Thurs. September 27th 8pm�ET
Moderated by Kelly &�Franci�DuMar
In this experiential conference phone call we'll explore stories about the playgrounds of our youth and how we can bring these�insights into our vision for sharing Playback Theatre with teens, and share techniques for involving youth in Playback experiences.�You can sign up here.�
ENVIA!in Pick of the Crop Festival,Martha's Vineyard
Island Theatre Workshop presents its second annual Pick of the Crop: Original Plays by Island Authors Festival next Thursday, Oct. 21 through Oct. 31 at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. On the playbill are "Just One Look" by Taffy McCarthy, "HOPE" by Allison Carr, "Envia" by Kelly Dumar, "Separation Tango" by Wayne Greenwell, and "Closure" by GR Russell. Different shows are performed on alternating nights, and all shows have a cast of Island writers, directors, and actors. Thursday through Saturday shows are at 7:30 pm; Sunday shows are 3 pm matinees. Tickets are $15; $25 for two nights. All shows are recommended for ages 16+. For more information, call 508-737-8550.
My youngest daughter received a a lovely compliment the other day. Well, actually, I received it for her. Driving my 16-year old to driver's ed, we were reminiscing about our recent vacation on Martha's Vineyard, and she said:
"When I saw Franci swimming in the surf I noticed how really beautiful she is!"
Later, I told Franci what her sister said, and the next morning I wrote the compliment in her diary so that she can have it now and always.
Blessings Versus Curses
Chapter 11 of Before You Forget - The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children is about Brothers and Sisters - Growing through Sibling Harmony and Rivalry. Here's what I wrote about the value of diary compliments:
Through the diary door compliments can be taken seriously and can gain lasting value as they are read and reread over time. Written down, compliments gain significance and can be taken more seriously and ingested more deeply by the child who really needs to hear them. When siblings give each other the gift of a compliment, you can give it to one or both of the siblings in a diary story, as I savedthis compliment that my son gave to my daughter one peaceful afternoon during a winter vacation in Florida. As the second sibling, middle child, and biggest rival of my son, my daughter Perrin takes a regular dose of negative feedback from her older brother, who dotes on his baby sister. So, when his positive feedback does come her way spontaneously and generously, as it often does, it seems to take a while for her to let it really sink in and trust that he means it. All the more reason for me to take it through the diary door and leave it for her to "hear" again and again:
To Perrin (age 7), February 28, 2000
. . . Right now, and all afternoon, you and Landon have played like best friends, and it's a joy to be around you when you're like this. Swimming, jumping, pushing, falling, screaming, laughing.
We just got back from a long rollerblade through the neighborhood-longest trip I've seen you take on blades. I compliment you, and you seem surprised that I notice how much progress you've made. And Land says:
'You're a natural, Perrin.'
You make him repeat it three times before you hear him!
The youngest, the soon to be sixth grader, sees out of the corner of her eye last night that I have bought some new blank blooks. Like me, she notices the small things.
"I wish you'd write in my diary," she says, unaware that I have recently been writing regularly to her.
But, I always write when one of them thinks to ask, and so this morning I opened her Breakfast at Tiffany's diary and wrote about her getting her first official schedule for middle school and baking double chocolate chip cookies by herself for the first time. I like to write the stories of firsts in my children's diaries:
first word. . .
first taste of food. . .
first glimpse of the moon. . .
first love. . .
In Chapter 5 of Before You Forget - The Wisdom of Writing Diaries for Your Children, I describe the process of writing Memory Schulpture - Preserving the Moment:
"Writing about a special moment is a perfect way to give it a permanent shelf life. Many moments of childhood may live beyond the diary door if you take them there and leave them there. . . You can write a 'snapshot' of a moment that catches your child making a quintessential childlike gesture she or he may soon outgrow. Perhaps this gesture captures an important aspect of your child's personality or future interests. . ."
Endings like beginnings tell a story. I took this "snapshot" of my daughter finishing her assigned summer reading: She is so moved by the ending, and by completing it, she must slide open the glass door to read me the final paragraphs while I shower:
"Even though it's a book for younger people, Mom, you really have to read it!" she says, referring to the book, Crash, by Jerry Spinelli.
There it is, a simple, joyful moment, preserved. She is old enough to read this novel completely on her own, without my help, and young enough to want to share it with me through the shower door.
The other day my youngest spotted a diary she had never seen before on the couch by my desk. This spiral bound, small, hard cover diary has a black background and a bright, colorful graphic of a fancy kitty dressed up in diamonds titled, Breakfast at Tiffany's. She lifted the cover, saw that it was blank, and asked, "Who's this for?"
"Oh." It wasn't the answer she was hoping to hear.
I bought this diary for my daughter Perri when I saw it because she loves the movie. I'm always shopping for blank books that are portable and inspire me to want to write in them, but also inspire my kids to want to open and read them someday. The covers must reflect their passoins.
On closer look I realized that despite the title the graphic was too juvenile for my teen. So, yesterday, up early before everyone as usual even on vacation, I sat in the sun on the deck listening to the birds, opened the Breakfast at Tiffany's blank book, and wrote to Franci.
And now I have the pleasure of shopping for a new blank book for my daughter Perri, and finding the perfect cover.
Last night while volunteering as a timer during a swim meet with my youngest, a woman from the neighboring town recognized me as the author Before You Forget, and thanked me for inspiring her to keep diaries for her children. This doesn't happen very often, and I was grateful it happened after an afternoon spent reconnecting with my diary writing after quite a few weeks of silence.
There's No Such Thing as Catching Up
For a couple of weeks I have been grabbing my kids' diaries every time I head out the door to drive a child somewhere, thinking, hoping, planning to catch up on time passed. There is never such a thing as catching up, but since that's what I thought I should try to do, no writing got done. It's impossible to open the diary enthusiastically with unrealistic or oppressive expectations.
Yesterday, I finally remembered this and had the good sense to open my daughter's diary and just begin writing about the moment, the day. Not the past, not everything that has happened since I last wrote to her - just about today. I wrote about her bugging me to get a tattoo, and I wrote for forty-five minutes without stopping, and I ended up writing about the past few weeks during the course of the entry because I got warmed up to it, and then it was easy.
I am back in the stream, back in the flow of the diary writing, simply because I started writing on a blank page.
As my new diarist friend and I left the dock at the end of the meet, I said I was glad to meet her, and she said she hoped our meeting would spark a return to her own diaries. I hope so too.
She wants a tattoo, my middle one, my 16-year old daughter. Her idea is that we will get them, together, on our ankles. Simple, tasteful, reflective of our personal spiritual journey. I don't know if I want a tattoo. I've never put much thought into the idea.
My daughter, she has already picked her design - more than once - and she is ready, she thinks, and she likes speedy answers, spontaneous action. This is new for her, waiting, practicing patience with my need to reflect, explore, consider, find my answer at the bottom of the pool.
My quick answer is a simple "Nope. Not 'til you're 18." I could give her this answer, but I don't want to, because maybe, just maybe, she has a good idea. Maybe it would be good for us to do this tattoo thing together, to share this experience, to take this risk and live with the results, together, starting now, when she still needs my permission and I have to wrestle with what it means to give it, or not.
Yesterday, I brought her diary which I hadn't opened in three months with me to write in while I waited for her at an appointment. I wrote to her about the question, the possibility, and although I didn't find the answer in the entry, I found more questions and more comfort with the idea, so when she brought the tattoo question up later in the day I told her I was definitely considering the idea - and the diary entry was proof which she could appreciate. I will share this little excerpt with you:
To Perri, August 5, 2008
And now, ever since Saturday in Vermont. . . you are trying to seduce me into getting a tattoo with you; on our ankles. You want a religious symbol, a symbol of Mary.
I have no idea what kind of tattoo I want because I don't want one, I only want to consider it because you want us to do it together and I don't know if you really want us to do it together because you want to do it together, or because this is the way you think you can convince me to let you do what you want to do???!!
This entry, even though it leaves the tattoo question unanswered, filled the last pages of this diary. Perhaps it will be answered in the new one - blank white lined pages waiting to be filled.
For some of us baby boomer mothers the image of an empty nest when our children leave home for college or career projects a period of longed for freedom and independence for ourselves. Others of us enivision a desolate, emptied out home and heart - leaving us with the dreadful sense that the most fulfilling and satisfying years of our lives are over.
I've imagined both scenarios at various stages of my kids' development. But, the balance of my feelings falls more on the sense of dread. Most days, I love having a house full of kids, and most days I'm certain that no future period of my life will surpass the satisfaction of raising my children. Is that why I keep diaries for my children? As an insurance policy against future loss - padding for the empty nest?
"In a new twist in U.S. family life, the open nest is replacing the empty nest.
More young adults are returning home to live with their parents in their 20s, and — this is the twist —a surprising number of parents are content about it."
I'm grateful to author Sue Shellenbarger for naming the phenomenon taking place in my own home. My son, who spent his first college year away living in a dorm, just completed his sophomore year commuting from home and seems to be settled quite comfortably for the long haul in his basement pad on his king size bed.
My middle child, my daughter, just returned home to finish high school from two years away at boarding school. Having tasted independence and dorm life, she imagines commuting to college from home as well from her queen size bed with private bath.
That was a quiet year - when the two older children left my youngest home with us alone in our rapidly emptying nest. I realize now that I had nothing to fear. The nest was established. It was built to last with room for change, and so comfortable, that even if they leave from time to time, they will return. My open nest will never be empty.
To Franci (Age 11), July 1, 2008
You greet me in the driveway as I finish my bike ride this morning, waving a paper wildly in your hand.
"Are you done?"
"I have something to show you!"
I park my bike in the garage, meet you on the deck. We sit, and you read me what you have written. Inspired by our big family trip Saturday to visit the newly opened Woodstock Museum at Bethel Woods, you have sat down at the computer and spontaneously composed the following story.
The peace love and joy will stay alive!
The peace love and joy will stay alive!
You are walking for 1 hour. As far as you have gone is one mile. Tired. It is August 16, 1969. Where is your destination? Woodstock! In upstate New York, Peace, love, and joy will be happening for a weekend.
To get you're soul free. As Joni Mitchell's Woodstock song said.
Legend has it that Joni Mitchell very much wanted to go to Woodstock with her friends, Crosby, Stills and Nash. Sadly, her manager told her she could not go because she was going to do an interview on the Dick Cavett show. The manager did not know if she would get back on time.