I’m kind of loving Fort Worth, Texas. (I’m here for the weekend singing with the Fort Worth Symphony in the decadent Bass Hall.) It’s refreshing to be in a downtown area where you can actually walk, and that has a visible population on the weekend. It is also 90 beautiful degrees which feels like a miracle after the initially magical, and ultimate shitter of winter that we have had this year in NY. During our umpteenth snow day my neighbor Amy shouts from across the street, “Bet California’s looking pretty good right now?” Uh, yeah...
Tess and I moved back to NY last August after spending 3 years in Orange County, Ca, where I had grown up. It was a welcome tonic to see my family again on a daily basis after 20 years living in New York City. I had always envied the people who lived in NY who had families there. As they casually mentioned, “I’m meeting my mom for coffee,” or “I’m dropping my kids off at my sister’s house,” I would pine for their familial proximity.
Tess and I didn’t move back to California lightly. Since arriving in NY in 1987, it had become my home, and the cast of New Yorkian, ecccentric souls had become my new family, but when my cagey landlord hit me with a 25% rent increase, this was during the boom, I had to concede that perhaps NYC had become inhospitable to a single, and single income earning parent who worked in theater.
My mother cheerfully offered to take us in, she was already housing my nephew, who was focusing on his masters program in college, and on weekends we were joined by his girlfriend, and now wife, so it would be a houseful of people, not unlike how my mother grew up in Long Beach, Ca during the Great Depression. She still speaks of those days as some of the happiest years of her life, when she lived with her parents, siblings, and a mixture of aunts and uncles. More is merrier, until it’s not.
My mother, Sally, was not a healthy child, suffering from crippling asthma which was treated, according to her, with a combination of marijuana, inhaled to relax the lungs, and chicken soup. Fiction became her escape. To this day, at the age of 83, the woman spends hours a day reading. Years ago, she began a system at her local library where she would put her initials on the back page of a book she had checked out and read, just in case she forgot in the future that she had already read it. (Apparently she is not the only patron using this system; I love the idea of a long list of initials in the backs of these books-readers unite!) Additionally, she is also a devoted fan of her own narrative which she parcels out whenever remotely relevant. There isn’t one person in our family who hasn’t heard every single yarn at this point, and so when we feel one coming, we take a breath, make sure we have a snack within reach, and surrender.
One such story goes that my gambling grandfather, who was my mother’s care giver due to the fact that my Grandmother was the financial rock of the family-ever resourceful, she even worked as a PT bookie among various odd jobs, set out one day to get a chicken to make some soup for Mom who was particularly ill at the time. Evidently the ganja wasn’t cutting it, and Grandpa was feeling desperate. Seeing as he didn’t have enough money, he found some back alley gaming scheme where he could roll the dice and win enough to save his little girl. He naturally wins, buys the chicken, and Mom lives.
All of her stories contain suspense, a villain, a hero, and eventually a happy ending, a simple, yet winning, recipe. After 80 years of reading, she began at age 3, this old broad knows the formula. OK readers, you should know by now where this is going...
I understand that they are rewriting Spiderman the Musical. Seriously, just call Sally.