Tuesday, February 2, 2010

No Poems About Groundhogs

Hope is the thing with feathers, said Emily Dickinson, and while it certainly created a line that would live for decades, I have realized my hope arrives every year in far more pedestrian form, say buck teeth and a fat backside.

January is a month where I dream of the tropics, and hang on till the end.  If it wasn't for my sister and Dr. King, I'd say there isn't a bright spot in the entire freaking lunar cycle.

But on February 2nd, every year I feel hope rising.  I know the tradition is stupid and pagan, and Phil almost never predicts correctly.  But for some incredible reason, on Groundhog Day life may look cold and bleak, but I know the world really is turning on its axis.  And with just a few more spins it will resume its bow to the sun and I will once again feel the kiss of the heavens on my cheek instead of a dope slap on the back of my head when I leave the house.

After all, there's just something about a month that holds Cupid, Abraham Lincoln, the countdown to  Easter, a celebration of Esther, the Father of our Country, and one lovable rodent, all in 28 (or 29) days, that gives a person reason to believe that anything is possible.

Even Spring.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The 2nd Shift: Or Vocational Options for those who like Legos

Many years ago we lived in the town of Midland, Michigan,  a time in our lives of lots of togetherness.  The first snow of our first year fell on October 15 and the last one fell 6 months later.  I had four small children, the grocery store was only 10 minutes away, and still there were days it was so cold that tuna and chocolate chips looked like a mighty fine dinner to me.  You could get one child into a car seat and begin buckling the second, but usually at that point there was a diaper to change.

And so, what we did, during those two cold years when four children turned into five and going out meant shoes and coats to the 10th power, was watch a lot of movies and take a lot of naps.  If you couldn't sleep you had something we euphemistically referred to as a "quiet time."

Matty was days old, the youngest child, and would sleep on top of the refrigerator if I put him there. Hannah and Mary Glen shared a room and while they occasionally slept, mostly they redecorated, perfected hair and makeup techniques, and ran complex business operations out of their pink and purple headquarters.  Rayner dozed off in 45 seconds, slept for two hours and then practiced climbing furniture.  But Daniel, took his daily break from leading the tribe as only a hard-working man could.  He played horses and Legos for hours, talking to himself long enough that he actually got tired and then took a nap.

I didn't know it at the time, but I had created a night owl.  While reading some guilt-inducing sleep book, I realized I had sold my child's REM to the devil in exchange for a little selfish quiet.  I confided my fears to a neighbor, hoping for one of those, "Oh no, it will all be fine," responses and instead she said brightly, "Well, he can always work the 2nd shift."

I remembered that remark this weekend when I traveled to Dallas to see him living the life that all of those late nights and Lego dreams prepared him to live.  It is, in fact, the 2nd Shift, though not the one my long-ago neighbor imagined--Daniel Fredrick is an actor.

He is hideously modest, so I will do my best to keep this post at the lowest Jewish Mother decibel I can, but I will tell you, it is an amazing thing as a parent to see your child doing the thing which God created them to do.  This is the fourth professional show he has done since he graduated from TCU in May, and each time he walks onstage, my heart constricts  and my eyes well up because lord almighty he is good at what he does.

Eager to learn, he has looked to his more experienced colleagues and observed like a sponge.    But mostly, he understands that talent will never be enough--that what he does is a job, one that demands as much sweat and labor as any 2nd shift in town and which, because of those moments of  glory that guys on the line will never have, he is fortunate to possess.                  

Yet, these days there is no time for napping--time and money are often in short supply and it takes the 1st and the 2nd shift to keep life going.  I see the questions in his eyes that ask if all those big dreams are enough, once you wake up and real life is upon you.  The answer, of course, is yes...with one small addition.

Hope is the dream of the waking man, said Diogenes.

If you have that, it doesn't matter when you go to bed.

*Cast of WaterTower Theatre's Laughter on the 23rd Floor