More Fervent Wishes

  I had a relaxing but relatively boring weekend.  It provided rest, exercise, sunshine, family time…and very little writing material.

On Sunday night I was clearing out the clutter in the “promotions” section of my Gmail.  I’m not so good at unchecking boxes when I order things online.  As a result, I inadvertently agree to statements like these:  Yes, please sign me up to receive no less than 50 emails per hour from us informing you of our amazing discount offers, unnecessary products, and pleas for contributions.

In the midst of those 40,000 emails, though, one caught my eye.  Why?  It was a note from the 92nd St Y, and the memo line said, “Remembering RBG.”  I clicked on it.  If I’m being honest…and I am…I have to admit that I may have done that as much as a way to avoid writing as out of curiosity or reverence for one of my heroes.  What I found, though, was my third lengthy YouTube video of the evening… and hope. 

RBG had spoken at the 92nd St Y in September of 2019.  One year…and a lifetime ago. I remembered having tried to get tickets.  Hah!  No such luck. But now here was the full interview for me to watch.  I had not realized that the Y recorded and published these appearances.  I needed to watch.  It was 57 minutes long.  It would probably preclude any writing.  I clicked play.  In my rationalizing mind I thought, “Maybe there will be parts I can play in class.”  There were.  I also thought, “This may be healing.”  Friday night had been such a dismal night. At 7:41 we got Sarah’s text, a simple, bleak, “RBG.” Maybe this could counter that bleak. 

It helped.  Listening to the justice recount the struggles in her career with such optimism and determination gave me a bit of optimism myself.  The world has changed during her lifetime.  In many respects it was because of her.  When she started at Harvard Law School there were 9 women in a class of 500.  Now it’s 50% women.  When she graduated from Columbia Law School (after being on the Law Review for both Harvard and Columbia), she couldn’t get a job.  Really.  Top of her class at the most prestigious law schools.  “Well,” she said, “I had three strikes against me:  first, I was Jewish,  second, I was a woman, but worst of all, I was a mother.  No one wanted to hire a mother.”

When she started teaching law at Rutgers, her students wanted a class in women’s rights.  At the same time she started hearing about cases that were being brought to the ACLU involving women.  She mentioned that teachers were some of the most prominent cases.  Women teachers were being put on “maternity leave” when they began to “show” that they were pregnant.  “Leave,” literally meant, “Please leave.”  Schools thought it would be upsetting for students to see their teachers in such a state.  That was in the 60s and 70s.  That was in my lifetime.   

In her lifetime, our country went from having zero women judges on the higher courts (district, appeals, or supreme) to having three women Supreme Court justices at once.  Progress, to be sure, thought certainly not equality.

When the interviewer asked her if there was anything that she would change, had Founding Mothers been a thing at the constitutional convention, she said, “I would add an equal rights amendment.”  She noted that no constitution written after 1950 has failed to include language that makes explicit that all people, regardless of gender, are of equal stature in the eyes of the law.  It made me remember my mother, now 90,  marching for the ERA in the 1970s.  Somehow, that seemed attainable then.

Finally, RBG spoke of her reverence and passion for the constitution.  I think her interviewer was baiting her to say something negative about the man in the White House when he asked, “Do you see any threats to the constitution during these times?”  Ever judicious in her replies, she smiled, paused, allowed the audience to fill in what she might have wanted to say, and then said, “The great justice, Learned Hand said, ‘Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women.  When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court, can save it.’”  She said she had hope in the hearts of good people, and left it at that.

Maybe in the passing of the Notorious RBG, we will all be reminded of her wisdom and courage, and we will work to make her most fervent wishes reality.

As You Wish

The Princess Bride was performed live on Sunday night by almost the entire original cast.   I so wished I could watch, but I had work to do.

I was supposed to be writing or planning, but that’s only because I had wasted Sunday morning trying to figure out how I could get PowerPoint on my school laptop. I needed it so that I could try to perform a live and recorded read aloud in the way that I saw demonstrated on a Youtube video.  It took me two hours of fiddling to finally realize that I could only perform this great feat on my own laptop, not the school’s.  But my laptop has such a feeble camera that even though I do, in fact, appear on the screen simultaneously with the images from the pages of the read aloud, my image looks something like the blurry mix of colors that glides across the map when you see the weather radar of a storm time-lapsing through your region.  It would  not exactly be the read aloud experience I had wished for.

All day, I played catch-up because of that.  I was late going on the walk with Nancy and Farley, late getting to the weekly plans, late calling my mom, late getting to the tv to catch the end of the Washington Football Team rallying to actually win a game.  

So this evening, I had planned to be finished with everything before 7:00 p.m. (6:00 Central), when we hoped to watch the reading of one of the great movies of all time.  I wish.  

I wasn’t finished planning.  I hadn’t even begun to write a slice.  I just couldn’t.

Still, I found myself drawn to the computer.  I needed to experience this moment. I watched it anyway.

Dabs of The Princess Bride have dotted my entire adult life.  

My nephew, now 32, stands in the family room at his grandparents’ house. He’s five years old, but he commands our attention.  He brandishes his toy sword and shouts, “Hello!  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Pare to die.”  He says everything so clearly and with such passion, but just can’t quite get that word  “prepare.”  Today, he’s an actor.

My daughter heads off to an interview, nervous but determined.  Nancy and I stand at the doorway, waving nervously, but we manage to bellow, “Have fun stormin’ the castle!”

We’re at Relay for Life, where our family raises money by running a marriage booth.  For a few bucks, you and your beloved can dress up in a costume wedding dress, tux, and Mickey Mouse top hat.  Then, you can stand in front of my daughter, Emma, the officiant, wearing a graduation robe, as she recites the wedding benediction, “Mahhhwidge, mahhwidge, that most bwessed awaingement, that dweem wiffin a dweem…” 

For the past 12 years, our fifth grade has taken a field trip to Storm King Art Center.  It’s become a rite of Autumn at our school.  It’s a great trip for many reasons, but one aspect I had not realized I’d come to anticipate was the bus ride.  It’s a long trip, and our district requires that we take a coach bus.  This means we have a DVD player, and it means that I can try to convince 50 fifth graders that they need to watch a classic old movie. “Please, you won’t regret it.”  Sometimes I have enlightened allies whose parents have taught their children well.  Other times I’ve lost the fight.  But when it works, it’s magic.  One year we pulled into the museum parking lot before the movie ended, and no one wanted to get off the bus. 

This year? A two-hour trip on a crowded bus?   Inconceivable.

Tonight, new lines jumped out, proving the timelessness of the script.  After their duel, Inigo Montoya asks the Dread Pirate Roberts, “What’s with the mask?  Are you hiding some scars?”

“No,” Roberts replies prophetically, “I find it very comfortable.  In the future I think everyone will be wearing them.”  The actor on the screen, Cary Elwes, is sporting a light blue surgical mask.

Among other things, the movie pays tribute to the power of a great read aloud.  Grandpa knows all the tricks.  First the admonishment that books were how kids entertained themselves before TV, then the teasing, “I think I’d better stop.  It seems to be upsetting you.” and later, “Maybe I should skip this part.”  Somehow, without Powerpoint or Zoom effects, he turns words into pictures and pictures into drama, and drama into real life.  

And when the story ends, Grandpa gets the best return, “Grandpa, if you want, you can come over tomorrow and read another story.”

Grandpa’s reply ends the movie with lines that throughout the movie stand for something so powerful it can overcome sickness, pain, suffering, and treachery.  It is the line that expresses true love:   “As you wish.”