


When the Matron was a Wee Miss, say 10 years old, she and her family lived in the tiniest shack imaginable, a two story tool shed, really, masquerading as government-subsidized low income housing.

Once, the Matron went back as an adult and could not believe human beings lived there. Still.

But the tiny shack was home, even if they were so poor that a bath towel was the cover for their only table-- table that served as desk and dining room/kitchen fare.

Young Miss lived with her mother, and younger sister and brother. Now, weather has always been an exciting theme in the Matron's life, and winter in the frigid north is no exception. She remembers one night in particular, when the television warned of dangerous, sub-zero temperatures ahead. Wind chill! Danger! Possible school closings!

Oh boy! Thought Young Miss. Bring that deep freeze on!

While she slept, the temperature did indeed drop, drop, drop. Her corner of the earth crackled with cold and black. But that deep night opened up into something more dangerous than she had ever imagined -- because at 2:30 a.m., the doorbell rang.

And rang and rang. Someone was pounding and screaming for Mary, which would be Young Miss's mother's name (and her own of course).

Young Miss, logically, got up to answer the door. Her mother stopped her, wrapping a robe around herself.

Mother: "I'll get this. You stay here."

The Matron's heart races when she remembers, still.

Because when the door opened, the pounding and yelling ended only to introduce a terrible thud and crash. A loud voice, angry. Furniture flew across the room as her mother went flying, screaming: "Mary! Mary! Run, run, run! Get help!" Young Miss heard her mother suddenly choking and screaming, being batted about and a man's dark terrible yell: I am going to kill you. I am going to kill you.

Above all the fighting, Young Miss heard her mother, begging her daughter for help.

Both brother and sister were now awake and weeping at the top of the stairs. Young Miss forced them into the bathroom, shaking. They did NOT want to go.

Young Miss: "Lock the door! Don't let anyone in!"

Sister: "I hate you. I hate you! Don't leave me, don't leave me!"

The last thing Young Miss remembers of them was their outstretched arms, begging their big sister not to leave them in that house with the man hell bent on killing their mother. And maybe them.

But she did. This is all happening within minutes--seconds--from the doorbell ringing to the crashing thunderous sounds of pain and broken glass and her terrified siblings--and Young Miss ran downstairs and into the room.

Her mother was on the floor, on her side, flailing, as a man had her pinned down, his arm raised higher to hit her again and again and again -- with more force, to do more damage, more blood and bruises.

Poised at the edge of the room, ablaze with a rocketship adrenaline, Young Miss understood one thing: she was destined to kill this man. The desire to kill, the need, shot through her veins and altered her chemistry, forever. She looked around for the right tool, fast.

Her mother caught a glimpse of her daughter's face: "NO! NO! Run! Get help! RUN!"

And the man turned to see Young Miss. He held down her mother and took one calculated look at the child and grinned. Evil shifted his grip on the earth. He moved toward her.

"RUN!" Her mother grabbed his leg and bit, hard.

He screamed and turned his rage back again and Young Miss RAN.

In a pink sleeveless nightgown and bare feet, she raced into the brittle night and threw herself against door after door of those low-income housing units, ringing bells and screaming for help. This was a dubious neighborhood. Marginal. People who wore their own trouble on their beaten faces. They didn't want somebody's else's.

Her mother kept screaming and screaming and screaming, yelling for help as Young Miss made a decision and ran across rocks, pavement, snow and sticks to a family's house a block away. Running, running, running on the tilt and axis, the new universe, of her mother's voice . . . until the voice ended.

Young Miss stopped running for one split second and listened. Nothing. It's possible to think that you are as scared and panicked as you possibly can be, and find more of the chaos within you.

She threw herself onto the final door, ringing the bell and screaming. Within seconds, Kenny Jay was pulling on his pants, his wife Cora was dialing the police while wrapping Young Miss in blankets and grabbing her hands with an "oh my god", while their children filed out of bedrooms and wiped their eyes.

Kenny Jay walked out the door with his rifle.

Cora cried: "Don't!"

But he did.

Now, Young Miss has no idea what happened next because she fainted.

When she woke up, she was on their flowered couch. Cora had warm towels wrapped around frostbitten toes and fingers. She was rubbing the Young Miss's head. Young Miss realized that this other mother was holding her in her arms, and rocking a little bit. She wasn't going to die that night, after all.

But her mother?

Her mother!

Young Miss shot straight up, as a terrible fear, red and razor-sharp and all encompassing, descended upon her body and set up camp. Such fear might start in your belly or chest, but its tendrils instantly take hold so you vibrate and quake.

There is nothing other than than fear, waiting for nearly an hour, back in the land before cell phones. The sweet steady drone of sirens and voices. One block away, the night sounded alive, like a movie set.

Young Miss knew her mother was dead. She just knew it. She remembered the look in that man's eyes when he stepped toward her, and the thought of her brother and sister rendered her unable to speak. She sat with Cora for nearly an hour without saying a word.

So when the door opened and her mother, brother and sister walked through it!! Well, the Matron wishes everyone could experience the purity of such joy (under different circumstances). That avalanche of joy and relief threw the Young Miss into their arms where they all four huddled and wept for a while, survivors. If the Matron lives a very very long time (and she plans to), she imagines she will never again experience such an all encompassing and complex myriad of emotion.

Her mother was bruised--but very much alive.

The man?

The Matron knows she never got the real story. Mistaken identity, is what her mother told her. Turns out that he was very drunk, which allowed Young Miss's mother to wrangle out from under him and grab a kitchen knife. That's when he ran, right before Kenny Jay arrived with the gun. Of course, Kenny Jay being Kenny Jay, he tried running after the rat but it took a couple of days for the police to catch him.

Young Miss accepted the mistaken identity story. But. There are other possibilities and that's a different, more delicate blog post. After all, he was indeed looking for a Mary.

They all survived that night. But she locks her doors and windows now, religiously. And, she vividly, viscerally, remembers the feeling -- that she could kill someone to save a life! She has a healthy respect for that piece of self-knowledge. May she never have to use it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Merrick's costume? A box. He was Box Man. Yes, yours truly sent her child out to trick-or-treat in a box --- with red marker for blood. No child was more proud of his/her costume than Box Man. Because he's seven, the youngest and missing a front tooth, no child was more adorable.

Scarlett? Twitter. Three hundred post-it notes plastered onto her body, half in Spanish, thanks to her current bilingual show, in which she plays an 8 year old Chilean girl whose lines are all in Spanish. Education through the arts! But how to explain being Twitter when you're at the door asking for candy?

HWCBN: Who knows. Football helmut, white bathrobe and lots of energy. There might have been some weapon involved (fake, of course). This was his last romp so she forgave him all. Next year, he's passing out candy.

Um . . . . whatever happened to the days of being a ghost or vampire? Box Man, Twitter and Masked Bath Robe Man?

But the parade of a hundred or so little ones who came through the neighborhood? Breaking her heart. These peri-menopausal hormones are good for something.

And the sixty pound blood hound puppy scored food and candy, in various circumspect ways.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

And thanks, neighbor, for driving the teenager home : -). You know who you are.