Sunday, 20 December 2009

On Why's and Who's......

"Why did I hug the actress lady after the show mummy?"

We have just come back from watching Washington Choral's society Family Christmas Concert. Two young actresses, 15 at the most were enacting a Mexican story about children enacting the christmas story. They enacted our little son into a lovestruck trance clearly. I know this because my answer to his question above was:

"I don't know, why did you hug her?"
(I'm training him up to be one of those Knock-Knock gag writers
so he can get himself through college)
And then he, unflinchingly earnest looked me square in the eyes and said, with his brown eyes suddenly chocolate infinity pools,
"Because I love her."

Aaaah. The magic of theatre. That's what we like to see.

It has been a week of revelatory conversations of the like. Usually inspired during post performance de-brief. The other day after watching a free performance in the foyer of the Kennedy centre (a marvel in marble all 1960s glamour and red carpet where a stage in set up complete with proscenium and tabs) Sam asked me what we had just been listening to. I replied that it was a performance by a gospel group, and by the by, goose pimply it was too. When he asked why it was called Gospel I explained a little about Jesus' followers. The next bit of the inquisition went as follows:

"Who is Jesus?"
I take a moment to ponder my answer for clarity and quality control. Before I can offer a response he continues,
"Was he the one saying ladies and gentlemen switch off your phones?"
I gently point our son towards a slightly more commonly accepted opinion of the man and then point out that people tend to pray to all sorts of different people and gods and such like. I don't want to lay it on heavy with the kid, but if he is going to survive life back in London he needs to know not everyone prays to the theatre gods.
"Who do we pray to?"
I take another uncharacteristic pause to think before I jump onto a metaphysical plane at bed time - though in reality this probably is the best time for such discussions. He is in answering his own questions before me yet again. (Note to self: pausing is a good thing on the never ending road of "WHY'S????")

"We pray to Patricia and Susan. Yeah?" he offers.

Let me explain a little more before you think we are conducting ritualistic pagan white witch idolatry, though come to think of it, no no what my son was referring to was our church visit last week. My aunt Patricia died two years ago on December 12th. She was a Catholic (and an expert of Jewish cooking but thats another story) and so mum and I thought it fitting to pay a church a visit and light a candle for her. When we found a cathedral in downtown Chicago we were told that "candle lighting" was only done on certain festivities. Stifling a tear and determined not to break down in front of kindly but slightly officious man in the rectory I managed a quick "Can we at least say a prayer?" he softened and showed us the way in. As we entered the church there were people genuflecting and praying all with luscious red roses in their hands. We came to learn that we had stumbled in towards the end of a service for the Madonna of Guadalupe. A mexican had a vision of the virgin and a festival is celebrated in memory this. No sooner than Sammy had, in his stage Whisper asked whether it was time for him to pray for Patricia than an elderly man came over to the boy, who was fast disappearing behind the pew as he knelt down.
"This is for you sir," he said, offering Sam the rose which was graciously accepted.
We lay the flower on the pew whilst Sam clasped his hands together and closed his eyes looking every inch the novice monk. We sent her our love and other teary thoughts on more love and loss and life. She was cremated with a very simple bouquet of a dozen red roses on her coffin. It all felt, well, quite masterfully orchestrated. She felt, as always so intangibly present.

The explanation of Susan is somewhat different. The short version is that she is the principal of the commune, sorry I mean Waldorf nursery, that Sam went to for a few hours every week in Chicago. She lead the children in a blessing before they ate their lunch, which they had helped to prepare. We have learnt it here in our home, and enjoy saying it every day. I don't sing it in soprano as she did, nor do I wear organic dyed cotton wrap dungaree dresses but the bit about praising Mother Earth gets me every time. I miss our allotment. I like a good praising of the earth and munching on the home grown tis true.

But hey, I have drowned my sorrows in the best way a girl can. Feasting on chocolate in DC's co-co salon. Just those two words in the same sentence oozes luxuriousnessness. So did the crushed latte coloured velvet upholstery, the dimmed lighting, the utter deliciousness of the dark chocolate ganache drinking elixirs. We went for the trio version, in which you get three sherry sized glasses of their various flavours, in our case, dark, milk and salty caramel. Then you sip and ooh and aaaaaah and fly home. Especially if you have a mocha, served in a bowl like whatsit, and a cassis choco macadamia mountain of sweet-toothed engineering to go with it. Credit on the menu is given to the "designer" of the sweets. You've got to love a little pretention here and there and especially when it tastes this good. Our visit was perfectly timed after our after our stroll about the city's christmas market. White tents huddled together in the cold sheltering the art works of town's creatives. Cashmere recycled dresses, glass craft, painting and everything else imaginable off the budget. The sellers must know their market, and in a town awash with lawyers and politicians it is likely they will have the buyers I would imagine.

And then, back home, the weather news came on. Storm Watch played on a loop over most of that Friday afternoon delivering dramatic (with a capital D) descriptions of the snowy treachery that was about to descend. Across the top of the TV read "Nor'Easter". Yes that good ole North Easterly front had set the DC area as its target. Two feet of snow later we are still marvelling at the steady 24 hour snowfall and reminiscing of our snowman work, which by the way has since been shovelled away by the hotel staff. Our street is a winter postcard. My favourite bit of the newsreader's fizz was when he joyfully prepared us for "thunder" snow. We all looked somewhat perplexed and braced for a storm in the true sense. We were left, gratefully, unrequited. Who wants to play in the snow whilst it thunders? I mean really.

So thats christmas covered I spose. Snow has snowed, the tree is up, the popcorn strings have been strung, Santa is definately part of our son's subconscious (though we are using the advent calendar more to mark Grandad's arrival on Boxing day rather than the jolly red man) and the topic of religion has been broached. There is only one thing missing. An oven. I know I know, we have the bimbo, and she has been behaving marvellously especially as we are down to two gas rings in our DC home, but sauteed turkey was never meant to be on the menu. We will just have to sniff out some establishment or other for a slap up christmas eve dinner me thinks.

Cory has a show on christmas day (?!) so overindulgence on the day itself is probably not a great idea. This is a place where film are released on christmas day. People go to the movies on christmas day. No queens speeches to be slouched in front of the telly for over here. Or maybe I just need to accept that not everyone in the world must needs eat too much on the 25th december without always needing to know why. Call me old fashioned. Go ahead call me a glutton. Nothing another 5k on the treadmill won't remedy.

Yes thats right. I am still hobbling from it. Did I mention 5k? I didn't? Sorry I though I had already said 5k somewhere. No? Then mention it I must. Sorry, a little gloating must surely be in order from the almost converted run-a-phobe. I was inspired by Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in Invictus. I am knee high in Bafta screeners at the moment and mum and I are watching a couple a night so that I can make my votes really count.

"I am the master of my soul" is one of the famous lines from his favourite Victorian poem. Yes its a sport-politic flick but it touches on a lot of the things I am passionate about. If the man can survive a 27 year purgatory surely I can go another few minutes on the gerbilmobile. Pool of sweat and tight calves later I am celebrating my achievements with a fat glass of water. Living on the edge baby. Back to movie watching I spose. Mum dozes next to me, boyo dreams of his actress lady, me tip tapping the keys. Our tree is twinkling at me in the corner there. I think our house is becoming a home.

Wherever we lay our hat.......and trunk and five suitcases and hamper and train set and and and....


  1. Best wishes for a very merry Christmas and Happy New year to you and your family. I've enjoyed reading about your adventures.

    PS - The Kennedy Center event will be televised, right?

  2. I woke up this morning way too early and could not go back to sleep. Ah, and here it is on the day we Westerners of Christian connection have decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Celebrating is good, and the warmth and hope of the celebration is good for those of us who live north of the equator. We tend to need a good word just before the New Year begins.

    As always, I was delighted to read how Sammy’s inquiries and processing forces you and Cory to ponder anew and decide where you will come down on the issues relevant to your boy wonder. I continue to be amazed at how your journey seems to be in the mysterious flow of something bigger than your plans. I think that the blend of plans and dreams and living on the edge opens you to the flow of what might be called God’s spirit by many of us and other names by many others. We make our plans, we pursue our dreams, but we can only marvel at the mysterious and perhaps embrace it as the sign of One Greater than us who loves us deeply. I am thinking of the roses in the church, which is not the first time that you have marveled at mysterious provision and the joyful nudging to adventure.

    Ah, perhaps too much reflection on my part for YOUR blog. You say things with such energy and humor. I am glad that you are developing and sharing this gift.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the CBS airing of the Kennedy Centre Tribute show. I will record it. It will be fun to watch even though my favorite actor’s offering did not make the efficiency cut. Knowing that you guys were there will add to the auspiciousness of the event.

  3. We love your comments Ken. So insightful and thought provoking. Please continue to share your ponderings at whatever time!!!! Much love to you and Helen from all us mottley crew.