Friday, July 21, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Tonight a memory came to me so vividly I was clearly thrown off balance for a moment.

My middle son is six. As I put him to bed tonight, he held something in the palm of his hand, trying hard not to open his fingers so I could see it; hoping I wouldn't notice that he had something in his hand at all.

I asked him to put whatever it was he had in his hand on the nightstand. He reluctantly opened his six-year-old hand and out dropped a white poker chip. He looked at me and with pleading eyes -- eyes that revealed he knew I realized he was lying-- and in a very small voice said, "Robert gave it to me."

My oldest son's friend Robert is sleeping over tonight and Robert just happened to bring his "Texas Hold'em" poker set along.

As I stood there, my heartstrings stretched in several directions, I remembered what happened when I was six years old and got caught stealing a piece of Dubble Bubble from the grocery store.

My parents had just divorced. My dad convinced the judge that my mother was unfit to take care of my brother, my sister and me, and he was awarded full custody. After which he promptly took us to his father and stepmother's house, and then he left.

He moved out of state. He moved way out of state. Texas. The story was that he would come and get us after he found a place to live and got settled in his new job.

And got settled with his new wife (who hated other people's children).

So. My "children are to be seen and not heard" grandfather and step-grandmother raised my brother and sister and me (until my brother and sister ran away, but that's another story).

On the fateful day I committed the heist (the Dubble Bubble incident), I got caught in much the same way that my six-year-old did tonight with the poker chip. I had that piece of bubble gum in my hand, white-knuckles closed around it as if my life depended on it. And I wouldn't take my hand out of my coat pocket.

By the time we got to the car, my grandmother suspected that I had committed the crime. In her ever-so shrill and demeaning voice, she demanded that I take my hand out of my pocket and show her what was inside. When I did, she marched me back into the store and made me tell the grocer what I had done, apologize, and give the merchandise back.

When we got home, I was sent straight to my room and was not allowed to come out for the entire day. As punishment, I had to memorize the Ten Commandments. I can't imagine that was easy for a child of six, who didn't yet know how to read. And, I was introduced to my grandfather's belt. My sister, who was ten, made sure that I wore tights to church the next day so the bruises on my legs wouldn't show.

Tonight, as my son opened his hand and put that poker chip on the table, my eyes filled with tears. Not because my little angel stole something from our guest, not because he lied to me about it, and certainly not because I'm disappointed or ashamed that a child of mine would do such a thing.

I haven't thought of that Dubble Bubble story for a long time. When I remembered it -- in that moment between my son putting the chip on the table and looking up to say, "Robert gave it to me" -- tears of relief, tears of compassion, and tears of utter joy in knowing that I knew how to handle this situation -- filled my eyes.

Tomorrow morning, my son will give the chip to Robert and apologize. No banishment to his room. No Ten Commandments. And he'll certainly be able to wear shorts to camp tomorrow. You can bet on that.

Good God! What were these people thinking? Now that I have three children of my own I can't believe some of the things my grandparents did in raising me. What the hell? For Christ's sake!

You know, there are a lot of things people do for Christ's sake, that have nothing to do with Christ's sake at all.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


I'm "recovering" after the whole One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest thing.

I'm not one to go on about things ... really, I'm not. But I guess it's taken me a while to get my world back into some semblance of order.

After all, six weeks of rehearsals and three weeks of production made for nine hectic weeks around here. My kids were out of control, my house was a wreck, my husband was needy (okay, needier is probably a better word).

Since Cuckoo's Nest closed, we bought a new car. Went to the beach. I got a new job (same company but I got a promotion and a raise, AND I can work from home all the time if I want, or just whenever I want). So I've been busy, even though right after the show closed I felt like I had so much free time.

Doing that show sorta opened up my eyes a bit, on several levels.
  • I realized how much I missed the theatre all these years.
  • I realized how hard it was for me to balance career, motherhood (and all that jazz), with 5-night a week rehearsals, learning lines, etc. (AND going out after rehearsals, too, of course).
  • I realized it's okay to order pizza for your family once a week (as you're rushing out the door to rehearsal), but twice a week might be pushing it.
  • I realized that people can be pretty darn judgemental about who they think your character should be and how they think you should play her.
  • I realized I didn't/don't care who people thought my chracter should be or how they thought I should play her.
  • I realized there are some pretty cool people in the theatre.

Enough of that. After all, I'm not one to go on about things. Really, I'm not.

But while I'm in this mushy state of mind, I might as well bring up a poem that I had completely forgotten about...I learned it years ago in college, when doing a show called, "And the subject" Get this: the whole show was about love. The subject of the show was love. Really clever title.

Anyway, it was sort of a poetry / theatre / performance thing -- a reader's theatre-ish thing. There was a poem by Carl Sandburg that I did an interpretation of that the show was sort of built around:

    Little Word, Little White Bird

    Love is a little white bird
    and the flight of it so fast
    you can't see it
    and you know it's there
    only by the faint whirr of its wings
    and the hush song coming so low to your ears
    you fear it might be silence
    and you listen keen
    and you listen long
    and you know it's more than silence
    for you get the hush song so lovely
    it hurts and cuts into your heart
    and what you want
    is to give more than you can get
    and you'd like to write it
    but it can't be written
    and you'd like to sing it
    but you don't dare try
    because the little white bird sings it better than you can
    so you listen
    and while you listen you pray
    and one day it's as though
    a great slow wind had washed you clean and strong
    inside and out
    and another day it's as though you had gone to sleep
    in an early afternoon sunfall and your sleeping heart
    dumb and cold as a round polished stone,
    and the little white bird's hush song
    telling you nothing can harm you,
    the days to come can weave in and weave out
    and spin their fabrics and designs for you
    and nothing can harm you

I don't know what made me think of that poem the other day. I went back and found my script and remembered how much I loved Sandburg's words...I remember how much I loved doing the interp of that poem.

I'm not sure what that poem meant to me back then, but I'm pretty sure I didn't understand it the way I understand it now.

Good night.