Friday, July 20, 2012

Leading my Sheep

“Peace be with you”,  I said to my congregation. “And also with you”, I imagined them saying in response.

I had learned to read before entering Kindergarten and now, at the age of five, I was saying Mass, using a borrowed church missalette to guide me. I stood behind an 18 inch tall wooden piano bench, my altar, and a devout group of stuffed animals sat at one of two pews, the three foot long foam pillows taken from the den’s day bed. The den, sunny and warm, was set a few rooms away from the kitchen where Mom often worked, baking cookies or the evening’s dinner.

Did Mom ever tip toe over to the den’s doorway to eavesdrop on my homilies? If she did, I never noticed, for I was a serious priest who led her sheep faithfully. I was not easily distracted. When it came time for communion, I turned to the plate of thumb-pressed pieces of cheap white bread and placed an ecumenical host in front of each sheep, dog, kitty, elephant, or lion.

“You can’t be a priest you know”, my brother Kevin told me one day, “but you could be a nun”. I shook my head in protest. I did not want to become a nun. Nuns do not say Mass and that is the most exciting part of it all. Anyone knows that!

[The above is a "scene" that might be inserted in my current memoir project. This could be the start of a longer essay piece or part of a chapter, or both. I don't have time tonight to complete it, as other homework looms over me, but I wanted to share it as I had a lot of fun writing it this morning].  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

With Full Force

Understand, I am always trying to figure out what I am meant to be doing with my time. Now, don’t misunderstand me. It dawned on me a few years ago as Sydney was preparing to leave for college, when we were up late talking about my own decisions made at age 18, that all I ever truly wanted, really really wanted in my life was to be a good Mom. Still, I stopped to think about the choices I’d made 20+ years ago. Was I a coward to have dismissed my dream of acting on Broadway’s stages, living in that loft New York City apartment, falling in love with each new leading man? Should I have jumped onto those baby grands at the piano bars and belted out jazzy tunes to those nursing their drinks at little round tables? Was my fall into teaching that calling that I often believe it to be when I am told how I never seem to stop smiling and laughing when I am surrounded by teenagers...when I am told how my eyes light up with mischief and delight as I act and sing in front of impressionable sixteen year olds? And if none of my decisions--to marry my high school sweetheart at age 20, to have three children by the time I was 31, or to dedicate myself to teaching teens--were mistakes, then why do I play with the possibilities of other paths, other choices, other lives I might have led?

I think it is because I know there is more to come...that’s why I am here, typing away at this school borrowed laptop, surrounded by other souls whose own paths have led them to devote a week of their summertime to writing memoir. Because I have thrown myself into the worlds of acting and singing and teaching with the full force of everything I am and everything I know, to then feel it deeply that I am good enough there, in each of those worlds, to be content, to be happy, and to serve others. There are audiences there who have recognized my efforts and who have seen my heart. I’ve moved them. But the desire to live longer and broader than I presently have, to make a positive impression on someone who might never meet me, to inspire another to continue to do good in this world before they leave it, THIS is what I wonder if I can do next.

Understand, I am always trying to figure out what I am meant to be doing with my time. It’s not limitless. I was reminded of that last night. Alisha, a former student, a dear girl, died at the age 26 Sunday night, on the roads of Albany, NY. Ten miles south of where I’d been just two days before. That's much too young to die. Isn't it?! I want to reach the end and know that I lived my life with wonder and with every thing I had to give.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

In Thirty Minutes

In thirty minutes I leave to meet up with fellow participants at the Stonecoast Writers’ Conference. Tonight is set aside for our first check in, registration, and a commencement address. I’m feeling intimidated, out of my league, jittery...very, very small. Two nights ago I returned from an eleven day road trip with my daughter, son, and husband. Although I was filled with anxiety prior to leaving on this adventure--for I am such a worrier--I lived in the moment during those days, soaking in the sights of the different locations we visited, taking stock of how nice most people are, even when they are strangers, and reminding myself often of the speed in which the days of our lives race by, faster than those city drivers who have escaped to the freeway and who seem to enjoy honking at our van when they spot the Maine license plates.

Since getting home, safe and sound, I find myself reflecting upon how funny life can be. How emotions can sneak up on you at the strangest of times, such as when I almost cried when trying to explain to a salesclerk that the new dress my daughter was wearing had a security tag that hadn’t been taken off the day before, or when it seems God has sent you an angel in the form of the big line-backer of a hotel desk clerk who takes one look at you and who listens to the story of your recent stay in a New York City closet of a hotel room, and then decides to upgrade you to a full on suite at the lowest rate he can give you. Or the friendly waiter who, more comfortable speaking Spanish than English, tries to give you the recipe for that salsa that your 12 year old boy is wolfing down in record time.

With thirty minutes to go before I throw on a sundress and a pair of sandals, taking a quick minute to measure my face in the mirror as I think of how poorly I’ve done with that promise to drop some pounds in the past month, I try to remind myself of how sweet it’s been of friends to tell me that I’ll do great at this week of writing, and of how my husband reminded me of the importance of being confident and proud of who I am and the silliness of thinking I need to be anything different. Taking to heart this morning’s homily at Mass, it’s time for me to shake off the dust on my shoes if I should meet anyone who discounts my voice or what I have to say. It’s time for me to be open to the blessings this week will present to me, for I know there will be many. It’s time to smile at that reflection in the mirror, extra pounds, new wrinkles and all, and to have courage to continue my journey, not only as a writer, but as little ol’ worry wart, emotional, hopeful, anxious, excited, jittery, but also beautiful-in-my-own-skin me.