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“MIracle of Miracles”

A beautiful holiday Monday, the city tranquil, the weather temperate; it’s 7 p.m. and all’s well.

Sunday was a productive day; I submitted two essays to different places for consideration and sent a query about another.  They were in my Documents files, things I’d written years ago and left to moulder. So, some editing and cutting and out they go.

The new tenant arrived, a very nice young man who’ll be working at the symphony. So the house is full once more. And last night, three hours – three solid hours – of a remake of Little Women on PBS. It was too saccharine, and why, why, do they cast a beautiful actress as Jo and then have her sister say that Jo’s only beauty is her hair? Do they think we don’t have eyes? But still, I watched the whole thing, because – because it took me back to those heavenly hours sitting in my dad’s big chair in the living room (that’s in my living room today and not nearly as big somehow), reading and reading and weeping.

The actual copy, unfortunately without its bright yellow dustjacket.

Unlike it seems all other writer women of my age, I did not then identify with Jo. I was Beth, and not just because we share a name. I’ve never understood why until last night, because Beth is passive and shy and selflessly sweet, nothing like me. Last night I thought – I knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t remotely fiery and rebellious like Jo. I wanted to be loved. Beth was much, much loved. That’s who I wanted to be.

It took a few years, but I got there. And I didn’t have to die like she did, to boot.

Today’s treat – meeting Ken to see Miracle of Miracles, a documentary about the making of Fiddler on the Roof. Sholem Aleichem, the writer of the stories on which the musical is based, was a contemporary and rival of my great-grandfather’s, though it’s not sure they ever met. It’s my great sorrow that Jacob Gordin didn’t write humorous warm tales about his people that would make such a great musical that it’s still iconic more than 50 years after its opening.

The doc is fantastic, showing how such an unlikely piece came to be – a musical about shtetl Jews, oh sure, said one sceptical producer. What will you do for an audience when all the Hadassah ladies have seen it? They show some of the many productions from around the world, including Japan, Thailand, and one done by African-American teenagers. There’s something universal in the story of poverty; the fight against and yet the need for the suffocating comfort of tradition; the disappointments and love of parents for their rebellious children; and finally, the victimization of helpless people. As Tevye and his neighbours are being exiled from their village, the film shows us heartbreaking footage of modern refugees from Syria, from Mexico and Central America. Ken cried.

And then dinner at the pub across the street, as usual. Ken has lost two dear friends recently and is, he says, sick of death. But we cheered each other up. I gave him a magnificent cucumber, one of three fresh picked today, that he found a way to transport home on his bike.

I feel I should be gearing up for work but have another almost two weeks to go, a great gift. Lots happening – tomorrow someone coming to begin transcribing my parents’ letters and then 8 women in the publishing business are here for a potluck dinner; Wednesday the Cabbagetown Short Film Festival; Thursday the huge back-to-school gathering for the Continuing Studies profs at U of T, where I get to meet my colleagues amid food and drink; and then all weekend is the Cabbagetown Festival, where the ‘hood goes nuts.

Summer’s over. But still – good times.

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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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