I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: September, 2014

Live With Passion


Because You Can’t Take It With You

A revival of Moss Hart’s and George S. Kaufman’s You Can’t Take It With You opened last night on Broadway. Ben Brantley gave it an amazing review. I don’t always agree with him, so I am reserving judgment, but it brought up a wave of nostalgia. And a nagging feeling that I’m not remembering it exactly right, but this is what I remember.

At the beginning of 9th grade, of high school, a new school, I was determined to reinvent myself. I wanted to be bold, brave, and in the limelight – living life with passion! (I still want this. Well, I am a bit more muted about craving the limelight, but I still want to be bold and brave and to live with passion.) Somehow, I heard about or sought out the theater club. Somehow, I just had this gut intuition that I wanted to be part of this group. It was a loud and insistent and completely uncompromising inner voice that I could not deny. When I inquired about the theater group, the other kids would look at me slightly aghast and laugh. Oh no. You don’t want to be part of the theater group. They are weird. The DQ’s. Drama Queers.

Oh no. I DID want to be part of the theater group. They were creative and interesting, bold and brave, and maybe a little bit weird.  What these other kids did not know was that I was a little bit weird. I just kept it so hidden and suppressed, no one knew.

This is where my memory fails me. I don’t remember auditioning for the show, but I am quite sure I did and that the first show that school year was the comedy, You Can’t Take It With You. I do remember listening to my incredibly clear and demanding inner voice and showing up for rehearsals even though I didn’t have a part. I just showed up over and over again. I had to do it. The director, John Duncan, inspired love and devotion in me and all the club members like I’ve never seen before or since. He welcomed everyone into the club with joy and laughter. He put me on the team handling props. Have you seen You Can’t Take It With You? There are a lot of props. The Props Mistress and I would scavenge the town, and neighborly basements, for all the myriad items that would make up a depression-era apartment and convey each character’s narcissistic quirks properly, like the typewriter.

The show is hilarious. (I wonder if it holds up another 40 years later? Ben Brantley says it does. I’m scared to see it. I must see it.) Mr. Duncan would work the timing of the comic lines over and over until they were just right and then he would laugh. Laugh and laugh and laugh until he cried. It makes me cry to remember how much he loved us and believed in us. I am on an airplane with tears coming down my face. Sigh. Live life with passion!

The next show we did was a musical, The Fantasticks, a beautifully simple show about young love and life. I auditioned. I can’t sing, but I auditioned anyway.

I can’t sing because I am afraid to sing. In second grade my friend Lucia and I sang Leaving on a Jet Plane at the school talent show. Okay. Think about that. Two 7-year-old girls singing Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Leaving on a Jet Plane. We knew nothing of love. We knew nothing about singing. We knew nothing about microphones. The echo back from the microphone threw us off. We were out of tune. We lost our place. We were out of synchronicity. Everyone laughed. Of course they laughed! I was mortified. I never sang again. Except at home or in the car alone, screaming to Aerosmith’s Dream On or soulfully pretending to be Stevie Nicks singing Landslide.

Mr. Duncan, who had earned my trust by this time, asked what song I had prepared. Um, nothing. He didn’t laugh. He suggested I sing Happy Birthday. I did. He didn’t laugh. To this day, Happy Birthday is the one song I feel comfortable singing. I didn’t get a part – it’s a small cast. But I remained determined to be part of this club. I was the assistant stage manager. A good role for me – careful and organized and a bit bossy. I treated this assignment like my life depended on it. Maybe it did. For some reason, I earned the nickname “Silly Sally.” Now, if you know me, you know I am not very silly. Well, maybe I’m a little silly.  Sometimes.  They saw these glimmers of silliness. They saw the hidden part of me that I don’t show. (Shoot, I am crying on the airplane again. Good thing the man next to me is sleeping.) I was accepted for who I was and what I was able to contribute. Everyone was welcome. Everyone played a role, even if it wasn’t the starring role.

Oh how I wanted to be the star and envied those performing on the stage. The ingénue with the incredibly beautiful voice. The comic team that cracked us all up. The mime who was so petite and spontaneous, braver than me. I got my chance later on, thank you Mr. Duncan. Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest. Elvira in Blythe Spirit.  That is the extent of my acting resume, but those moments on stage were thrilling and I wonder why I didn’t let myself dive deeper. Afraid to live life with passion.

Those weird DQ’s. My tribe. Actors, Singers, Dancers, Musicians. Non-actors, non-singers, non-dancers, non-musicians. Scenery artists, makeup artists, costume designers, lighting technicians, sound technicians, careful and organized and bossy stage managers. Funny people, emotional people, gay people, straight people, kids from happy households, kids from not-so-happy households, impulsive people, responsible people, flamboyant, repressed. We were all there, like any other group. After all, everyone was welcome, even if we were weird. Maybe what made us weird was that we were all just a little bit willing to reveal our differences rather than conform to expectations of what is “normal.” After all, there is no normal. It’s a spectrum.  We are all a little bit weird. Thank you Mr. Duncan. Thank you to all my DQ friends. You changed my life. (I am crying again.)

Photo Credit:  Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

“Hi Sweetie!”



I was in our local wine shop this morning, running my litany of weekend errands. I was in a contemplative and compassionate mood – always trying to bring the principles of Yoga and Reiki to my life off the mat, with mixed levels of success. Sundays are good days. I am rested and have more time to be patient, to be open, to listen.

The guy at the local wine shop knows me. (Really, I don’t buy or drink that much wine.) We chat. I tell him what wines I like and what wines my husband likes and he shows me new inventory. When impatient, more affluent customers come in, eager for their more expensive selections right away, I wink at him and tell him I am not in a hurry.  I go and browse while he helps the Very Important Person who lives in the Very Rich Suburbs of New York.

As I was browsing, I felt my cell phone vibrating. Hurriedly, I fumbled for it. It was my daughter! She’s been at college for 3 weeks now, and we all agree it feels like 6 months. Our textversations and conversations are truly the highlights of my days. I grabbed my phone, knowing I could go quietly to a corner of the store, welcome and undisturbed, to connect with my beautiful girl.

“Hi Sweetie!” I exclaimed in greeting.

Suddenly, the lovely old woman near me looked me in the eye and smiled.

“I thought you were talking to me!” She laughed.

I laughed at how my exuberant greeting must have come across to her.

I snuck off and had my delicious conversation and then went to the counter to pay for my wine. The old woman and her daughter, a woman of a certain age, like me, were finishing up. I waited. When they turned to leave, the old woman and I cried “Bye Sweetie!” and high-fived. The daughter, quite perplexed, asked her mother if she knew me. We explained our chance meeting and said our good-byes.

The guy at the wine store commented that I made friends so easily. Ha! Not really. At least I don’t think of myself that way. But maybe that is another aspect of my personality that is evolving. Softening.

As I was driving away, I spied the mother and her daughter walking home. I impulsively stopped and offered them a ride. After all, we were friends now! We introduced ourselves. Celeste is 97. She looks 77. I told her that she looks fantastic for her age (yuck, what a horrible way to say that I can’t believe I said that but she didn’t seem to mind). I told her that my mom was 92 and in rehab for a broken hip. Celeste reassured me that she will be fine. That her generation is strong and resilient. They’ve been through World War 2 after all. We parted ways, expecting to never see each other again, but grateful for the serendipitous connection. Of course, now I can’t get her out of my mind and I wish we had exchanged more than just our first names. Since I am too far away to help my 90-something mother, it alleviates some of my guilt to offer help to someone else’s 90-something mother. Though Celeste doesn’t seem to need a lot of help. She is not frail and has a good attitude. May we all live to be 97, as cheerful and healthy as she is.

I’ve never met a Celeste – it’s one of those lovely older names not in common use now. The only Celeste I know is from the Babar books. Babar tragically lost his mother to hunters. This always shocked and saddened me. Orphaned, he befriended an old lady who mentored him. Babar married his 2nd cousin, Celeste, where they ruled with lovingkindness. I loved the Babar books but kind of forgot them. I am feeling soon-to-be-orphaned.  Is this my old lady mentor?  And elephants always make me think of my daughter.  She is in awe of elephants after one waved his ear at her when she was a little girl visiting the zoo.

All in all I think my new friendship must be a good omen.

If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking, By Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.

Image:  Celeste from the Babar series  by Jean de Brunhoff


Stand By Our Women


Even When She Stands By Her Man

I haven’t watched the video. It’s enough that I can imagine it.




My first instinct was to sympathize with Janay and worry for her safety.

But what was floating in the internet ether was judgment and condemnation:

  • She hit him!
  • She married him the day after he punched her!
  • She wants his money!
  • She’s defending him!

My second instinct was to sympathize with Janay and worry for her safety.

I read #WhyIStayed.

I read #WhyILeft.

I looked at the photos. You know, the ones where he looks like a cocky bastard and she looks like a passive and withdrawn victim.

I read more articles. Each one turning up yet another incident of an NFL player abusing his wife. I mean killing his wife.  The list was growing longer.






My third instinct was to sympathize with Janay and worry for her safety.

I wondered what she was doing this weekend. I googled it. How about that! They’re in the next town over at the local high school where he was a football star. They’re watching the local high school game. He’s being cheered as a hero and there is a photo of her laughing, carefree as can be. Hmm, it must be a good day.

My fourth instinct is to sympathize with Janay and worry for her safety.

To me, it’s not hard to imagine what might have happened. They met as teenagers. She was young and not financially secure. He was a charismatic football star. They were attracted to each other and began a passionate relationship. He showered her with gifts and status and excitement. She became more and more wrapped up in him and his career, devoting herself to Ravensnation and naming their daughter Rayven. Then the infatuation ended. The realities of life, being a parent, negotiating the different wants of two distinct humans intruded. Maybe he didn’t like what she was wearing. Maybe she wanted to see a friend. Maybe he didn’t want to “babysit.” Maybe she didn’t want to have sex. Who knows?

I bet the elevator incident was not the first time he hit her. I bet it will not be the last time he hits her.

What happens now? What is she doing today? Is today a good day?

I sympathize with Janay and worry for her safety.









Mary Jo


Domestic violence is not the victim’s fault. The choice to be abusive lies solely with the abusive partner:  The National Domestic Violence Hotline. 1-800-799-7233.

Image Credit:  NoMore.org

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