I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fruit Salad for Derek Walcott, Part 1

It's spring break and Girl is feeling very sorry for herself because her neighborhood friends are all under weird home school or latch key arrangements that keep them from capitalizing on this rare week of freedom. Spouse and I are at work, and while Belle-mere gamely consents to being on point, she is not so ambitious for their entertainment that she is willing to drive them anywhere. And she only just tolerates hosting friends in our home.

Adding to her despair is her mother's admonition that she use this time to concentrate on her neglected science fair project and violin. How is that an answer?

My hope for her is that she learn early on -- much earlier than I learned it -- the work hard; play hard credo -- Arrange your life so that you don't let your friends intrude on your work; but don't miss the part where you're also not supposed to let your work intrude on your friends.

To illustrate my point, I told her one of my favorite OWLSS stories -- In Which We Thieve Derek Walcott Away from the Writer's Workshop. Now to appreciate this tale, you have to feel the young English major that I was, having pimped out my muse and enrolled in law school; what facility I may ever have had with the literary theory of the day growing fainter; at the same time spectacularly failing at the drill-and-repeat exercise before me.

Imagine now a woman living a parallel life, but uncompromised, enrolled across the river at the Writer's Workshop. That was Meredith. We had gone to high school together, had sat at the same smarty-pants/ artsy table at lunch. Only she's living the dream and I occasionally get invited to parties where I can no longer keep up with the references.

I was a big fan of Derek Walcott, and, around the time that he was being considered for the Nobel Prize, he gave a reading on campus. The OWLSS women went along to humor me, and to REPRESENT for all of the law school drones. We were a regular Fox Force Five -- one Asian, one Cablinasian, one Cuban, one Arab, and one blonde.

Meredith let us in on the exclusive after-party at the home of one of the workshop people. When we got there, Derek was immediately attracted to us. Could have been our sunshine, our calendar-girl diversity, or merely the fact that we weren't trying to hand him a manuscript and/or treat him to our critique. But he motioned us over to him, and then had us all sit down, criss-cross apple sauce, ON THE FLOOR. This gesture created such an awkward spacing between us and the other attendees that it might as well have been an invisible force field. Thus we passed the better part of an hour until he really did have to return to his duties. But he invited himself over to one of our apartments for dinner the next night.

Well, I believe I've mentioned that I am nobody's idea of a cook. So that is how it happened that I made fruit salad for Derek Walcott.

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