Sunday, August 11, 2019

Brandy Cinderella

I’m not sure how Brandy Cinderella found her way into our family life, but once she got in, she was here to stay.  We watched her 1997 version of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical so many times that we have all memorized all the songs.  It is my favorite musical.

Cinderella in all her forms was a fixation with my daughter Ellen.  We would go the library and check out all the different permutations of the Cinderella story, and believe me, there are a LOT.  The American Library Association lists more than 500.  Egyptian Cinderella, Chinese Cinderella, Korean Cinderella, Persian Cinderella, and on and on.

We watched all the Cinderella movies: the insipid 1950 Disney bibbidi-bobbidi-boo one (our least favorite), the original Rodgers and Hammerstein 1957 movie with the lovely Julie Andrews, the atrocious 1965 R&H movie with Lesley Ann Warren, the fun 1998 Ever After with Drew Barrymore.

In fact, as I write this, I remember hauling 3-year-old Susan and 1-year-old Ellen to an afternoon movie matinee of Ever After because I really, really wanted to see it, so maybe Ellen’s Cinderella thing didn’t come out of nowhere…

Susan and Ellen both participated in children’s theater, and they used “In My Own Little Corner” and “Sister’s Lament” from Cinderella as audition songs. 

In the midst of “artistic differences” between Ellen and her high school drama director, a local youth theater announced a production of R&H Cinderella.  I talked Ellen into auditioning, and she played the Stepmother.  I think I enjoyed the production more than she did.  She did get to wear some great wigs.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.  Foothill College Theater was performing R&H Cinderella.  All the children were away doing fun things, and Larry was off playing with his boat, so I took myself to Cinderella. 

I decanted a bottle of white wine into a Thermos which I snuck into the theater in my capacious handbag.  I also bought a Snicker’s bar from the table out front.  It was a great night – the cast, the orchestra, and the production were fabulous, my wine was cold, and I had a chocolate bar.

After the show I wandered around the Foothill campus and cried for a while because the production had a theme of “optimism” and there doesn’t seem to be much cause for optimism lately.  Then I pulled myself together and came home because I wasn’t sure I could adequately explain myself to campus security.

Larry accompanied me to Cinderella last weekend, and we also took my next-door neighbor Camay.  It was odd having to explain what we were about to see to Camay, who had never heard of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.  It’s been a part of my life for so long.  Luckily, she enjoyed it, and maybe she’ll be inspired to watch the best Cinderella, Brandy Cinderella.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Cafeteria Catholic

It’s Sunday morning, and like many of us cradle Catholics, I am sitting at home reading the newspaper, drinking coffee, and working a sudoku instead of going to Mass.

The latest round of clergy accusations and cover-ups was a bridge too far for me.  The behavior of the leadership of the Catholic church for so many decades is simply indefensible.

And all *thinking* Catholics that I know are conflicted about church teachings.  After 2000 years of changing doctrine and policies, who among us can even say what the current church doctrine is, anyway?  Do we still believe in limbo?  Can you still buy your way out of purgatory?  Can nursing mothers eat meat on Fridays?

In my youth, I remember a priest haranguing us during the homily about not being a “cafeteria Catholic”.  He said (and of course it was a he) that you couldn’t “pick and choose” which parts of Catholicism to embrace.

Um, I don’t know any Catholic who is not a cafeteria Catholic. 

Here’s what I’ll take in the buffet of Catholicism:

I’ll have the teachings of Jesus, the model of the holy family, the respect for human life, social justice, and care for the poor.

I’ll pass on the patriarchy, the secrecy and cover-ups, the ban on birth control (I mean, really????), the attitudes toward homosexuality, and the subjugation of women.

I will always treasure the rich and varied multicultural arcana of the Catholic church, though.  As missionaries went around the world converting local populations, they incorporated many local traditions into the faith. 

As a pack rat myself, I love the junk-drawer aesthetic of Catholic churches around the world.  There are all sorts of visions of the Virgin Mary commemorated in statues (some with beautiful clothes and real hair), gruesome images of martyrs, folk art thanking the Virgin for miracles, tons of statues of saints, and stained glass depicting parables.

I love the many forms of the Virgin Mary, the mysteries of the Rosary, novenas for special intentions, church music, holy days, the monstrance and tabernacle, vestments, church ladies, and community celebrations with cheap wine.

In conclusion, I have no conclusion. I guess for now I’m a cultural Catholic.  Will I go back to Mass?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I’ll always have the holy family in my heart, and I will strive to be more like Jesus.  He was a very cool guy.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Two Shiksas and a Dodge Ram Truck

Ellen and I just returned from Austin after cleaning out her student rental on West Campus.  For the past two years, Ellen has lived in the detached mother-in-law cottage behind a big house built in 1916 that was probably once very nice. 

The cottage backs onto a creek, and over the past century it has developed its own ecosystem.  There is a colony of flying spiders living in the cracked tiles behind the toilet that I believe has evolved independently and is now an entirely new species.  I discovered them when I mopped behind the toilet, an activity which had likely not been performed for decades.  They were not happy, and neither was I.

Over the years Ellen has complained about the strange noises she heard at night. I was alone in the cottage late one night and I finally understood what she meant.  I would swear there were possums having sex in the walls.

Ellen told me the cottage generated dirt, and initially I did not believe her.  But she was correct.  I would Hoover a room, turn around, and there would already be a new coat of dirt on the floor.

Over the past two years, five people have lived in the cottage.  Ellen had two sub-letters when she was studying abroad, and her housemate also had a sub-letter.  Ellen was the last one to move out.  You never want to be the last one out.

I spent a rainy afternoon locating the e-waste center in South Austin and disposing of all the broken appliances that had been left behind.  We disposed of about fifty bottles of partly used cosmetic products.  Ellen invited some friends over and we gave away many unopened food items that had been bought by aspirational college students who never quite got around to the healthy meals they intended to cook and probably just had tacos at Torchy’s instead.

There were three large furniture items that we had to move along.  Ellen had the Salvation Army truck come, but they told her the economically challenged wouldn’t want them, so we sold them to college students, who aren’t nearly so picky.

But we did have to agree to deliver the furniture: a queen-sized bed, an
overstuffed armchair, and a hefty sectional sofa. I had to trade in my rental car for a super-cab Dodge Ram pickup truck.  Those of you familiar with my entire lack of spatial relations will appreciate the terrifying prospect of me driving a truck through the tiny streets of West Campus.

Ellen and I somehow hoisted the furniture into the truck and took three 25 mph trips around Austin to deliver it.  There was a moment when the mattress and box spring were hanging off the truck bed, Ellen was in the passenger seat surrounded by sharp metal beams, and we had to cross a railroad track where I thought about everything that might go wrong.  But we persevered and ended up with only very sore backs and mosquito bites.

As we were closing up the cottage, I found a mezuzah on the windowsill and threw it in my purse.  We were running late (of course), and on our way to the airport we still had to drop off some Goodwill donations.  I was afraid that our donations would be rejected, so we paused the truck at the donation station, tossed the bags out, and sped off in our truck.

We made it to the check-in counter ten minutes before the cut-off for baggage, super-sweaty and hauling six duffel bags.  God bless the Alaska Airlines employee who calmed us down and checked the bags. 

Then only the TSA check remained before we could finally get a turkey sub and relax.  A TSA screener pulled aside my purse and asked if I had anything metal in it.  I thought hard and remembered the mezuzah.  I wanted to keep it, so I channeled everything I had learned from Fiddler on the Roof and explained what it was, how it was used, and how special it was to me and my family.  And she let me keep it!

Now Ellen and I are back in humidity-free California, looking forward to finally watching the Bachelorette Fantasy Suites episode.  Phew!