Uncategorized

Ships Unmoored

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Dad lately. September is the anniversary of his death, so he’s on my mind more than usual during the fall months. While he was fighting cancer, he said to me: sometimes, ships unmoored come safely home.

When my Dad was alive, I could have asked for the reference directly (although I didn’t at the time). So I hit the Internet looking for the source. I thought it might be Shakespeare, but I couldn’t find it. I actually have the vague memory of looking up the quote some time ago and finding it and realizing that the quote wasn’t quite right and thinking, how beautiful: “ships unmoored.” Or maybe that was now, I love the idea, the phrase, ships unmoored.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to come safely home. How you can walk up your 12 steps and turn the lock with your key to that satisfying click, get the somewhat stale whiff when you walk inside to closed windows as your eyes go first to the couch to check and see if the cushion is turned in the way that hides the still mysterious medium-sized green stain (what was that?!). Or if safely home is really about that magical home in the sky home, where you don’t even believe it exactly but you’re hoping in some way when you die, whether you actually go home or you just feel like you go home, something (God, brain, death hormones, something) gives us the feeling that we are on our way safely home, going home, or just home.

I guess if my Dad had meant the latter, he could have said: ships unmoored always come safely home. But then he wouldn’t have been the same guy who got a good laugh out of his idea for a bumper sticker: Visualize my ass.

Near the end of his life he told me, he wasn’t scared to die, just curious. I don’t think he was worried about coming “safely home” although he did want to come home to die and he did. He also wanted to see the place where he’d be buried before he died. I’ll never forget the drive home from the hospital, maybe a week or so before he actually died, which included a drive by the lush, green graveyard. My father, leaning way back in the seat of the car, painfully sat up, looked out the window and nodded.

A few years after my father died, I wrote something about him for a class taught by the indomitable Daphne Merkin. The essay, she thought, was overly sentimental and over filled with positive adjectives (for starters) but, she said, the piece had really given her pause, and made her wonder what her own life would have been like if she’d had a father like my Dad.

Needless-to-say, I still haven’t trimmed much sentimentality out of my writing when the topic is my father. It’s probably not going to happen, so let me end, unashamedly.

My father taught a lot of classic Greek texts including The Odyssey. When I typed  “sometimes ships unmoored” into Google, it linked me to The Odyssey, book 13:

Then for Odysseus they spread a rug and a linen sheet on the deck of the hollow ship at the stern, that he might sleep soundly; and he too went aboard, and laid him down in silence. Then they sat down on the benches, each in order, and loosed the hawser from the pierced stone. And as soon as they leaned back, and tossed the brine with their oarblades, sweet sleep fell upon his eyelids, an unawakening sleep, most sweet, and most like to death. And as on a plain four yoked stallions spring forward all together beneath the strokes of the lash, and leaping on high swiftly accomplish their way, even so the stern of that ship leapt on high, and in her wake the dark wave of the loud-sounding sea foamed mightily, and she sped safely and surely on her way; not even the circling hawk, the swiftest of winged things, could have kept pace with her. Thus she sped on swiftly and clove the waves of the sea, bearing a man the peer of the gods in counsel, one who in time past had suffered many griefs at heart in passing through wars of men and the grievous waves; but now he slept in peace, forgetful of all that he had suffered.

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mommies, stories worth repeating, Uncategorized

the satisfactory ending

Frog and Toad

You may or may not have had occasion to read Frog and Toad Are Friends recently.  However, if you are like me, and have a young child, you may have read it hundreds of times in the last few months.

And happily so.

The Frog and Toad series, by British author, Arnold Lobel, are among the children’s books that one can read repeatedly and still enjoy, or at least tolerate, or at least not totally loathe.

In fact, I love Frog and Toad and especially Frog and Toad Together.  The stories are good, the characters relatable, and the endings are brilliant.  Enviable.  Analysis-worthy.

But let’s start with two excellent characters, long time bffs. Frog is the elder statesman, the more responsible, more reliable, wiser character with Toad, his immature, ill-mannered, ill-temperated, often neurotic and, of course, good-hearted best friend.  Toad is usually suffering through some lesson, something which more often than not, he does not appreciate.  My daughter has often said, you’re Frog and I’m Toad, and tonight when I asked her who her best friend was, she said, “You.”  So, I guess, I’m still Frog, which is kind of funny, since I relate more to Toad, despite my being older and wiser.

Cookies, a story about Frog and Toad binging on delicious cookies that Toad has baked, ends with Frog giving all the cookies to the birds in order for them to gain willpower. Toad rejects this concept announcing that Frog can keep the willpower–he is going home to bake a cake.

Almost every story is a juicy little nugget; shaped perfectly, with just the appropriate amount of  plot and character development to make them full bodied and delicious.  And the endings…  I don’t want to use the word perfect, but, they really are.

They often end with “place,” like, “The hands of the clock moved to show the hours of a merry Christmas Eve.” Or, “Then they sat in the shade of a large tree and ate their chocolate ice-cream cones together.” “They ran around the corner of Frog’s house to make sure that spring had come again.” In one, Toad has the last word, “Winter may be beautiful, but bed is much better.”

I think my favorite is from The Letter (Frog and Toad are Friends): “Toad was very pleased to have it.” It really comes down to a mixture of closure and uplift.  It’s just so damn satisfying.  You feel as good as Toad getting his first and probably last letter (sent to him by Frog, of course).  Just two best friends feeling as content as can be, as right in their little world as conceivably possible.  The best part is, Frog has already told Toad the contents of the letter, because he has to convince him to wait for it, being, as it is, delivered with interminable slowness, by snail. But they actually end up enjoying the wait because they share the knowledge of the contents of the letter.  Togetherness is a big happy theme too.  But I digress.  I mean, what more can I really say?

Toad was very pleased to have it.

Stories worth considering, Uncategorized

The Fairy Tale Ending; the beginning of the end?

bachelor

I have to confess, I have wasted somewhere around 12+ hours watching The Bachelor this season on ABC.  Why? Well, good question.

Ostensibly, the show is about watching one man search through 25 “beautiful” (which really starts to make you question the meaning of that word) women, to find true love ending in the ever lusted after “proposal.”  At least that’s what the women lust after: their fairy tale ending.

This phrase is batted around The Bachelor with careless and casual abandon, almost exclusively by the women. Often through tears in the back of limo after being “sent home.”  Noticeably, many of the women on that mournful journey say the same things:  Why is this happening to them?  Why are they getting rejected?  What’s wrong with them? When is their time going to come?  Where is their fairy tale ending?

Endings are important, and we do like the good ones. Kind of. The show ends with the chosen woman finally getting to hear the Bachelor confess his love.  Ahh, it could be us.  But part of the appeal of the Bachelor is not only the so called happy ending, it’s the recognition that all of us, no matter how beautiful still get rejected, and it just so happens, it is kind of about our failings.  We’re boring, we’re self-absorbed, we’re dull, we lack talent, humor, the willingness to go bungy jumping in New Zeland, and frankly, we don’t look that good in a bikini.  But even if we did all those things, even if we were that “beautiful” the Bachelor would still probably reject us. Statistically speaking.

It was a happy moment for Melissa when Jason Meznik chose her at the end of this season’s show.  She finally got her fairly tale ending.  Until six weeks later when Jason, ambivalent and weepy, unable to find the, well, balls to either “fight for the relationship” with Melissa or forget about Molly broke up with Melissa on national TV.

The most hated Bachelor in television history, the tabloids claimed the next day.  You’re a bastard, said Melissa during the breakup, in a moment of utter candor.

Ryan and Tristan are a still married couple from an early season (maybe the first) of The Bachelorette.  “I got my fairy tale ending,” said Tristan, barely finishing the sentence before her husband cut her off.

“Well,” he said, “the end of the show was really the beginning of our real relationship.  We have to work to make it work.”

Melissa’s fairy tale ending ended as most fairy tales do, at the beginning of something real and something tough. Unfortunately for her, she was trying to do the work with a guy who didn’t have it in him.  And “he’s making a big mistake” Molly, of the big beautiful eyes and the shocked smile when Jason asked for her back; Molly won’t put up with his bull for long, I suspect.  “What about Melissa,” she asked with a shake of her head.

The best endings resonate in ways that both satisfy and satiate.  They find that illusive spot and tug.  There is usually little of fairy tale about them.  And endings, at least for the characters living them, are the beginnings of something else and thank goodness for that.

In the limo, on her final tearful ride home, Melissa said, “I don’t understand why this happened, but I’m sure that someday, I’ll be able to look back and I’ll say, okay I see why this happened to me.”

It turns out that tonight, there is an After The Final Rose part 2, where we get to check in with Jason and Molly. What happened? Did Molly take him back?  Did they rekindle their love?

How does it end?  I won’t be watching.

Note:  Quotes from the show are paraphrased to give the gist but are not exact.