1. Mary Poppins is the first movie I remember. I was not yet four in spring of 1964. Running through the living room, we jounced Mother’s prized Lowestoft bowl off edge of her desk. It shattered. Biting back rage and sorrow, she commanded our father take us to the movies, a rare treat laced with shame. Last Thursday, I watch Emily Blount, chic and fiercer than Julie Andrews, returning, but I was really in our playroom, the LP spinning on my record player. I am singing every lyric of the real version, playing every role. “Supercaligfragilistic, feed the birds, if you want this choice position, Sister Suffragette.” It is a memory medley. In fourth grade, I played Mrs. Banks in our class play.
2. The damp Amazon package—dropped in the rain’s path--contains Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—a present to me from me, an post-Christmas indulgence. Cordelia auditions as Jo the other day; it was six years ago she played Jo, staggering her father and me, weeping in the back of the theatre, with her power. In the playroom, once I had read Little Women and Little Men, I pretended to be Jo, too. All my life, I’ve wanted to be Jo March. I have a Madame Alexander Jo doll on a shelf in my office. Is 58 too old for dolls? I think not.
3. My son, my Atticus, and Melis, our exchange daughter from Turkey, give me a giant stuffed sloth for my pre-Christmas birthday. I name him Stanisloth. Everything leads back to plays and books. He is draped on a table outside of my office for little girls to hug as they pass.
4. I never wanted to be Atticus Finch, but how I adored him. “If I ever have a boy baby,” I tell our TKAM cast in the Chapin Black Box, I would name him Atticus. The girls scoff. “You’re not having any more babies, Ms. K,” they smile. Three years later, our Atticus arrives, a son with a name to live up to.
5. A spoonful of sugar. I am trying not to eat sugar for a whole month.
6. In the film, the children fight over their mother’s Royal Doulton bowl and break it. They, too, go on an adventure, but with Lin Manuel, not with my dad.
7. First day of the new semester. Sleet beats the slate roof. We wish for real snow, not frozen rain. “Do we go to school in snow? Melis asks, plaintive.
8. Beyond the mullioned windows, lights twinkle in the wet dark. They glow, chase—blue, red, green, white, purple. Deflated inflatables litter the yard like Act V of Hamlet, red plastic oozing, wrinkled, across the lawn.
9. Seth’s lights spangle the ceiling of our bedroom, gliding like the glass shards in a kaleidoscope--dancing, shifting, shimmering.
10. In some light, I imagine I see our son’s upper lip shaded with the faintest outline of a mustache. He was born after we left New York, another chapter in our lives.
11. Mary Poppins, Jo March, Atticus Finch. Teachers. Wise adults. Idols, who endure, undiminished. (I sneer at Go Tell a Watchman.) Don’t we deserve heroes? Some days, fiction feels sturdier than friendship.
12. I sauté brussel sprouts and spill tears into the pan. Two funerals and a friend in trouble. Some days are hard.