Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's become a bit of a family joke how various household objects make their theatrical debut at the high school every time Eleanor and Walker are in a play. This spring the play is called Merry Murders at Montmarie; Eleanor plays the headmistress, an absent-minded ex-actress, and Walker plays an Australian Interpol agent. I'm sure they will be hysterical when the show opens next week (April 22,23,24 at 7:30). In the meantime, Ron and I are busily collecting things like a lantern, attache case with "legal papers," wallet with badge, brooms, flashlights, pill bottle, ice pack, and books (stuff we can find around the house). In addition, I found Eleanor a pair of eyeglasses with a chain (there are stores that sell eyeglasses with clear glass in them!) and we're hoping that someone else is going to supply Walker with a cap pistol and bullets...he has a purple squirt gun to practice with.

I did not even help to make the list of props needed in the play; I'm just scurrying around to collect the needed items, and thinking that it takes a lot of volunteer time and effort to put on a show, and it's increasingly hard to find high school parents who have the time to volunteer--we're all working! Our kids can drive themselves, so we don't even see each other or the teachers when we drop them off and pick them up! The parent who called me last night to ask me to chaperone in the green room on opening night said that when the kids were asked for phone numbers, they all put their own cell phones, so she didn't have home phone numbers to contact the parents--but she could call me, because she still had an old list from the elementary school both our kids attended.

The process of helping the kids put on a show makes me think of this poem, the title one of the volume, Rope by Alison Hawthorne Deming:

The man gathers rope every summer
off the stone beaches of the North.
There is no sand in this place
where the Labrador current runs
like an artery through the body of the Atlantic,
channeling particles that once were glacial ice
and now are molecules making
not one promise to anyone.
The man gathers rope with his hands,
both the rope and the hands
worn from use. The rope from hauling
up traps and trawl lines, the hands
from banging into rocks, rusted nails,
fish knives, winch gears, and bark.
The rope starts to pull apart fiber by fiber
like the glacial ice, and the man wishes
he could find a way to bind it
back together the way a cook binds
syrup or sauce with corn starch.
The rope lies in the cellar for years,
coiled, stinking of the sea and the fish
that once lived in the sea and the sweat
of the man who wishes he could save one
strand of the world from unraveling.

Parents of high schoolers can be "molecules making/not one promise to anyone" except for the periods of frantic activity when the kids say they need us and we rush in to gather things up for them, the things and our hands "worn from use." And then after the show is over we'll all go back to our routines and the kids won't say they need us for anything for a while. Years from now I expect, we'll look at some of those things--the wallet and badge, the eyeglasses--and think about this play, and how the strands of our family life were still together, even in the inevitable process of being pulled apart.

This is why I'm a pack rat. Memories are in things.


Amanda said...

I was only even in one play, my senior year, but it was set in the 50s and my mom still had a bunch of stuff her mom gave her when she went to college in the 70s. Stuff from the 50s, I mean. So we provided a lot of the householdish props.

M Denise C said...

Enjoyed the poem. Enjoy the play!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic poem.

I, of course, am not a pack rat. I merely have a personal archive. :-)


Jenny said...

Oh, clear-glass glasses. I've got a pair of them, I used to wear them when I wanted to look clever. Only they were really cheap so they sat a bit crooked and I used to have to take them off every few minutes and bend them into shape again.

The play sounds fun!

FreshHell said...

Jeanne, do you realize that's what hoarder's say? They can't give up anything because every scrap is embued with a memory. "I remember the day I drank that Slurpee and Reggie ran over my cat!" I used to be a pack rat but I can no longer fit everything in the house. So I purge and figure I'll go to thrift stores when I need props. Guess I won't find yours there, huh? :)

Harriet said...

As a child who moved every year or two, my whole identity, the recognition of who and where I was became wrapped up in the objects I kept around me. I recognized my room by the things in it. I used to be a packrat because to get rid of things felt like a kind of unravelling. But writing has given me other places to hang those memories and freed my closets. If only I had time to haul things out of them! I love this poem, which I have never seen before, and I will be carrying with me the idea of saving one strand of the world from unravelling. You are right -- that is what parenting feels like sometimes. I have been reading posts from a friend and former choir director of mine whose daughter was in a terrible bicycle accident a couple of weeks ago. The accident took the life of one of her friends and seriously injured her. He's been chronicling her recovery. All his friends are sending good wishes and prayers to the daughter, but I can't help but feel that he needs them just as much, if not more. I can't imagine anything more painful as watching my child suffer and being powerless to do anything about it. All his focus is spent saving his corner of the world right now. I am wondering if I should send him this poem.

Jeanne said...

Amanda, See it pays to keep stuff!

M Denise, I'm glad to know you stopped by and enjoyed the poem.

Lemming, "personal archive" works if it's mostly books and papers, right?

Jenny, these seem pretty sturdy; they came from a mall chain store called Claire's.

Freshhell, I don't think my hoarding is pathological yet--you can still walk through my utility room. But you CAN find plenty of stuff from my household at thrift stores. I haul a bag to the local Goodwill every six months and still have some left over for the annual rummage sale each September. Walker outgrows his jeans every six months, just for starters.

Harriet, is there anyone who doesn't save one or two baby outfits? I don't know why you couldn't send him the poem. It seems unlikely that it could make him feel worse.

readersguide said...

My comment disappeared! I only wanted to say that I liked this post -- the poem and the exegesis.

Jenny said...

Hahahaha, that's where I got mine too! But they lived in my backpack when I was in high school, in case I ever suddenly needed them, so I think that's when they got a bit smooshed.

Rebecca Reid said...

oh, I love that poem! I am not a pack rat. I am not even attached to things, for the most part. But I do like that poem and now I am wondering if what I threw out last week will be needed some day...

Jeanne said...

Jenny, the pair I got Eleanor lasted throughout the run of the play, and that's all we really needed.

Rebecca, You can always go to a thrift store. Probably things are easier to find there!