“Orpheus sang his grief to all who breathed the upper air, both gods and men…”
So much has changed and nothing has changed since the morning my husband last tapped on the bathroom door to say goodbye before he left for work. Since he last called me while I waited for the kids at the dentist, to check in (as he always did) to tell me he was heading for the beach.
So much and nothing has changed since I began to worry, since I called and called again. Since I drove through the falling night, heart beating, to Baldwin Beach to try to find him.
The bathroom door is still here.
The phone is still here.
The beach is still here.
Palms still blow in the strong afternoon trades. Waves continue to build over shifting trenches offshore at Baldwin. They continue to break hard on the sudden shore.
The night will come.
My heart will beat.
And he will still be gone.
Our children will laugh and cry, triumph and struggle and grow.
My heart will heal (my wabi sabi heart, it’s healing now. It is.).
And he will still be gone.
A whisper in the wild night wind, a cooling, breathing shadow in the midst of a relentless afternoon, the earthy smell of coming rain just after sunset.
And he will still be gone.
And he will still be here.
I’d like to say I learned it in Kindergarten, but the truth is: it’s not really that simple.
In Kindergarten, this kid named Sean Mosley grew fond of me. It was a creepy, grown-up style fond, a fondness which may have been dubbed “obsessive stalking”, had terms like that been bandied about in 1972.
Sean Mosley would sit by me on the school bus, even when I’d tell him not to, and regale me with tall tales about how he:
- Once scaled the Himalayas (“the highest mountains in the world!”)
- Tamed a bear and kept it as a pet
- Rode his bike to McDonald’s and back by himself (in ’72 the closest McDonald’s was about 20 miles up the I-5 in El Toro)
- Starred in a TV show that hadn’t come out yet.
“Marnie, is Sean coming to your house after school today for lunch?” our teacher, Mrs. Roman once asked me. Her angled brows and the rising trill in her voice nearly screaming “this sounds fishy!”.
My five-year-old “No!”couldn’t have been more visceral, more laden with disgust, more fraught with the absolute ill-fated hopelessness of Sean Mosley’s love.
Sean stood there, smiling, undaunted, taking in stride his banishment to the “Thinking Chair” (as if HE needed more time to think!) for cooking up the “after-school liaison” story.
Another time he rolled down the bus aisle, punching and wrestling another boy, yelling
I loathed this Sean Mosley.
I loathed him for his humiliating, unabashed idolatry of me. Me! Fellow Tall-Tale-Teller, Deeply-Challenged Shoe-Tie-er, Unwieldy-Scissor-User.
He didn’t even know me.
And, hello! I loved someone else.
I loved Kurt very, very much. Even though he was a first-class grump, hated the Wizard of Oz–my favorite movie of all time–called the Carpenters’ “Sing, Sing a Song” stupid and rolled his eyes while we all sang it–“La la la la la…la la la LA LA LA LAAAAAH”.
Kurt’s unapologetic curmudgeonliness made me love him even more. So much that, on the last day of school, I invited him to my 4th-of-July birthday party. I was terrified he wouldn’t come.
But he did come to my party at the park! He was my partner in the three-legged-race and we won. My prize was a pack of “Go-Fish” cards, a pack that I would never use, instantly imbued, as it was, with beatific light, a pack which remained on my pink dresser for a year to remind me of that perfect moment when we crossed the finish-line, legs tethered, spindly arms wrapped awkwardly around each others’ shoulders.
I never saw Sean Mosley again. He wasn’t invited to the party, of course. Looking back, I feel so sad for him. He was mostly likely emulating behavior he’d seen at home, or projecting that deep, mournful longing kids feel when they know they’re not getting what they need. Now I see that.
But I didn’t learn anything about real love in Kindergarten. Zilch. You know why? Because I was five.
I had yet to watch Helena and Hermia throw down in the woods or see Juliet off herself in a cell for the schmucky Romeo. I had 23 years to go until I’d finally understand that all I really needed to know about living and loving could be found within the burgundy binding of the Riverside Shakespeare.
I had no clue–back when I was five– that romantic love was inherently narcissistic, unreliable and potentially deadly, that true love wasn’t kids stuff. It wasn’t for teenagers and it wasn’t even Romantic. True love, it turns out, goes something like this:
My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfume there is more delight
Than in the breath from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet I well know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
When I got to know Shakespeare intimately, much, much later in life, I realized that his collected works not only represent the absolute apex of our insane patois of a language, but contained all the real, pragmatic advice we ever need to live an upright, moral, drama-free life.
Romeo and Juliet is not a love story. It’s not even a tale about prejudice and feuds. It’s about what happens when adults are complete fools and children mistake lust for love. It’s about why 13 year olds should totally not get married. It’s about why adults need to be steady, compassionate, smart guides for kids and quit getting caught up in immature, petty dramas which serve our own purposes. Romeo and Juliet are not in really in love. They don’t even know each other! Romeo pines for Rosaline, to whom he’d recently pledged his undying love, a mere two minutes before his eyes land on Juliet. The two of them are no better than Sean Mosley–attracted to the tragedy of doomed love. Or me–beatifying some grumpy dude who refused to “La la!!” with everyone else.
Juliet’s dad is abusive and about to marry her off to a stranger for cash. Romeo and Mercutio have a very “special” relationship. Here’s the bottom line: Marriage and true love is for real grown ups. Kids may dabble, but without the right adult guidance, they almost always end up pregnant, abandoned, in a doomed relationship or–in the best case scenario–forever tethered to something they once mistook for love. Or, in Romeo and Juliet’s case….you know….
They, and adults who behave like kids, might land a two-bit reality series, but it ain’t gonna turn out well.
Love is certainly not that. It’s complex, grounded, and often unromantic. It’s the long haul. It’s wrinkles and cellulite and getting the “second best bed”, it’s having the same person there–over and over, year after year–to share the same story with you. The part with the champagne-soaked dance at sunset, the part with the biopsy result, the part about losing your dad, the part with the crushing debt (…for death and money questions please press “2” for Hamlet, and “3” for Merchant of Venice), the part where you stood in your child’s empty room and cried, the part where you held onto each other for dear life.
I definitely didn’t get that in Kindergarten.
A blog post by a High Toned Christian Mom (“HTCM”) has ignited some heated discussion in the social media milieu. The gist of HTCM’s post was: “My teenage sons have been your friends since you were trudging around in your ‘Dora’ shirt and now your nipples are featured on Facebook. Put some freaking clothes on and read a book!”
(Okay, I added the “read a book” part, because I always add “Read a Book!!” when I’m chastising young folk. It’s super effective. They always run off to the library immediately.)
I pretty much agreed with HTCM’s basic thesis statement. Her tone and word choice would not necessarily be my word choice. “Praiseworthy” is not in my lingo. My family is not Christian, but we really like a lot of Christians. Last night, in fact, we were around a lot of Christian friends at a funeral and we bowed our heads with them and prayed to the Heavenly Father and celebrated the life of a great, giving man who happened to be a devout Christian. We’re fine with it. I don’t think the Heavenly Father got all confused when he received our prayers. When He pulled up our file and saw “Buddhist” stamped in red on the cover, I don’t think he turned to St. Peter and said, “So what? Did they convert all of a sudden? Again, can you PLEASE ‘cc’ me on these things?”
I am a Buddhist Feminist and I agreed with the High Toned Christian Mom. A lot of other people didn’t. Many people saw her post as “slut shaming”.
But what if it wasn’t?
What if she is just a parent raising kids who are lovely to be around, morally upright, giving and sincere?
What if her next blog is about (hypothetical) guy friends posting beer guzzling, pot-smoking, sexually-offensive-to-women images on their sites and reminding those boys that “nosy” parents like her are lurking (and might even tell on them…)? Maybe, in her NEXT post, she says to one hypothetical boy:
“Hey, Little Johnny from Little League, you look like a First String Asshole and I know you’re not! I used to drink wine with your mom while you pushed around Thomas and Percy in your footsie pajamas, chanting ‘Choo! choo, I’m a train!!’ Yes, I’ve known you for a long time and you are NOT a First String A-Hole. Stop acting like one! And read a book!!”
Maybe she truly wants all the young folk to pan back for a moment and check out the wide-angle shot of their lives. I hope that’s what she wants, because her tone does get creepily invasive and specific. You can see for yourself here: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/
I REALLY hope she wasn’t directing the blog at real-life friends of her sons and I REALLY hope she doesn’t sit at the dinner table with her family and “judge” which women are virtuous enough for her blue-eyed, tow-headed, praiseworthy-thought-thinkin’ boys.
Some vehement critics of HTCM’s post believe (or pretend to….) that there’s no difference between an image of a young girl posed provocatively on her bed and an image of a young man at the beach in his swim trunks. One rebuttal insinuates that if HTCM has a problem with a teenage girl posing in her bedroom, back-arched, braless, then she’d better be sure there are no family-vacation-at-the-beach pictures hanging around her FB page, lest lecherous girls think impure thoughts about her sons.
“There’s no way we women can “unsee” that,” the critic snarked.
See where this rhetorical train goes? Next stop: Lameville. Choo! choo!
What I hope she’s trying to say is: grown-ups need to reserve the right to say, “Hey, Kaitlyn from Gymboree! Put some clothes on and stop looking at me like you’re looking for something unseemly (from me and your 987 FB friends), (and read a book!)” without being politically-corrected into quaint obsolescence.
Kids need to be reminded that they’re kids—and that we, the FAR-too-mature to post skin-saturated shots of ourselves to garner “Oooooh, you are soooooo beautiful!” confirmation from women and veiled double-entendres from married men—are still at the helm. We’re still, collectively, a stronger influence than YouTube and The Kardashians, and, as long as we butt in and (gently or strongly) re-direct, we may forestall the mutiny.
(Some selfies ARE better than others, btw…)
I’m thankful for the HTCM. Her piece struck a nerve on both sides of the abyss, and, think about it: take away the engaging discussion of politics, religion, culture and education, and what are we left with?
Nothing but a bunch of butts, boobs and beer bongs.
Wandering like a whisper.
“No one knows me here. Not a single soul. I could be anyone…or no one at all.”
The thrill of absolute zero, of first smell, first taste, the sensual moment of first contact.
Opening a small, age-blackened door into a leafy, shadowy courtyard, a fountain filled with red roses, trickling, echoing.
Riotous mosaic tile, sun-dappled, everywhere, but always hidden.
In the New City, A woman in a black burkha slips on glasses to examine a pack of lentils.
A stranger trails a stranger through the souks.
“Monsieur, vous me permettez aidez? Sir, may I help you?”
“Je ne suis pas perdu. I am not lost.”
“S’il vous plait. Permettez moi. Permettez moi!”
The black assault of diesel, the endless buzz of motorbikes, a teenage girl clutches a young man’s waist, laughing, navy blue hijab blowing behind in the dry, dusk haze.
The jingling, jingling, jingling of coins in a Tangier tour guide’s pocket. He leads a curious couple through labyrinthine Kasbah streets, past decorated thresholds, down ancient stairways and narrow, whitewashed passageways. The shussing scuffle of leather dress shoes rushing to prayer.
The wail of the muezzin–the sound of everything and emptiness–echoes off the rosy and ochre medina walls. Marrakech awakens.
Caged chickens, clucking, squawking.
Oranges, olives, camels.
A glass jar full of lemons sits on a sweltering rooftop terrace, sweating.
A woman in linen trousers disappears into the dim clamor fog of souks–lost in a kaleidoscope of lanterns, cumin, argan oil, pungent cow hides, rugs, rugs, rugs, sticky almond confections, diapers, t-shirts, Orangina,
jeweled, cowlick-tipped slippers,
tufted leather poufs,
spit into a bright, bustling square, flanked by beleaguered donkeys and date palms.
There’s the scrape of a heavy, black lid. A charred lamb carcass emerges from a smoky hole in the ground. An old man, white-robed, sprinkles course salt like holy water.
Out past the Rif mountains, where boys and men wait on the open, lonely road, hawking hashish.
Out where topography yields to time.
Out to the golden, ever-shifting Sahara
where nothing ever stays.
(photos by H. Masuda)
When I was eight, something wonderful happened to me. September rolled around and I wound up in Mrs. Richardson’s class.
Virginia Richardson was one of those “once in a lifetime” kinds of teachers.
Inspiring, wise, committed, compassionate.
The kind of teacher you want your own children to have every year.
photo by (the amazing) Tim Pierce http://www.flickr.com/photos/qwrrty/5877465734
In Mrs. Richardson’s class, we all sang together every morning, loudly and proudly, off key or on:
“Take a moment when you wake up in the morning, to find a cheery word to say!”
And our teacher modeled exactly what we sang about.
I remember one time, in the middle of a class discussion of the dangers of smoking, one of my classmates blurted: “My dad smokes, but only once a year, I think!”
Guess what Mrs. Richardson did.
You might think she responded like this:
“Please raise your hand!”
“We don’t shout out!”
“Even once a year is too often for cigarettes!”
But here’s what she did.
She smiled. She laughed.
Then she said:
“Oh, and that cigarette must feel like eating a whole box of See’s Candies!”
My mom and grandma smoked, and her response let me know I didn’t have to feel ashamed about it. It wasn’t a good idea, but it didn’t make my mom and grandma–and my family–bad.
I remember how it felt when we would all huddle together on an upholstered mat in the corner and Mrs. Richardson would enthrall us with A Wrinkle in Time. My ears still hear how she said “Mrs. Whatsit,” emphasizing the cool sounds the letters made.
We put our growing arms around each other. We danced wildly to the soundtracks to “The Point” (“Me and my Arrrrrow….Takin’ the high road….”)
and “Free to Be…You and Me” (“Brothers and Sisters, sisters and brothers, each and every one…”)
It was 1976 and we celebrated the Bicentennial. We were all there together–in one place at that one moment in the vast expanse of time that came before us and after us. Happy.
Carmelita taught us some Spanish and how to make Mexican chocolate with the “Bate, bate” stick. Her mom brought in bunelos. I’ll never forget the lightness, the crunchiness, the sugary, cinnamony perfection of those impossibly perfect pinwheels.
Catherine was from Hawai’i, via the Philippines. She taught us “Pearly Shells” and we hula-ed without worrying about whether or not we were doing it right.
Romando, her cousin, was definitely gay. He hung out with the girls and he was the BEST dancer in the whole class. He taught us all how to shake our groove things. We all marveled at his agility and rhythm. The other boys thought it was so cool and tried to get it right. When they didn’t, we all laughed together, and Romando remained the dance champ.
Some kids were really advanced and sharp, some struggled, some may have been stigmatized as “behavior problems” earlier or later in their school lives, but in Mrs. Richardson’s room, everyone was a gift. I never knew which students were her favorites, which ones may have elicited an inward eye-roll. She loved us all: the one with the dirty fingernails, the one with the messy penmanship, the one who had a hard time with math, the one who was rich, but secretly suffering, the one with the pressure to be perfect. And because she did, we did.
There were no “behavior problems” in Mrs. Richardson’s class. Never. Stuff may have gone down on the playground, but within those walls, behind that door with the nondescript number “8”, we were a family. A functional, supportive family, not that other kind, the kind many returned to at 3:00 each day.
When we came in from recess, all jacked up on white bread and chocolate snack pack pudding, would she tell us to quiet down? Would she yell over us to sit still and get to work? Would she wait until every pair of eight-year-old hands were folded and we’d assumed a collective pose of dutiful submission? Of course not. She was Mrs. Richardson.
We would gather around one big table, or flop in a circle on the floor and she would whisper: “Close your eyes, children.” Her love would wash over us and she would guide us through a beautiful scene–walking down the beach, strolling through a quiet meadow, listening to waves or birds or the crunching of leaves–to welcome us back to the safety of her room, our home. In two minutes, max, we were calm and ready for the real learning she always had in store for us.
We learned so much in her class, too. Times tables! Newberry-Award Winning novels! History! It was 1976, after all. We ate up everything about the American Revolution and the thirteen colonies, because it was relevant and fun and real. Not because it was was mandated in the standardized scope-and-sequence. Mrs. Richardson was no spring chicken. She’d already been teaching for many years, but she never seemed tired, distracted or disengaged.
I’m 100% sure if the unbending strictures associated with “No Child Left Behind” had reared their head back then, she would have just laughed. After her laughter subsided, she’d have taken out her secret teacher wand and dissolved them right before our wide eyes.
“Not on my watch!” She would have said. Then she would have blown on her wand, turned to the stunned room full of eight-year-olds and said, “Now, shall we resume our learning?”
We learned everything we needed to know that year. Her lessons on nouns, verbs, conjunctions, metaphors and figurative language stuck. Did she hand us worksheets? Take a guess. She would play silly, catchy grammar songs on the little record player and we would dance. Sometimes, in the middle of reading a story, she would stop and say, breathlessly, “Listen! Listen to this beautiful sentence!” Then she would ask if we thought it sounded beautiful too. We DID think it sounded beautiful! She would get up from her cozy rocking chair, walk to the board, and show us exactly why it sounded that way. We wanted to try it! It was like a magic trick! It was sentence diagramming, but she was wise enough not utter that dead, clinical moniker. Learning was never painful, frightening or hard. It was always amazing. Real learning is always like that.
Even I was was a math whiz that year. You know why? Because, at the beginning of the school year, after observing me working out a few (manageable) problems, she told me I was.
“YOU are excellent at math!” she said.
I’m sure my previous year’s math scores were in my file, and she was well aware that math was an “area of concern,” but I certainly didn’t need to know that.
That year, I soared through every math unit. I loved math and it loved me back.
The following year, not so much.
Mrs. Z., my fourth grade teacher, was more concerned with re-applying her bright red lipstick than teaching her fourth graders….anything, really. She used a pre-packaged program called “Math Your Way”–the precursor, I’m sure, of the computer-based, one-size-fits-all, math programs so popular today. There was no math instruction. I fell behind. I was, along with the other strugglers and stragglers, shamed in front of other students. Other students were routinely singled out and lauded. We all knew who Mrs. Z’s “shining stars” were. They were the ones who didn’t need any extra help at all.
I hated, hated, HATED math forever after.
And so it went. The “smart kids” were separated from the “dumb kids”. They didn’t say that out loud, but from 4th grade to 12th grade, we all read it loud and clear. Ten. Four.
The clean kids, the ones with neat handwriting, the ones who gave the “right” answers, the ones from certain families, were the “shining stars”. The others, well, they knew who they were. Diversity–cultural or otherwise– was rarely celebrated (Never? I seriously can’t think of one example between 1978 and 1987).
The Mexican girls I met in middle school were tough. They wore black eyeliner and flannel shirts and chains. The teachers didn’t ask them to teach us Spanish or invite their parents in to class to “bate bate” or share a favorite family dish. The teachers averted their eyes when those girls passed in the halls.
Kids misbehaved in class. Badly. In Language Arts, I was the “shining star”, but it didn’t make me feel good. It made everyone else resent me and pick on me. It made them feel ashamed in Language Arts, just as I felt ashamed when I walked into math class.
But I carried Mrs. Richardson with me and her distant, boundless approval gave me the stamina to move through it all. Now that I’m on the other side of the desk, with students of my own, I like to think of Virginia Richardson as a Patron Saint of sorts. Maybe she’s the Patron Saint of Lost Teachers, a beacon of reason, excellence and love in a too-often harrowing and disillusioning profession.
I summon her sprit whenever I’m about to cave in to something I know isn’t the right thing for my students. I ask myself: “WWVRD”? She never fails to steer me right back on course.
It’s that time again. Kids are heading back to class, heads full of ideas, excitement, fear, memories–good and bad, dreams and nightmares. I’m sending out a prayer that every student, everywhere, winds up in Mrs. Richardson’s class this year.
“Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”
That’s what Walt Whitman said…
…and I’m sure the wizened poet is floating around up there, wishing he could smack me upside the head with his gnarly old cane, every time I say head-up-the-arse stuff like:
“WOW! It’ll be so great to have a Safeway within walking distance! I mean it’s SUCH a hassle to drive all the way to Kahului when I need, like, one thing at the market.”
“Oh, Long’s is almost open! I can pick up a bottle of wine when I’m on my run!”
“A TARGET? How exciting!”
These are things I’ve actually said before.
And that Long’s Drugs? It’s been open for almost a year and I’ve yet to plod down Wai’ale Road, sweat-soaked, red-faced with a bottle of Ghost Pines Pinot under my arm.
I am not happy about it at all, it turns out. Joni MItchell told us: “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
Don’t it? Don’t it?
When did we stop listening to Joni? When did we tune her out, like an old transistor radio?
Is it too late to close my eyes and make it all stop? And if I feel this deep, deep sadness and regret, how does the Hub deal with it? He never complains.
How did everyone–everyone who lived here before all this– deal with the loss as they watched those hotels go up, one-by-one-by-one-by-one? Their favorite, secret beaches teeming with moi and o’ama, their reward at the end of bumpy, pot-holed dirt roads, all-but-disappear, obscured by manicured, stuccoed luxury?
A visitor on one of those beaches scolded my son when, at ten, he dove waaaaaay down and pulled up his first tako all by himself, with only a net. So proud and excited to bring it home to show his father, brine it, freeze it and eat it, as his dad and grandpa did. Only to come in, empty-handed, tears in his eyes.
“That man out there told me to let it go. He said I was hurting it.”
I had to wash the irony off with the sand and salt before getting in the car.
Where will we draw the line? Can we cut through the careful conditioning that makes us believe convenience and material crap can makes us happier? It doesn’t. It makes us lazier and heavier. When will we all realize we ALL need less, not more, more, MORE!!
I uttered that absurd line about our new neighborhood Mega-Safeway in the car a few months ago. Then I caught myself and tried to have a teachable moment with Jackson:
“I sound so spoiled. There are places in the world, like in African countries, where people have to walk for miles every morning just to get their daily jug of water.”
He, of course, saw my teachable moment and raised me a “pull your head out”:
“Well, maybe that’s how it’s been for thousands of years–that’s how they’ve always lived–and maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
I’ve got a question for you. Since when did everyone get so god-damned virtuous? Did I miss a memo? Because I have to visit the Beatific Pantheon of the People of Extreme Virtue nearly every day: scrolling down my Facebook feed, strolling through Whole Foods, skimming blog posts about juicing and breastfeeding and devil-gluten and CrossFit.
Sometimes it seems like we’re sinking into a special, self-(and-media)-induced, circle of Hell. One where we are either congratulating ourselves for permanently eschewing anything post- Industrial Revolution: “I don’t own a TV! I only eat raw foods! My posts are 100% organic and locally-grown! My kids are so pure they may come down with polio! I’ve never even SEEN a McDonald’s! My underwear is made of recycled, recycled newspaper! I just ran 10 miles wearing my own hand-crafted HAIRSHIRT!”
….Or hating ourselves for being ordinary schmucks: “Man, I suck. My kids eat Spam–and it’s not even raw. I don’t compost. I count my steps to the bathroom as exercise. Sometimes I fall asleep watching ‘Extra’. I Heart Gluten. Please Current New Age Guru, save me from the prison of my wayward self!”
It’s not entirely our fault. We’re information-saturated, postmodern animals—it’s no wonder we’re afraid of air, food and the same white airplane wake that used to spell out innocuous stuff like “Tan Don’t Burn Use Coppertone”, but has apparently been re-purposed to simultaneously kill us and save us from burning and drowning in the Great Inundation. Aren’t we all a wee bit tired of acting like characters in Jonathan Franzen‘s next novel? What if we’re just people who move in and out of philosophical and sociological constructs on an hour-by-hour basis? Maybe we’re cool with kale, but, when push-comes-to-shove, we’re not above a McChicken every now and again. Maybe we pick up the New Yorker AND an issue OK! Magazine with Katie and Suri Holmes on the cover, down a Jack and Coke or two, then board a plane to Liberia to save orphans and build houses. As Miles D. would say, “So What?”
One of my favorite Facebook friends is Amy. I don’t think I’ve seen her since June 15, 1985, but she makes me smile at least weekly with the unbridled, unabashed joy in her posts. In one of my top ten, a plate of technicolor cupcakes sits on her kitchen counter, accompanied by the singular proclamation: “Funfetti!!” If you don’t know Funfetti, you need to get down to Safeway right now and take a gander at the cake mix aisle, Miss Marie Antoinette. Amy loves Keith Urban and I don’t, but I love how she loves her country music and her family and her God. There is no judgement or piety, just revelry and celebration. Amy from High School is MY plate of Funfetti.
A few years ago I found myself, with my kids and my parents and the Hubby, sitting on a vast ziggurat of bleachers. We were at Disney World, it was just about nightfall and we were waiting for “Fantasmic” to begin. There might have been some Disney ™ background music to pump up the gathering hoard, but I’m not sure. I don’t remember. All I remember is this: suddenly the massive crowd broke into a spontaneous (and unusually stubborn)– “wave”–like we were all at the Super Bowl or something. The family next to me had Deeply Southern drawls and had been chowing down on popcorn and drawling rather grumpily, but when it came time for our segment to “wave,” they lifted their popcorn tubs, along with the smallest of their formidable brood waaaaay up high and said “YAY!!” The Hub hoisted our own little Buttercup in the air and we all shouted “YAY!!!” A few rows in front–and a little to the right–of us sat a big Muslim family, the women in expensive-looking hijabs and the men in shiny collared shirts. When it was time for them to “wave”, they all threw their hands over their heads and the dads lifted the babies up, and the aunties and moms opened their eyes wide at their children and yelled “Yay!!”
Finally, mercifully, Mickey appeared, bursting from a floodlit cloud of smoke, all decked out in his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” ensemble. The crowd went wild! And I, crazy lady that I am, had a bona fide, Joycean epiphany right there on the plastic bleachers. Hundreds, nay, thousands, of people from all over the globe–likely of every religious and political persuasion–were going ape shit for some dude (or woman) disguised as a pupil-less, hydrocephalic rodent. And a voice inside me said, “Look at us. Look. at. us. We are deeply, fantastically absurd. We are a ridiculous fallen lot! Every one of us.”
Maybe a week later or so, back in line at Blue Bottle, someone in that crowd might have poo-pooed the experience as yet another Hijacking of the Human Imagination, a Cultish Celebration of American Excess, but that someone would just be covering his tracks. I know. I saw that person. And he was yelling “Yay!!” the loudest of all.
What is this thing in us, exactly, I wondered then, this thing that manages to push through dogma and class and culture and self?
It’s hard to name, but it might have something to do with the way the Dalai Lama is always cracking up over everything, I think. It’s that far-too-rare lifting of the great BS veil. A collective, momentary renunciation of the Hand-Knotted Hairshirt of Ego. The spontaneous roll in the snow. The perfectly-timed fart at the funeral. The dorky boogie-board ride of the soul.
Here’s to that thing.