Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Week in Letters

Dear Howard and Mona,

Nobody on this blog knows you (and even so, these are so not your real names). Well into your 80s, there's no computer in your household. The Matron is shifting in the rare "I" form because that's the kind of people you are.

I'm so amazed that so many neighbors shovel every inch of your property. People? If you don't live in Minnesota you might not appreciate what that means. The snow sometimes piles up to the eyebrows. Shoveling is not a casual endeavor but a two hour event. Really.

Every day, Mona, you need someone to come into the house -- morning and night -- and administer medication and eye drops. You have no children or immediate family so there's the goodwill of the immediate vicinity.

And immediate vicinity?


Today, after putting out the garbage for your household and feeding the cats, I watched another neighbor come into your house for the eye drops --and was felled. You are not alone. Over the weekend, someone across the street is building a ramp and putting in handles for the shower. No -- I didn't ask anyone to do this; we're talking a village that looks out after it's people.

So, no third person tonight. I'm humbled by the generosity of spirit around me, living in a hard-scrabble inner city neighborhood where if someone strange enters a garage 15 people call 911. And someone is willing to come over every morning and night to do the eye drops. Not me (I'm garbage and outdoor cat food mostly--and sadly, sometimes litter box).

Which is what's so wonderful. That person who comes over every single day -- twice -- is my neighbor. And would do the same for me.

My father once told me to always give the waiter or waitress an extra dollars as a tip. What does it matter to you, he said? But to them, that's an affirmation and a way of expressing humanity.

There are quite a few extra dollars out there (okay, I leave 30% tips because of my father who died not long after this dictum). And someone doing eye drops every morning and night, without complaint, question or applause.

Not me. But I have a new model for how to operate in the world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Week in Letters

Dear Scarlett,

First, I love you more than the moon shines.

Second, being nearly 13 is hard. You're not quite a teen and not a small kid. You're solidly in between. Plus you look like you're nine.

For the second time in five years, you have no theater work lined up after the current production closes. This puts you in good company with many accomplished actors but isn't easy when you're 12. Your parents have also said 'no' to so many opportunities (requiring travel and complete family disruption) that your agent has sort of stopped calling. The parents hope that the greater good of the family will be worth the sacrifice in the long haul.

You're in a new school. All of your friends are in another school.

There's homework. The blood hound puppy of whom you're not particularly fond (when you're an adult you'll acknowledge you're not a dog person). Your little brother vying for your attention and the big brother who takes some joy in diminishing everything you do.

Your mother tries to talk to you every night -- about life, bodies, homework, friends. But you're the most insular person she has ever met and that's not an understatement. There might be some connection between being an accomplished actor and never communicating with people outside of a stage.

My dear: it's heart-breaking and wonderful to see a person emerge has her own self without parental dictations. This mother just wishes she could help you a little bit more (other than all that driving).

Friends -- a nearly 13 year old daughter? If you have one or have been through that, hat off.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dear Dogs

Dear Satan's Familiar and Boc,

Your human mama loves you both very much. Unlike children over 10, you like your bellies rubbed. When the Matron walks in after a long day at work?

Matron: "I'm home!"

Scarlett: "I need a ride to rehearsal."

HWCBN: "Uh."

Merrick: "Everyone's mean to me and can you make me ice cream?"

Dogs? You two are bounding up and down with joy--it's the Matron! Home again! Could life get more perfect?!!!

So she's here to first affirm. But . . .

Let's discuss weather. Scruffy, it's winter. You need to poop in 10 degrees, outdoors in the backyard, and not in the basement. Instead of being physically picked up and tossed outside, your delicate self should romp out and do its business without so much parental bullying.

S.F.: you are not a human being. Yes, yes, pillows are lovely little clouds. But one of these pillows belongs to each human head, not yours. It might be time to consider your desired sleeping spot -- on the Matron's own favorite pillow. She's happy to share many things, but her slim hours of sleep are not one of them.

In sum, young henchman, despite your desire to sit on someone's lap during dinner (okay, guilty) , rest your tender head on down feathers, use an indoor toilet and eat steak: you are a dog. Also, the mailman just sent this household a fifth and final letter: unless you stop eating the mail as it comes through the door slot -- thus terrorizing yet another new postal carrier -- mail to this household will be stopped.

Let's consider this. The Matron's family is in danger of receiving NO MAIL EVER AGAIN because of a dog who weighs 17 pounds and doesn't bite humans.

Is there rehab for dogs?

Boc, the Matron first wants to apologize for your name. She had so many lovely literary options. You could have been an Othello, Iago (sorry), Lear, Hamlet. Regal, domineering. Instead, your name is an acronym for Big Old Canine. Very sorry about that. If you put Othello and Big Old Canine on the scale of justice, you lose.

Now, despite the less than desirable name, the Matron thinks you have a pretty good life. You go to the dog park 6 out of 7 days. The bed? That's where you sleep. Don't tell John that his wife gives you steak and turkey in your 'puppy food' most of the time. You get combed nearly every day and you have Merrick has a real live chew toy; he's an equally happy participant. Considering you were scheduled for death (three families in four months before this family) the Matron thinks you should be very, very happy that someone took you on forever --and will give you treats every ten minutes. Every piece of furniture is open to you and you like them all.

But . . . just a word or two of wisdom. It's okay not to rise your 75 pounds onto the kitchen counter and eat dinner for a family of five while the chef is in the bathroom or answering a door. Salad? Come on, honey. Dogs don't eat lettuce. Or pickles. Just a reminder about the gene pool here.
It's lovely that you're artistic, but it's really fine to stop creating little artistic masterpieces on door frames. Those paws are lovely and yes, powerful.

Barking is a good thing. If an armed intruder is at the door, your mama is happy that you're there to bellow and yowl. But a fly? Flies don't care that you bark at them. This is another task you can let go of.

The Matron also thinks that destroying furniture is another task you can set aside. Someone else will do that, truly. Eating cushions and chair legs is an admirable endeavor, but the Matron thinks you're already stressed with all the barking and chewing on Merrick. Plus, the two most expensive pieces of furniture are already threadbare so she thinks your work in this department is done.

Now that honesty is on the table, the Matron is here to tell you that sleeping on a stomach is okay but not the most comfortable spot in the house. Wouldn't be nice to cuddle alongside her instead of laying on top (someone else would be happy to do that for under half an hour three times a week). She knows that once she's asleep there's a bit of a target, but it's really okay to not throw your body on top of her and then drool on her cheek. Yes, yes, it's a little endearing but when you add in the bad gas situation . . well. . .it's okay to let this job go.

Finally, dear Boc, there is something call garbage. The Matron is respectful of your dexterity. You can open particular doors and pull down an 8 year old in two seconds. But the door to the kitchen garbage is sort of like the Wizard of Oz's curtain: cannot be unveiled. She appreciates the fact that the smells might be tempting -- all those coffee grounds and leftover sandwiches -- but wonders if the monthly million dollars worth of dog food your skeleton requires might just be enough?

Still, she marvels at the ability to eat copious amounts and not gain weight. How do you do it?


Satan's Familiar and Boc: get on the team. It's okay to be team players, even cheerleaders. Your mother looks forward to the day that poop, garbage, vomit, bites, and utter destruction aren't part of the family plan. She'd like to continue getting mail. Isn't that sort of an American right? Be better patriots. Don't eat the mail and only knock down Merrick when he's ready.

With love,

The Matron (the one who feeds you)