new york city kid in arkansas
category: Uncategorized
tags:

My junior high students and I watched the 2010 outdoor London production of “Into the Woods” on Digital Theatre during our first week of “distance learning.” If you’re not familiar with this beautiful piece of theatre, it takes all the best fairy tales and puts the main characters into a story together. Act One is hilarious; Act Two is tragic. (I saw the 0riginal Broadway production as a high school junior and did not understand why everything had to go so wrong. A sign of age, I guess, is accepting the second act.) Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, Rapunzel and others are being pursued by a giant and life as they know it has ended. In a particularly devastating moment the Baker hopes for a better future when he sings:

“No more giants
Waging war.
Can’t we just pursue our lives
With our children and our wives?
‘Till that happy day arrives,
How do you ignore
All the witches,
All the curses,
All the wolves, all the lies,
The false hopes, the goodbyes,
The reverses,
All the wondering what even worse is
Still in store?”

These same students have been rehearsing a one-act play all semester about modern technology replacing personal interaction. As I sit at my dining room table running lines with them on Google Hangout, an optimistic gesture at best, I’m reminded of one of the better lines in the play:

“Face to face is so yesterday.”

Here’s what’s today: Our guest room has been delightfully transformed into Mr. Troy’s Songtime music studio as he entertains young and old alike with pop-up Facebook concerts during the long days. Huck, our introverted homebody, is keeping himself on a tight schedule of school work and tea-drinking downtime without any plans to ever return to the outside world. Sunny has been displaced from her usual spot (see opening sentence about guest room) but is genuinely relieved to have her pack at home 24/7. And while I miss normal life and feel for everyone who is terribly affected by this giant pandemic, hitting the pause button on regularly scheduled events has been really good for me. Still, I seem to get teary eyed pretty easily lately. We were supposed to be driving to Austin today to join friends from San Francisco, New York City and Texas at Shannon’s house for a few days. We’re meeting on Zoom tonight instead.

Just like everyone else.

category: Uncategorized
tags:

Huck just celebrated his 15th birthday the usual way: with lemon-lemon cake & Aunt Jeni. Her yearly March visits are family highlights, and we are once again left wondering if she will spend March 7th with him for the rest of his life. We had no way of knowing back in, say, 2008, that he would be a high school freshman counting down the days until her visit. (Actually, looking back at pictures maybe we did have a way of knowing.) This time around we got sunburns, ate Indian, settled Catan, killed werewolves, ignored the news, drank tea, got steps and celebrated musical theatre. You know, the usual.

In a terrifying world, it’s pretty great to have an Aunt Jeni.

March 2008

category: Uncategorized
tags:

“And it’s not the thought that she must miss them, but that she’s no longer capable of missing them, that makes me sad. What we miss – what we lose and what we mourn – isn’t it this that makes us who, deep down, we truly are.”

This quote from Sigrid Nunez’s book THE FRIEND makes me think of my mom, who moved into a memory care facility last week following a very terrible month. My nearly 50 year old body with super-ability to feel stress released my childhood chickenpox virus into the nerves of my arm, shoulder and upper back, adding intense pain and an impressive rash to all the terrible. My sisters and I share a text thread that could probably be made into a movie of the week. There have been many unexpected drives (and even flights for Jeni) to Kansas these last four weeks, and we’re all a little touchy and tired. When we start laughing, it’s terrifying.

Last Thanksgiving my dad secretly handed me a bottle of perfume he’d found in the trash, and I recognized it as a gift I’d given to my mom a few birthdays ago. He then dropped his voice to a whisper, took me into a dark room like we were hiding from the police and told me that one of my Christmas presents was an expensive Starbucks coffee cup he also found in the trash. “She had just bought it for herself. I don’t know why she throws everything away. I thought you’d like it.” When we were all in the hospital together in January and things weren’t looking so good, my mom said to no one in particular, “Janelle never required love and affection.” It’s not true; of course I did. But it was like a drunk person saying something crazy and you know they kind of mean it. Everyone in the room slowly turned their eyes to me as I smiled awkwardly.

Toward the end of her second hospital stay when she was finally stabilized and ready to move on, my sister Lori found her a new home, relieving my dad of being her one and only caregiver. My parents’ sons-in-law did the heavy lifting and moved her bed, night stand and dresser into her new room. Now my parents are 97 miles apart, and I’ve lost the ability to sleep. The three of us made a very quick trip from Arkansas this last weekend to see her, sing to her, give her chocolate, reminisce, laugh, thank her for the many letters she’s written lately, answer her questions and urge her to eat. We met her fellow residents (all of whom make her seem very youthful) and aides, and we may have set off an alarm or two. I predict that by the end of the week she’ll be helping the staff run the place. As Troy (with ukulele in hand), Huck and I began our goodbyes right after lunch on Sunday my mom smiled and said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” causing Troy to give a brief Shakespeare lecture and my arm to ache.

I pretty regularly wear that perfume and drink from that cup.  Sweet sorrow, indeed.