Friday, June 25, 2010


I love ballroom dance.  Twyla Tharp is amazing.  And Frank Sinatra is very cool too.  Yet, the three of them together?????????

We were not disappointed in our dinner at Carmines the night before we went to our last show. We should have listened to James though, our effeminate waiter with an attitude.  James was rather aloof until we started talking with him about theater.  We had just seen MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET, enjoyed it and over a garlicky, pasta con vongole began planning what production we should see next. 

On a hunch, I thought James just might be the guy to give us the inside scoop and sure enough, we find out he never misses an On Broadway or Off for that matter, show.  In between bites, our conversation was peppered with plays we loved, those we weren’t too impressed with and those we haven’t yet seen. 

Our next choice for our New York stay was to see COME FLY AWAY, but James emphatically suggested that we skip it.  With a flick of the wrist, he said, “don’t be bothered”.  Since we seemed to have similar taste, his advice was very much appreciated, until, he suggested we see AVENUE Q, the Muppet play.  Oops, all credibility instantly evaporated, even as he enthusiastically tried to pitch the artistry and humor of this show not unlike a Broadway critic.  Upon leaving the restaurant, we decided to wait and see which productions would be available at the half price window.

My husband is not your average jock.  He speaks Italian fluently, is well read, invests wisely, possesses an uncultivated musical aptitude and is an adept conversationalist.  Dance wise, he’s better than the average joe (translation, I don’t have to lead when we dance together).  He also appreciates a good show.  So, when the half price tickets for COME FLY AWAY came available the next day at the ticket booth, we bought them.

Not 3 minutes into the show, my husband was wriggling like a first time, bridled colt.  He kept looking at me with a pathetic frown, appalled that we just spent our money and last night in New York to watch what was essentially a ballroom dance production with not a word spoken from the cast.  What was Twyla thinking? I had a sinking feeling this was not going to be enjoyed by all.

Throughout the first “act” on and on he went, voice just a tad too loud, “this reeks, this is NOT what I paid for, or give me a break”.   My daughter was amused by his antics not bothered in the least.  Sinking lower and lower in my seat, I was not amused, but put up with his venting, shushing him only when it seemed to disturb our seatmates.  I kept reminding him every time he wanted to boo instead of clap that we were not at a ballgame.

At intermission, he stormed out with daughter in tow to see if they could “sneak” into the play across the street, THE ADAMS FAMILY.  Again I reminded him we were not at a ballgame. I was secretly hoping he could get in though as I was embarrassed of his gesticulations, mutterings and cursings. He came back at the end of intermission.  ADAMS FAMILY SOLD OUT until September. Shoot!  That explains why it was not available at the half price window downtown.

Second “act” begins.  The eternal optimist, I was hopeful for a stronger finish. By the end of the first number I had to acknowledge that my husband really did have a point.  The dancers were very skilled; the orchestra was fantastic, who doesn’t love Frank’s crooning.  But the choreography, it was like watching the same dance over and over and over again.  For two hours!  Very disappointing.

At the end, some people actually stood up to applaud, reminding us of the varied audience and what some people hate, others love.  For us however, we should have listened to James.  Next time, Muppets!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Graduate!

I did not cry at my daughter’s college graduation.  People told me I would.  I thought that I would.  I just sat through 3 hours of pageantry anxiously awaiting a 5 second announcement of her name as she walked across the stage, shaking hands with dignitaries, a radiant smile across her face.

The pavilion was lovely with banners, beautiful plants strategically placed to conceal the risers leading to the stage.  The symphonic band played a piece from Carmen as well as the traditional Pomp and Circumstance March while graduates filed in, all with black tassels, some with black and gold, the distinguished gold representing some outrageous cumulative GPA.  All 1250 grads bounced in, lightness in their steps, tassels swaying side to side.  I scanned the faces of the diverse audience, people from all backgrounds, all colors, all proud of their own children, with their own unique stories. 

In the 90 degree heat while waiting to enter the pavilion, my husband ever the competitor, would quietly whisper in my ear as grads in their gowns walked past, black, black, black, black and gold, black, black, black.  A bit of comedy, a relief as we anxiously awaited our entrance.  Our daughter wore black and gold.

I wish I weren’t so critical of speakers.  I tried to find some degree of inspiration in the welcome and keynote address.  After all, these are well-respected individuals, accomplished and worthy of being selected to speak to the masses.  Nothing.  I sat there frustrated hoping that any of them might say something that we don’t already know. Honorable in their intentions, I kept searching for something, anything subtle that might inspire these graduates.  Rather, the message in part, was bleak with global economic concerns peppered throughout.

Attention all family, friends and anyone who happens to interact with a recent college graduate.  Please do not mention how bad the economy is.  These kids know this all too well. This does not motivate or inspire them.  They should be basking in the glory of their accomplishments, hopeful for their futures.  Ready to put their knowledge to task, eager for financial independence and to make their way in a world that is ever changing. Not be reminded how difficult it will be. At least not on the day they graduate college.

After the ceremony, she told us about the blue stole she wore over her gown.  It is the stole of gratitude to be given to someone who has inspired and supported her throughout her life.  She gave it to us. 

Our family celebration was memorable, good food, tasty drink, laughter, toasts to our daughter and her roommates.  Many a memory passed through my mind as the night wore on.  I felt myself drift back at different stages of her life, of my life and of how I’ve loved every moment of it.  And then came the letter.

She handed us a hand written letter she wrote back in September 2009, on the first day of her last year of college.  The contents are too intimate to share, but just imagine what you’d want a child you’ve raised to say to you. 

My daughter has had a blessed life.  And she recognizes that.  We are partly responsible for that. But mostly, she is, with the options she’s considered, the choices she’s made and the lessons she’s learned. I am profoundly proud of her and not because of her accomplishments. I am proud of her curiosity.  I’m proud of her kindness and compassion.  In all that she does, there is evidence of excellence and grace.  I am proud of the young woman she has become.

The stole drapes our mirror.  The letter sits on the dresser to be read and reread over and over.  As I looked at it before I shut my eyes after a very long day, on the day that I did not shed a tear, that’s when I cried. I cried my own river, tears of love and gratitude.

On our refrigerator is a well worn poem from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.  I have it’s essence memorized.

            For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
            You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
            The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you
            with His might that His arrow goes swift and far.

            Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness:
            For even as He loves the arrow that flies so He loves also the bow that is

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Putting Digits In Places They Shouldn't Be!

Had a student today who got his finger stuck inside a test tube.  It was really quite stuck.  I knew something was up when I saw about 12 different shoulders around the room shaking as they heroically tried to conceal their laughter.  This young man’s finger continued to get whiter and whiter right before my eyes.

Remaining calm, I tried to dislodge the tube.  Nothing.  I suggested he carefully rotate it.  It wouldn’t budge. He tried soap and cold water.  Still stuck. Meanwhile chaos is breaking out in my class, as my lesson becomes completely derailed.  Finally, I sent this wily young man to the office.  Our secretaries are miracle workers raising six kids between the two of them.  With them in charge, I was completely confident all would be ok. 

Forgetting about the lesson du jour, I masterfully got the students back in some degree of order by sharing my own story of getting my knee stuck between the rails of a balcony.  Same kind of curiosity, I remembered wondering at the time how far I could thrust my knee between the rails.  Inch by inch, I kept pushing and before I knew it, my knee was stuck and swelling right before my eyes and in front of lots of strangers at a popular Las Vegas hotel!  

Many of the students listening to my story of humiliation shot up their hands eager to tell their own stories of heads, arms, fingers stuck in places they shouldn’t be.   The laughter was refreshing while we waited for finger tube boy to return.  We returned to the science lesson on "total internal reflection" careful now to use the equipment properly.

Shortly after he left, the young man reemerges grinning ear to ear, test tube in tack and finger returning to a lovely shade of pink. 

I just couldn’t get mad at this kid.  He’s only twelve after all. I too got my knee unstuck, but not without a tremendous amount of embarrassment. The excuse for me however, was not youth but sheer stupidity.  I was after all 51 years old when this happened.