Monday, August 22, 2011

Love, more

Once again, I return from blogging oblivion - and vacation mode - to acknowledge the boys' birthday. They turn 11 today. And as is my custom they get their own letters.


Dear little man,

I recently read in Sophie's World (a fictional novel about the history of philosophy) the following quote:

"The most subversive people are those who ask questions."
You, my son, are the most subversive of subversive people.

When you and your brother were less than two years old, I encouraged you both to use words to describe how you felt, in an attempt to thwart the oncoming "terrible twos". I thought if you could articulate what was going on inside your brain you would be able to calmly explain your toddler angst with grace and dignity.

That clearly didn't happen. But it did lead to a relative asking, incredulously, if you as a 20-month-old had explained you were feeling blue. You were able to saying that you were sad by using the word "blue".

Fast forward to today. This has been a year of incredible horrors - the shooting of an elected official and murder of others in Arizona, natural and man-made calamities in Japan, gruesome mass slaying in Norway, drownings and murders closer to home, the return of an old man to our big city that was on the FBI's most wanted list. And through it all you keep asking questions. Hard questions. About the root of evil. About goodness. The details of events. Who did it. Why they did it. Why didn't their parents stop them. As if an 81-year-old man has parents who are still alive to punish him.

Sometimes your questions wear me down and I just say "that is all I know". And you stew. I don't know what your stewing about. Is it that I let you down. That I couldn't answer all your questions. That I am fallible.

Or, maybe, are you realizing there are still questions to answer. Still mysteries - some great, some horrible - that need to be solved. Are you realizing that you could be the one to answer one of them? Maybe several?

Because I knew when you were nearly two years old. When you were telling me that you were blue.

Happy birthday little man. I love you,



Dear little man,

During 2010 you were two musicals within 8 months of each other with the amateur theater group our family is a part of. You played a young gambler in Guys and Dolls and had a solo in "Learn Your Lessons Well" in Godspell. The director, Diane, made it clear that she had plans for you in future productions. One of them was to resurrect a simple staging of Amahl and the Night Visitor. Diane was the only one who would mount that show and she had been waiting for a boy to become old enough to handle the singing. You were even given the music to get to know it.

Then Diane got sick. We didn't understand how sick. She had cancer and was dead in a matter of weeks. You were devastated. Within a week of her dying you had to write a school essay about someone who made a big difference in your life.

This is what partly what you wrote:

The person that made a big difference in my life is Diane W. First, she was a beautiful singer, and she acted. Next, we attended the same church. Last, she got sick 5 weeks ago. We had big plans for future shows....

The effect she had on me was important. First, I am more confident on stage, and this carries in the outside world. Also, she made me more mature. To conclude, I know more songs because of her. She made a big difference in my life.

You cried as you wrote this. But you worked through it. To write this tribute to Diane. And to show that you will always make music. And act. And sing.

Earlier this month we all saw All Shook Up, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night set to Elvis' songs. And you have already decided that the first post-Diane production of our little community theater group will be All Shook Up. And you're going to be the lead. The Elvis character.

And Diane would've loved it.

Happy Birthday. I love you,

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Happiness

Dear daughter,

Your confidence continues to amaze me. It is as if you have a core of steel. You will boldly try a new task, dance move or experience with barely a blink. Although as you turn 7 years old it seems that strong confidence is starting to become a bit shaky. You complain that certain steps in ballet are too hard. Your bicycle peddles are not properly placed for you to get started. You can't figure out a math problem. But then you are presented a challenge and never look back.

Last fall you were the second youngest cast member in an intergenerational production of Godspell. For the final dress rehearsals the actress playing John the Baptist/Judas had laryngitis. Heading into opening night it was becoming apparent she wasn't going to be able to sing the opening to "Prepare Ye" as she walked from the back of the hall towards the stage. An hour before the show the director asked me if you could sing "Prepare Ye" by yourself, walking in front of the actress. I said yes but only if you agreed.

Of course you agreed.

After the opening song you appeared at the back of the hall, arms outstretched singing

"Prepare ye the way of the lord, prepare ye the way of the lord."

While the audience was indeed prepared for the lord, they were also warned to watch for you. Because in spite of your budding concerns and occasional lapses in confidence, you still have that fearless core of steel.

Happy Birthday. I love you,