Monday, March 9, 2009

Moonless Room

Here in this room with the
curtains closed for many a moon, there
might as well not be a moon, for all I
can see, though no doubt there is one all right
going round and round (as I am too) up there with the
asteroids and debris - how much debris? I wish I
could see. I say goodnight to it anyway, imagining it
would miss me if I didn't, as I would certainly miss it if
it were gone. So many moons have gone by that I will soon be
87 - imagine! When my grandfather died at 80 we
thought he was really, really old (although a couple of years before
he made my mother angry by requiring us to visit a relative in
Taunton just because she was over 90. He wanted us kids to meet her,
but my mom did not think kids should be meeting old people just because
they were old - in fact, I don't think she thought we should be meeting
old people anyway, though my grandfather was already over 80 and
seemed old to us. Oh, Grandpa! Imagine - he took me to see Shakespeare
and also Gilbert and Sullivan when Mom wouldn't & wouldn't
even go herself; she thought these things frivolous. I remember her
arguing with a friend about Steinbeck ("I've lived "Grapes of Wrath - I
don't need to dwell on it") and Noel Coward ("He's very smart I'm sure
but what does he have to say? Nothing.") Mom liked to read The
Reader's Digest though she sometimes had to have her friend Coby
explain it to her. She frequently said that she felt sorry for me
because I was smart. Meanwhile I didn't feel that smart, though I did
feel she could be smarter if she wanted to be; once she said (though
she herself wore pants at home) "Women don't wear men's clothing," and
when I said "George Sands did" her retort was "Yes, but you're not
George Sands." This was how I learned that I could just ignore her, an
odd lesson but useful a few years later when she and her friend Scottie
were shocked to learn that I wanted to take German, not Spanish, as my
language requirement. Spanish they thought very useful in business;
German useless for anything and perhaps dangerous. Oh the craziness of
yesteryear and how odd that I had to take it seriously. And craziest
of all, Fraulein Schnieders, the German teacher, actually turned out to
be a real German spy! Just the same I learned some good German from
her and had some good arguments with her about Goethe (I didn't like
him - still don't). After the war I ended up, to my astonishment ("Who
cares how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?") in the
philosophy department with Suzanne Langer's "New Key," and have been
happy ever since to call myself a philosopher. And soon it will be my
birthday and I still don't know what phase the moon is in right now.
I'd like to have my grandfather's grandfather clock, tall as the room
and showing every day just where the moon was, in case the clouds
obscured it when looking through the window. Of course, though,
Grandpa had to get the key and wind it up every week or it wouldn't
show anything aright; how exciting it was to see the weights go up to
the top again, the pendulum swinging away. And you could tell it was a
pleasure to Grandpa to have us as audience for his magic act.

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