Friday, May 13, 2005

This? Or That? Maybe the Other Thing

I have a logjam of things to talk about. This? That? The other thing?

I've been brewing up a mental storm about my sister, the one I invited to be the photographer to my second homebirth. What a fiasco! We haven't spoken in two and a half years when she left town for Japan and took with her twelve pictures of my birth which I expressly forbade her to keep. (She had copies made and didn't think I'd notice, I guess.) She's in town and I need to talk all about it here because my husband is sick of hearing about it and I don't want to put my mother in the middle of it and because she is so irritating I grind my teeth together just thinking about the photographic image of my unclothed self with a baby half-born circulating throughout Asia. If I ever go to Japan, people will recognize me from behind. (If I am devoid of clothing, that is.)

But that storm will have to continue to strengthen to hurricane force, because tonight I want to talk about my dad.

Tonight I went to a production of "Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors." I sat near the back and smiled with anticipation when the lights dimmed. A woman sang, then an actor burst onto the stage. Tears sprang to my eyes and I bit the inside of my cheek to stop myself from crying.

Why? I'm getting to be an old sap, but crying? At a romping musical? Where a stageful of men sing and prance and wave hats in the air?

Then I remembered sitting in the small audience at the Community College playhouse watching my dad on stage performing his heart out. For one play, he shaved his head to play a German spy in a spoof of some sort. I remember a bird prop going horribly wrong and the audience howling with laughter while my dad and his leading lady improvised hilarious lines.

My dad was more alive when he stood on a stage than at any other moment of his life. He emoted, he sang, he even danced a little. His eyes shone and he projected confidence and joy. He performed only in community theater, but he adored the stage. My youngest sister (not the picture-thief) has file folders stuffed with photographs of him and press clippings.

The theater itself was dingy and small, but the magic outshone the reality of that small building. The make-up, the glaring lights, the bare-bones props somehow led to a magical pot of gold and ushered us to another time and place.

I saw my dad in new light when I saw him perform, but I always wondered if maybe I were glimpsing his true self, his secret self, the self that was almost extinguished--but not quite--by his harsh father and his broken home and his desperate marriage and dismal job. At home, sometimes the actor-dad would burst through the regular scheduled monotony of our lives--job, school, job, school, job, school--and he would leap onto his tip-toes like a two-hundred pound ballerina with a goatee and sing, "I feel pretty, oh so pretty!" And I would roll my eyes at him and laugh.

So when I sit in the audience and watch actors perform, I cry, even when it's funny. Every baldish man with a goatee and a too-long nose reminds me of him. When it's over and we clap, I blink back tears. The lights come on and I look down and dig in my purse and pretend I wasn't about to cry for no reason at all.

No reason--except that for a second, I felt my dad in the room. Then the stage went dark all over again.

7 Comments:

Blogger Cuppa said...

This one brought tears to my eyes too.

It isn't the stage that brings my dad into the room, it is the smell of sawdust for me. I can walk into Home Depot and smell the wood and my dad is instantly beside me. Somedays if I am wearing a green dot I walk along and smile as I remember him, other days, the green turns quickly to blue and I am close to tears because I miss him so much.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Darling said...

I feel my Dad and all the memories whenever I hear a chainsaw or smell the particular smell that it puts out. My dad was a logger. His life was rough too.

Great post.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Wash Lady said...

Post like this are one of the many reasons that I love this blog so much.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

What a remarkable post. You must be so incredibly angry and hurt. It's so good you could feel your dad even if only for a second.

7:07 PM  
Blogger M3 (Mary-Mia) said...

What a beautiful post. I guess I'm an old sap too, because you made me cry just reading it. Thanks for sharing, your blog is one of the first places I stop every morning.

8:05 AM  
Blogger methatiam said...

It?s ironic, but the truth is that on stage, in front of hundreds of people, is one of the most intimate, private moments some of us will ever have.

It probably was his true self you glimpsed.

I know for me that being onstage is one of the places I?ve found safe enough to allow my own ?true? self out to play.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

Mel,
This post is well written, but so vulnerable, I didn't want to comment. You seem to be able to separate your own needs from your parents's inadequacies, and look on them, with all their failings, with so much compassion.

11:33 AM  

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