Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Passion Play

Today is Jill’s birthday, and one cannot let the day pass without notice.

I first met the girl who would become my wife in 1953. We met in a passion play, a fact that usually produced gales of laughter in the years that followed. The priest who wrote it (with help from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) was a born impresario, who hired a professional director and staged it in downtown Boston. The play, called The Christus, had a cast of 125, which offered a part to virtually anyone who could breathe. Fresh out of the Army, I played the title role, and Jill was a member of the mob, credited as Julia in the program. Years later, Jill and I would howl as we recalled the fractured ad libs from that mob – things like “If He is the Son of God, why don’t He come down from the cross?”

There were bacchanalian scenes with Herod (with Ketelbey’s “In a Persian Market” setting the mood), a nativity scene (the infant Jesus was the winner of a widely publicized contest run by the impresario to promote the play), and a climactic ascension scene, with the Christus hoisted by cables to the sky as the curtain fell (the scene was played behind a scrim to obscure the cables).

About two months of rehearsals were needed to pull this epic together, and during that period I was careful to avoid any conduct unbecoming a Deity. In other words, no dating. But with the show behind us, we all gathered in the church hall for a mammoth cast party. I decided to ask the best-looking girl there to dance, and it was the best idea I ever had.

We were married on February 22, 1955. It was a good year, as all the Eisenhower years were, and we cheerfully began married life in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment. A year later we bought our first house, a tidy Cape Cod south of Boston. We moved north of Boston a few years later, and in 1965 we (now a family of five) settled into a big, 100-year-old converted schoolhouse in the center of historic Concord. That was our home for the next 30 years. Then, with retirement, a final move to the coast of Maine, where we had summered since 1968.

The last dozen years were probably the best of all, with nothing to do but watch the tides come and go, the seasons change, and our grandchildren grow. And consider how far we traveled since that anonymous member of the cast shouted, “Why don’t He come down from the cross?”

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Random Thoughts on August

The weather has improved lately, which the weather gods owed us after a miserable winter, spring, and July. When I say “improved,” that should be qualified. The temperature has topped out in the 70s on most days, though they say it will reach the 80s tomorrow. So you can’t call it a heat wave, but the vacationers are flocking to the beach before the window closes and the weather gets wretched again. Yesterday was sunny and crisp, a beauty, and today started out well, but there is now a dark grey sheet from horizon to horizon. More rain is coming, they say.

A local fence company has just installed a cedar post and rail fence along the south side of my lot. This replaces one that had seen better days. One problem was rot, the other was the sightseers who drive down my dead-end street, then use my driveway as a turnaround, occasionally clonking the end post. The clonker, a few weeks ago, was a Mercedes with New York plates, and the driver, after destroying the post, attempted to sneak off, but a neighbor hailed the miscreant. A sort of justice was thus served.

The new fence, a new upper deck made of composition material (no painting!), and a refurbished lower deck have smartened up the place considerably. Jill just missed it, more’s the pity, but I know she would have approved. And there’s plenty still to be done, especially to the grounds, which were Jill’s particular obsession. I am whatever the opposite of a green thumb is called (a black thumb?), so I will hire the work done.

Although I scan the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal every day, I depended on Jill to fill in the blanks, to keep me posted on the gossip she picked up on cable while I watched a movie, read a book, or listened to music. So now I am missing the wifely commentary that added spice to the daily news. She had strong opinions on politics, but she was also very smart, and her strong opinions were always worth listening to.

We are already well into August, and I have mixed feelings about that. It is always sad to see our short summer slipping away so swiftly, but this has been a rotten year, all things considered, and I will not be sad to see the end of it. As the months fly by, I know that by January I must escape this wintry Siberia to preserve my sanity. Someplace where it never snows, the only ice is in your drink, and the weather reports are always boring.