I was kind of struggling to come up with an idea for this month’s column. Because Austin had been such a hot bed of national politics for the last month, it only made sense that I think about families and politics. So I requested an audience with a fifth grade class at my daughter’s school to check out what eleven year olds might be thinking about Hillary vs. Barack vs McCain. I might as well have made coffee dates with each of their parents. I was about ready to pitch the notes from the class discussion when this memory of an argument I had with my Dad came crept out of hiding. And with it came this month’s column…
The Short version:
On Saturday March 8, Gabi was accepted into the Kealing Magnet Program and I was accepted into MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. We are both thrilled.
The Long Version:
Last Saturday morning, I answered the phone to hear, “Ms. Lane, this is Principal Jeanne Goka at the Ann Richards School. I just want to tell you I read your article and I want to thank you for helping get our message out.” Uh, thanks. “And I also want to call to tell you that Gabriella did not get admitted in to the Ann Richards School.” Hmmm…talk about a one-two punch. “I just wanted to call and tell you that news so that you would have a chance to prepare Gabriella for the letter. She definitely made it into our lottery. She’s more than qualified to be a student here but with a lottery, you never know who is going to be picked. I know she will make it into Kealing.” No lie, Jeanne Goka does talk non-stop. “And I hope you will consider applying to Ann Richards when she’s finished at Kealing.” There was a pause. I asked, “So you read the article first and then called me?” “Well, yes, I read the article and then I wanted to know if Gabriella had been admitted. That’s why I am calling. Her application was very strong. Very strong. All the teachers’ recommendations were top notch. She would absolutely fit right in at Ann Richards. I am sorry we aren’t going to have her. But with a lottery, it’s a numbers thing.” We chatted a bit more. Mostly me asking for further clarifications or reiterations. Goka does sort of barrage the listener. And then we hung up. and I was left to tell Gabi the news. I took lots of deep breaths and then I gave her the news pretty much the way Goka told it. Lots of praise. Lots of talking about how great her application was. And then of course, the ultimate news of how she was in the lottery but her number didn’t get picked. And finally, Goka’s invitation to apply to the Ann Richard School for high school. Gabi took the news in stride. The Ann Richards School was her second choice and she definitely heard all the praise.
So I knew the middle school letters were coming in the mail that day. Rather than wait around for the mail to come, we checked out the opening of the Long Performing Arts Center downtown. THen we did errands. Then we rode home and opened the fish mailbox. To my surprise, there were three letters inside: Ann Richards, Kealing and Vermont College. She and I opened the Kealing and Vermont letters at the same time, read our first lines and shrieked at the same time. WoooHooo….we made it. It’s a moment I will long remember.
I’ve been a little busy: my grad school application, my daughter’s middle school applications, an online class and, oh yeah, life.
It only makes sense that this month’s column be about what was taking up the most space in my head: my daughter’s middle school application. After going to numerous open houses, magnet fairs and principal coffees, I decided to document our experience for the benefit of others.
Writing a column, by definition, means that it is a first account of my experience, which means, if another person had written this column they might have had a totally different experience at all the middle school fairs and open houses. It is the downside and the upside of writing a first person account. The upside? My experience is my experience. The critics can’t discredit you because I am speaking from my experience. The downside: My experience is only my experience. The critics can spout their experience, which might be diametrically opposed to mine.
As soon as this month’s column hit the stands, the response was immediate. First Fulmore. Then O’Henry. Both shot off letters to the editor, vouching for the redeemable qualities of their schools. I debated for a bit about writing them back. I did in one case and didn’t in the other. I finally landed in the space that these letter writers get to have their opinion, as did I. It’s best to let their voices be heard and not get into a squabbling match.
Another column. Another road trip in my mind. This time, though, I had part of the title working in my head: the strange intimacies of parenthood. I’d had that phrase in my head for a while because of all the relationships I’d formed with other parents. Some close. Some not so close. It all felt very familiar somehow, so I started the car and took off exploring…
Long before I became a parent, while I was still in the throes or sprouting wings and having them clipped by my parents, I used to wonder on a semi-regular basis, how the heck was I born into my family? …
I’ve been away for a while. But I had this idea….
The short version
I am directing the Tennessee Williams’s one-act, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let me Listen for Frontera Fest. We perform on Tues., Jan 29, At 8 pm.
The Long Version
1977-Paris-For some reason, one act plays are all the rage in Paris that summer. I see several. One is Tennessee Williams’ “Talk to me Like the Rain and Let me Listen.” Maybe I’m hungry to hear American. Maybe I’m 20 and tripped out on the lyrical sexuality of everything around me. Maybe Tennessee just struck the exact right chord but I was knocked out by the play. I swear it was performed in a catacomb in Paris. I swear it was like we had dropped into that couples lousy New York apartment. I swear the couple fought and made love and lived their whole lives in front of me that night.
Ten years later:
I am living in Austin. Jim Fritzler is sort of this demi god of directing. I am hanging out with the “In the West” cast and I ask him if he knows the Tennesee Williams one act. He does. I ask him what he would think of staging the play with three couples (gay, lesbian and heterosexual) couples and performing it back to back. “You mean, perform the play three times with three different sets of actors?” “Yeah,” I say. “Boring,” he says.
The demi god of Austin theatre peed on my idea. Twenty years pass.
The play still lingers in my mind. I am wandering around the streets of Austin late one night last summer with my friend Lou Rigler. I tell him about the play, the back story, my idea and then suddenly, I see a way to do it.
You see, what’s fabulous about this play is that the man and the woman in the script are like two sides of Tennessee Williams talking to each other. In that way, the man and woman in the play can be any couple—gay, lesbian, straight—trapped together, loving each other, hating each other, wanting to flee, wanting to stay, ravaged and ravaging each other. So then I think, “Hey, why don’t I stage the play with four actors—two women and two men—and then kind of open up the play so that the script echoes a bit and the actors can play opposite each other in both gay and straight couples.”
So that’s what I did. Lou Rigler, Liz Fisher, Omid Ghorashi and Debbi DeSimone joined me to help make this idea come to life. So far the rehearsals are great and I think Tom (aka Tennessee) would approve.