Friday, August 16, 2013


I should have known that preparing my grandkids for the annual expedition to the Shakespeare Festival would not be as easy as it might seem at first. 

I naively thought that traveling several hundred miles to Cedar City (aka Stratford Upon Avon) and several hundred years back in time, I could bridge the gap between the Great Poet and my boys, so they will like it as I like it.

What a splendid tradition.  I was prepared to Rock the Bard.

And so with reckless zest and an exuberant lust for potato chips and playwrights, I began my narrative, scaled appropriately to the size and age of my boys, (even Shakespeare’s comedies can be a complex labyrinth of wit and metaphor.)  I thought I’d challenge myself by delivering the monologue in iambic pentameter, but switched to prose after the first mangled rhymed couplet. (“Lay off, Macduff, I’ve had enough!”)

The day was autumnal and subtly musky, a midsummer day’s dream, perfect for my grand oration.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done…a comedy of errors.

I began with a brief synopsis of one of Shakespeare’s early comedies, “Love’s Labor’s Lost.”
The play revolves around the king of Navarre and a trio of his friends, who resolve to dedicate the next three years to fasting, study and celibacy.

So far, so good. 

However, my ambitious intentions abruptly vaporized when one of the kids, befuddled by the term “celibacy,” requested further clarification.  He might as well have asked for a pound of flesh.

“Well,” I began, “celibacy is like if you and your friends made a pact not to text a girl for three straight years, because you only wanted to read books and subsist on a starvation diet of thin gruel and rain water.”

I continued, “This is also known as deprivation.  It is how you become enlightened.”

(That seemed to stretch credulity, but greater elaboration would only have made things seem even more peculiar.) The boys sat there, hesitant and a bit hapless.

Kid 1:  Did they text in those days? 

Me:  Uh, depends on what you mean by “text.”  Mostly they wrote sonnets. They wooed the women, and the women swooned.  This is what was known as courtly love.  No Josh, not Courtney Love, the rocker. 

I was aglow with articulation, when I launched into the next portion of my discourse – comic relief.  
Basically this centered on the world’s oldest playwright taking poetic license with the world’s oldest profession…a matter of delicacy to be approached cautiously, measure for measure.

These clowns or fools are usually disheveled, flatulent, and humorous, and would stagger and burp in foolish behavior that might indicate they were genetically challenged and socially inept…sort of a perpetual state of pre-pubescence.  But they are a congenial distraction that the audience instantly recognizes and appreciates, and can render relief when the play’s action becomes intense.

And then there’s Falstaff – definitely not a fop or buffoon – more like a comedic corpulent sumo wrestler. 

And, these characters are sometimes disfigured because of the pox.  Shakespeare was a genius at low comedy.

Kid 2:  What’s the pox?  Is that like chicken pox?  Did they catch it from chickens?

Me:  Uh, no.  But you can get it from chicks.  So don’t text before marriage.

I tried to disguise my mirth at my own wit and obviously succeeded – I was the only one snickering.

I was finding no recognizable center of gravity, when I made the monumentally useless observation that 
Shakespeare was very bawdy. 

Josh:  Yeah, Shakespeare had a big body, like Falstaff.


I would have been moronically negligent to have pursued that line of reasoning any further, so I simply said that Shakespeare was largely bawdy, because it was central to the characters of many of his plays.  
(I should have stuck with a treatise on the guilt of Hamlet’s mother – a much simpler concept.)

At the end, we’d all deteriorated into the realm of the chronically confused.  I had delusions of Birnam Wood approaching, so I thought it best to conclude the narrative. (Besides, I was becoming shrewish, and obsessively rubbing my hands trying to get the stain out.)

Later on, in a tone of sweet reason and a speech delivered trippingly off the tongue, I appealed to my daughters to have “The Talk” with their offspring before next year’s play, “Henry IV, Part 1”  The kids need to know about the “Bards and bees” to fully appreciate Shakespeare, and I’M NOT THE ONE TO TELL THEM!

Meanwhile, we managed to get through an evening of “Love’s Labor’s Lost” without collateral damage – although I was noticeably bruised and limping.  The kids loved the play and laughed at the right places, so I guess it was much ado about nothing. 

All’s well that ends well.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

As Time Goes By

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s later than we think. 

“And what is so rare as a day in June?”  The answer to James Russell Lowell’s query is, “Nothing.” 

Perfect days seem to be sequestered in this glorious month. 

I love summer.  It is a mysterious season of the year, and seems to pass at its own pace.  It is saturated with sweet memories and sensory sensations.  It has its own rites and rituals.

Lowell says:
“Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;

Everything is happy now,…

And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,

The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;…”

I’m not so sure the heart is stricken with cardiac alzheimers, but it does experience blessed memory loss, and for a while, we are out of sync with the rigid rhythm of the rest of the year, when, like working a Rubik’s Cube, we frantically try to get all the dates and time slots of our routine to align.   

Summer heals.  It arrives with regularity thanks to millennia of predictable established pattern.  It is packed with solar endorphins, and we all become sunshine junkies.  It is wise to invest its moments well.

But it’s  August.  And I am detecting harbingers of fall, even though not a single leaf has changed its color.  Nothing tangible.  But it’s getting late early, which makes me think that time is more a psychological phenomenon than an immutable force of nature.

The days are still long and hot.  Morning is not at 7…more like 6:15. 
My grandkids’ feet are calloused and brown from going barefoot and feral, and their sun-brilliant hair is worthy of shampoo commercials.

Summer used to be right around the corner.  All the ads were advising us to get liposuction so we’d be bikini-ready. 

But we have summited summer.  Corner fruit stands overflow with produce that only last week were spring blossoms. Mid-summer boredom has settled in with a vengeance, and the kids are reduced to making blanket angels on my bed like inebriated revelers.  The other day, Abram, channeling his inner adolescent, chased his brother with a broom full of cobwebs as Josh hollered, “Don’t tase me, Bro!”  I was forced to make them sign a pact of non-aggression. Weary mothers of restless children form support groups and intentionally addict their offspring to “Candy Crush” just to get a few minutes respite…and in moments of monotonous mind-numb, consider intentionally anesthetizing the children with Twinkie-induced stupors.

Where does the time go?  Nostalgia strikes early and often. Time seems scarce.  I find myself humming autumnal tunes with nostalgic lyrics like “As time goes by,” and “These precious days I’ll spend with you.” 

I want to hug my little tribe to my bosom.   (In the total absence of cleavage, I must be careful they don’t concuss on my sternum.)

Each day surrenders a minute or two of light to the earth’s orbital and narcissistic shift.  And while it is hardly perceptible, I do not relinquish them willingly.

The last float of the Pioneer Day parade, of course, ushers in the Christmas Season, and soon winter will once again take up residency with the brutality of the Roman coliseum.

Perhaps the internal-timing device in my brain is marking pockets of experience that imprint on my mind and heart, causing me to reminisce even as new memories are created.

Perhaps the older I get, the faster time passes. I don’t know. The days dwindle down to a precious few. I suppose the universe organizes itself and corrects itself, in keeping with ancient symmetry.  Summer is comprised of perfect days, and autumn of nostalgia.

I do know that our grandkids are growing up too fast.  Tempus fugit.  It really is later than I thought.  When I need to gauge the passage of time, I just hold up my arms and let the skin fall in crepey folds and pool in the crook of my elbows.  I suppose if I counted the folds, it would correctly reflect the amount of time that has passed.

At dinner on Sunday, Abram and Josh wanted to try on their grandpa’s shoes for size.  They needed new ones for church.  Surprisingly, the shoes fit just about perfectly…although there is still room to grow. 

I advised the boys not to just wear the shoes – fill them.

They will – eventually – as time goes by.