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Sunday, getting caught up in the sun

Just got a terse email from Bruce, who’s in Florence. “Not since Wednesday,” he wrote. “Need I say more. Not to put any pressure on you, but…”

So sorry, blogees, I have been remiss. When I don’t post, a nagging sound at the back of my mind bothers me, though at the same time I feel free, as if playing hookey. But now here I am, Bruce, in the front row of class with my pencils all sharp.
Last night was the comedy and music extravaganza organised by and starring Nancy White and Stella Walker, with a very brief appearance by yours truly. There were maybe a hundred people, come to forget February and the Olympics, and laugh until they cried at the divas. Which we all did. Stella paints, sings, writes, teaches, makes films, is studying cantorial music and sings in a synagogue choir – an extraordinarily broad set of skills. Nancy has made a living, all her adult life, from her wit and her music. They are brave, generous, crazy women, and I admire them both enormously.
Last night, Nancy sang some hilarious new songs, including one about an artiste who believes the world revolves around her, one about washing her sidewalk with a hose, and a torch song about a bad man. She played the guitar, the banjo and the piano, wore a stunning evening gown and was her usual sharp, hilarious self. Stella spoke of her attachment to sprats and unveiled a painting of a can of sprats; she read from her elementary school report cards, sang a Gilbert and Sullivan duet in Yiddish, and other madnesses.
In the middle, I was invited up to tell my embarrassing cheese tray story again, the one I told, with some apparent success, at Nancy’s birthday party. But this was different – here were a hundred people who had paid money to be amused by professional comediennes, and here was I telling a small, true tale. I did my best; I had worked hard to keep myself as relaxed as possible, but as I stood at the mike, I knew it wasn’t working quite as well as it did last time. I was stiffer, found it harder to reach the audience. I wondered afterwards, calming my heaving insides, if I really do want to explore the possibilities of performance again, as I’ve toyed with doing. Part of me loves that face-to-face contact with a crowd, and part of me wants nothing to do with that kind of tension and pressure, would prefer to sit at a desk in a quiet room. May the best Beth win.
Anyway, people were very nice afterwards, including a woman my age who wanted to tell all about her youthful adventures with cocaine. Most of all, I loved being in a room full of the kind of people who’d come and pay money to hear two unique, eccentric, fiercely talented women do their own peculiar and crazy thing. Brava to the ladies for carrying it off.
A particular thrill for me last night was encountering several former students, who had come to the event after reading about it in this blog. Elizabeth was there with her husband and a friend, and Irene and Pearl too. All said they feel they know me well because they follow the blog. It’s an odd thing, this openness. It’s Sunday morning, and I am sitting in my nightgown in a patch of sunlight in my bedroom, composing a report on my tiny life to send out into the electronic ozone. Where an assortment of people actually read it, including impatient Bruce in Florence and former students in Toronto. Hello to you all. Thank you for being there. On we go.
I want to share a story that’s not so happy – so that you know I am telling the truth here, and also that not everything is rosy. A friend and I had an awkward split a few years back, a clash of personalities, misunderstandings, perhaps unavoidable conflict. We’ve had little contact since, but recently I missed her so much that I emailed to ask how she was, and she emailed back her news, including the fact that her daughter was pregnant. I was thrilled for her and bought a pile of baby clothes at Doubletake, my local second hand store – after seeing the quality of what’s available there and at Goodwill, for very little money, I cannot imagine buying new clothes for babies. (Both my friend and her daughter, incidentally, know of my second-hand proclivities and share them, though much more out of necessity than I.) I put the clothes in a mailing envelope and sent them, emailing her to let her know. She wrote back to say that she was very busy, didn’t even know where her local post office was, and if the package was returned, she was sorry if it seemed rude.
Sure enough, six weeks later a notice came from Canada Post that a package had been returned. I went to the post office to pick it up and had to pay a $9 fee to get it back.
Lots of thoughts. I must really have offended this person. Were the gifts a bribe, to win her back? Am I an obnoxious Lady Bountiful, showering people with unwanted stuff? Or is my former friend simply stubborn, proud and closed? Some combination of all of the above, perhaps. Because of the amount of time I spend in second-hand stores, I am famous for giving gifts of clothing. There are some people who don’t appreciate that part of me, I guess.
I’m telling you this little story … why? Because it shows a loss on my part, a failure of human relationship which makes me sad. Mistakes are made; feelings are hurt. Nothing to be done except to learn from what goes wrong, and to try to live with care.
Now the sun is hot through my bedroom windows and I must go for a walk. One last thing: a few nights ago, I’d just finished dinner with my visiting son when the phone rang – a neighbour calling from the opera house just before the curtain rose, saying she’d just been given a better ticket so hers was free, did I want it? In twenty minutes, I had changed, kissed my son goodbye and rushed to the opera house to wait for the end of the first act, which luckily was only half an hour long. So I got to see Otello, by Verdi, from the gods at the very top. It actually was not a great production, but that didn’t matter – there were still those phenomenal voices soaring to the ceiling, those grand emotions, that very sad story, not to mention the pleasure of looking for my student Peg in the chorus. Another joy of living in downtown Toronto – being able to get out of sweatpants and to the opera in 20 minutes.
There – my conscience is quiet. You know the latest. Now out into the day, and may you, my dear curious friends, enjoy yours.
P.S. The late afternoon of a heavenly, spring-like day – five degrees or more outside, almost as warm as was Florida at its coldest! And I just back from Doubletake, where for $18 I bought a red Olympics sweatshirt for my daughter (the 1998 Olympics, but it still has a big CANADA across the front – she is desperate for a current one, but this is close), a little summer dress for her best friend, a book for my ex-husband and a pair of Calvin Klein pyjamas for a male friend. I almost bought a black Calvin Klein winter coat for my friend Lynn, but it was a little too worn around the collar and, at $35, too expensive.
So – my addiction is still in full swing. Too bad if some don’t enjoy my offerings. The pleasure for me is in the giving; if there’s no pleasure in the receiving, then give whatever it is back and I’ll pass it on to someone else. Speaking of which … there are some baby clothes here, ready to go. Just ask.



2 Responses to “Sunday, getting caught up in the sun”

  1. Rose DeShaw says:

    It wasn't you, Beth. You were open and receptive to picking up the friendship again. People's lives take unexpected turns – perhaps they decide 'no more risktaking,' (and you are taking too many for them), or something stops them cold in their once free-wheeling ways and they are no longer the warm, adventurous folk we knew. Change, age and entropy all weigh in. Perhaps it gets harder as we get older to keep saying, 'YES!' but say it we will and whoever wants to come along is welcome. For some that attitude is too much. Their loss. Rose DeShaw

  2. beth says:

    Rose, thank you for this wise feedback. I have a bon mot somewhere on my desk, under the rubble, about how we have to learn to forgive people for not loving the way we want them to love. And it's true. I do feel for my friend, and I miss her, but we have to go our separate ways.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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