This is it, kids! (See what I did there?) 31 posts in 31 days! I'm pretty proud of myself, even though it's been a lonely journey. It's funny how blogging has changed so much that you can post something on the internet for the world to see and still feel like you've written it in your private journal. It's good timing for me to wrap up this little exercise, as we moved to the theater last night and I get very tired during tech week. Throughout this show, I've been leaving rehearsal more energized than when I arrive, but last night I just wilted during Act 2. Sure, it was a long night (four hours) but not nearly as long as some I've experienced, and really, it went pretty smoothly. Except for when I galloped on for one of my entrances (having forgotten it) and--once there--realized I'd entered from the wrong side. Well, I get another chance tonight. We're getting used to a stage that is not as deep as our rehearsal room (though wider) so we're having to dance closer to each other (me to Charlemagne: "You kept poking me with your sword!") and I'm realizing there are a bunch of times I'm so mushed in between people you can't really see what I'm doing anyway. That's the magic of theater.
Today's topic is an interesting one to close: "If you could go back to one point in your childhood, which would it be and why?"
It didn't take much thumbing through the memory bank to alight on fifth grade, and I justified staying there because my memories of that year are really strong. I was absolutely smitten with my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. von Kleinschmid (we called her Mrs. von K) who was beautiful and raven-haired with a bell-like laugh. She was a real champion of mine and I believe she gave me the confidence to pursue my education like a smart girl--she always made me feel I could do anything. Once she cast me as Queen Isabella in our Columbus play, and I was suddenly moved to do a lot of ad-libbing with Columbus and completely change the script, effectively writing myself a much bigger part. The class howled and beat on their desks and it was the first time in my (surprisingly, cringingly shy) childhood that I felt the sensual pleasures of pleasing an audience. Later, Mrs. von K ruffled my crazy-curly hair and said "You know what you are? You're uninhibited. Do you know what that means?" "It means I don't live here?" I said. She laughed. "Go look it up. It's a good word for you to know."
And I remember that play for another reason: the boy who played Columbus, Greg Rokos. Ah, Greg Rokos. I was not the only girl in Mrs. von K's class swayed by his considerable charms. I think we were all in love with him, even the ones who swore he had cooties. He was tan and kind of beefy of body, with long, thick, shaggy golden-brown hair and big, brown eyes. He had very white teeth and a slightly raspy voice. He was beautiful, but what I remember most about Greg is that he was kind. He seemed to know he had a community responsibility for the fragile psyches of a dozen 10-year-old girls, and he took that seriously. On Valentines Day, we each received a card with a personalized note, stuffed with candy. I wonder if I was the only one who slept with theirs under their pillow.
Greg was my first real crush, one that I sustained the entire year. I do remember the heartbreak of the last day, when we went rollerskating as a class and he skated the Couples Skate holding hands with Jennifer Pomeroy, who seemed much more mature than the rest of us. I felt slightly numb with disappointment all day, but I remember feeling like that field trip was the end of childhood in a weird way, because we were going to middle school now. I was sort of right--middle school was a lot bigger and scarier and meaner.
That year I also spent a lot of time with my two best elementary school friends, Wendy and Jill, but also with my own, new friend from class, Kristin. I slept over at her house a few times and since she was an only child, her house was quiet and serene and her mother had time to bake cakes with us and her dad took us to the movies. I also remember her parents gave us money to take ourselves (!) out to lunch, a decadent pleasure I'd never had, and that we walked to get "subs" at a hole-in-the-wall deli that is still there. I had no idea what "subs" were but was afraid to admit it. Then it turned out to be the most delicious thing I'd had so far in my life. Roast beef, swiss and mustard--the sacred trinity that I love to this day.
It was the year we invented Future Worms (a fuzzy, personalized creature that Wendy and I did a brisk business selling at recess--the market crashed when we ran out of the special fat pipe cleaners necessary for the bodies, and in the pre-internet age had no idea where to get replacements for) the year that Pop Rocks could command top dollar on the playground black market, the year I learned all the capitols, read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and spent countless hours walking the school track with my friends, puzzling over the details.
But you know what? My real answer is I wouldn't want to go back to any point in my childhood, and here's why. Even in a magical year when I discovered both theater and love, my happy memories are clearly all of school. Though I've blocked a lot of it, that would have been the year my parents split up and were living apart, trying to decide whether or not to divorce (they ultimately didn't.) There was a lot of screaming and a lot of things said that I didn't even understand except that they were bad. My dad bought us two hamsters--since we'd never had pets at home--and one morning discovered that the larger one had eaten the head of the smaller one, which pretty much sums up what it was like to be the oldest child, caught in the middle of their crumbling relationship.
I'm pretty hazy on the details of my home life during that time, but that's okay. I have no desire to go back and have my memory refreshed. And I'm sure that goes for any other time that I now recall through a golden scrim of nostalgia. I'm happy for those times to stay that way--distant, indistinct, and--whether happy or sad--not visceral. Just a part of my history. Onward.