3J Random Dancing in the Woods with Fairies
August 2, 2007
Aunt Naomi, the ballerina, from a bohemian Jewish Chicago family obsessed with alternative health care, married Donald, product of a California pioneer ranching family in the high desert near Hemet, an engineer who worked for the power utility in Los Angeles.
Donald and Naomi settled in Fullerton, another small town in Orange County, California, only a few miles away from Brea.
Naomi opened a ballet studio. Donald eventually became a chiropractor. One of their two daughters, Joanna, learned Chinese in Taiwan and became, with her Taiwanese husband, the millionaire co-owner of the multi-national manufacturer of baby strollers and children’s furniture, Graco. I consider her success an example of the virtues of bringing hybrid vigor into your family tree.
After Grandfather Harry, dentist turned naturopath, died, perhaps because he had not given himself enough colonics to keep himself healthy forever, Grandmother Agnes moved to California to live with her daughter, Naomi.
As a pacifist, Agnes believed she would turn the world away from war by writing children’s plays that contained no conflict and no violence. By watching and performing in such plays, the next generation of children would become, Agnes believed, a new kind of human who would eschew violence. As you can see, Agnes was ahead of her time. Perhaps a few million years ahead.
Once a year, Naomi would rent a theatre to put on a recital of the children in her ballet studio. Ballet studios put on recitals just as companies pay dividends to investors. Parents invest in ballet lessons; they receive their dividend payment when they see little Caroline cavort on stage in her tutu.
Grandma Agnes wrote and directed a play that served as a “frame” for the whole recital. Thus Naomi, a very good daughter, humored her mother.
Although I could not (and still cannot) dance a lick, I was drafted into performing in the play as one of the two non-dancing characters. As the play opened, my stage sister and I were walking in the woods. Behind the stage scenery trees, presumably invisible to us though quite visible to the audience, were many little fairies in tutus along with the Queen of the Fairies, the most advanced “ballerina” of the dance studio, a teenager who had graduated to “toe” shoes and could display some actual dancing ability.
My stage sister exclaimed, “Oh, what beautiful woods. I bet fairies live here! [Rustling and suppressed giggling among hidden fairies.] I wish I could be a fairy and dance through the woods! Wouldn’t you like to be a fairy dancing through the woods, too, Random?”
At this point, I delivered my big line of the play. Twirling around in an exaggerated pastiche of fairy dancing, I exclaimed, “Oh, sure, I bet I would look really cute as a prancing fairy!” (As this was still the innocent 1950s, this line was not greeted with the embarrassed laughter it would produce today.)
The Fairy Queen royally emerged from the stage bushes and trees, sternly chastising me for my disdainful and disrespectful attitude toward fairies. To teach me the error of my ways, the various inhabitants of faerie land would perform for my sister and I. For the next two hours I stood at awkward attention watching fairies, elves, sprites, and other magical creatures perform. (Fortunately for my aching legs and uncertain bladder, there were a couple of intermissions.)
Small children who were not really able to dance, a group that included my younger brother B and my younger sister D, portrayed brownies who tumbled. My brother performed his somersault, and then noticed that our sister was standing petulantly still.
“Do your somersault!” he sternly chastised her.
“I can’t! My back hurts,” my sister retorted in a loud voice that carried through the entire theatre.
My aunt, an experienced impresario of small children performing over their heads, quickly rushed on stage with a gracious smile/moue toward the parents of affectionate complicity and gently but firmly ushered the floundering brownies off stage.
Eventually, all the denizens of faerie gathered on stage for a grand finale of magical dancing prowess. The Queen of Fairy Land demanded of Random if he now appreciated the wonders of life as a fairy. The eleven-year-old nephew of the owner of the dance studio, bored out of his tiny brain, mustered as enthusiastic an assent as he bring himself to simulate and then joined in the bows to the thundering applause of the assembled parents.
After we our final retreat from the stage, my grandmother gathered me to her ample bosom and with regal aplomb, congratulated me on my dramatic prowess. I think that was my last appearance on a stage as an actor, though my brother, an accomplished amateur musician and ham, later performed in several neighborhood theatre productions as a combination actor/guitarist.
Yes, I know no guns appeared in this chapter. Agnes would have wanted it that way. They do appear in the next episode as we make our way to my uncle’s ranch near Hemet.
Yes, I know everyone wants to know if any rabbits have bitten the dust. Well, I tell my stories in my rambling way (a bad habit I learned from Jean Shepherd), so you’ll have to wait a bit longer.
Though, I will say that if you keep a pet bunny, and it appears on the grounds of the little house in the medium-sized woods, it should wear a bunny license and be on a leash, if it knows what’s good for it.