Saturday, June 15, 2019

Feelin' Not so Groovy

August makes the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the psychedelic rock festival that pretty much summed up the late ‘60s. I was only 12, but I was fascinated by the far-out scene captured on film. Those VW buses painted with flowers and peace symbols! Those throngs of uninhibited young people, singing and swaying and screaming to Jimi and Janis! I couldn’t wait to be old enough to be a hippie!

By the time I reached my late teens everything was Saturday Night Fever, and no one was wearing love beads anymore. Instead of flowing dresses and daisies in my hair, I wore clothes with shoulder pads that made me look like a linebacker. And while I attended my share of concerts, none of them seemed remotely like the wild weekend on that upstate New York farm.

Life went on, until my teenage offspring were attending their own concerts and festivals, featuring their own music gods and goddesses. And one day I woke up and I was 62, and it was fifty years since the Summer of Love, and my flower child dreams were a lifetime ago.

But sometimes, sometimes, you get a second chance. This past week, I went up to the Poconos with my friends Holly and Mary Ellen for a few days. It rained on Thursday, and Holly suggested we go visit a museum—but not just any museum. We were, as it turns out, only a 40 minute drive from Bethel Woods. The site of Woodstock. And on the grounds there is now a performing arts center, as well as a museum. Yay! Who cared that we were driving a sensible, un-stencilled car, and had no marijuana with us? We were about to experience a taste of 1969!

As we drove, the traffic grew heavier. Clearly others had the same groovy idea! But then the cars started to move. At the entrance to the complex, a young police officer stood, checking every vehicle and then waving it through. When it was our turn, Holly confidently rolled down her window and explained that we weren’t attending the music festival already in progress there, just the museum.

“You don’t want to go there,” he intoned solemnly, shaking his head. “It’s nuts, very loud and crowded and crazy. You all REALLY don’t want to go in. Look, here’s a spot where you can turn around!” Totally thrown, we obeyed, and found ourselves driving away. But then it hit us. Wait a minute! Do we look like we are that ancient? Like we can’t handle a little noise and craziness? The more we thought about it, the more irritated we became—though not enough to re-enter the long queue of vehicles. It’d be our luck that Officer Baby Face would just turn us back again. And so, disappointed, we conceded rock festival defeat.

Home in Oreland, it still rankles. I missed two chances at Woodstock, and I probably won’t get a third.

Darn it.

I think I’ll go tie dye something.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


My silly guy hanging out with St. Francis!

As the mother of five children, three of them boys, I feel very lucky that my trips to the emergency room have been relatively few (relative, that is, to my mom buddies whose offspring were always shoving random objects up their noses or breaking their legs in three places in bizarre playground accidents.) Still, it’s always traumatic to pull up to that entrance next to the ambulances with a sick or injured little one in the back seat. Steve and I remained home with Peter last night when Sher and Yaj sped off to Abington Hospital with Aiden. He had been coughing for a couple of days, but suddenly he was barking like a seal and struggling to breathe. Textbook symptoms of croup, yet knowing how common this virus is in kids didn’t take any of the fear away. 

While we waited for news, I thought back on ER experiences we have had over the years. There was the checkup at Dr. Lockman's office with six week old Julie that rapidly became a rushed trip to triage, then to admission for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Then when baby Sheridan was transported by ambulance to Beebe Hospital in Lewes with dehydration in the summer heat. Rose’s ruptured ovarian cyst, which necessitated emergency middle of the night surgery. A concussion here, a fractured arm there…now that I add them up, I guess we WERE rather frequent pacers, and non-readers of old magazines, in medical center waiting rooms.

The older I get, the more I worry about possible serious complications with any illness or procedure. I think maybe it’s because I HAVE been so fortunate up until now, and so many others with precious little ones have not. And why is that? I haven’t done any super-duper good deeds to earn me a reprieve, that’s for sure. Is it all just a spin of the Wheel of Fortune? In my Big Book of Questions for God when I arrive at the Pearly Gates, the suffering of children is at the top of the list.

I cannot believe in a God who causes bad things to happen. I struggle with a God who allows bad things to happen at all. But I can take comfort in a God who paces the cold, fluorescently-lit waiting rooms with us, and who also holds the innocents in His arms, soothing their fevered brows, whispering words of love. My God is right there, sleeping in detention centers with terrified refugee children, holding the hand of a tiny patient on an operating table, and God cries with them.

And in the emergency rooms of our lives, God is with the doctors and nurses who, sometimes, are able to work miracles.

Our Aiden came home very late, after a dose of steroids that tamed his dreadful cough. He slept, and today he seems better. As I hug my grandson, I try to give my worries and fears up to the God who understands, and who stands, with me through it all.

Abington ER

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The God Project

You are an employee of a nameless Scandinavian furniture store. You work in the disorienting maze of aisles where every Swedish-labeled item is stocked. You are tasked with putting together displays of all the furniture. You hear your supervisor’s voice, but have never actually met her. You were given an employee manual when you were hired, and are urged to make your own checklist.

This is the world of The God Project, a fabulous new play Steve and I saw in center city last night. It is the latest offering of 1812 Productions, a long running Philadelphia theatre troupe known for its pungent satire and lighthearted musical revues. In recent years, 1812 has tackled grittier material, led by co-founder Jen Childs.

Jen and fellow performer Sean Close had arrived at a rehearsal for another production, with the exact same break time reading material: a book by theologian Richard Rohr. Wow, what were the odds? Turns out, they are both PK’s (Pastor’s Kids), their childhoods marked by their lives as offspring of church leaders. A series of conversations led to the writing of this show.

The curtain rises on aisle after aisle of cardboard boxes, each containing a piece of knocked down furniture. The night shift workers, Drew and Sheila, are tasked with assembling displays. Aside from their background as pastor’s children, they could not be more dissimilar. Drew shuns the church and organized religion entirely; Sheila hangs cross necklaces on cardboard cutouts and keeps a prayer list as part of her daily “to do’s”-and Drew is soon added to her list. Drew questions everything he was raised with; Sheila worked selflessly for 30 years at her father’s church before the new pastor fired her—and bears no grudge.

As the evening progresses, Drew and Sheila spar on the subjects of inspiration, miracles, even the way to approach the voluminous manual (Bible?) the employees are given, which Drew hasn’t even read. Drew is currently homeless, living in display bedrooms while trying to hit it big as a singer/songwriter; Sheila begs God for a sign about her calling. God is portrayed as an ebullient African American woman who regularly bursts into song, and appears randomly to our protagonists.

Eventually, Drew urges Sheila to apply to seminary, and he takes a leap of faith to write and perform some new musical material. What becomes of these two misfit companions? Are they doomed to put “Bjorns” together for eternity, or does life offer more? What I loved (beside the numerous inside church jokes) was the subtle movement of the two main characters toward a center point of understanding—Sheila becomes less didactic, and Drew opens his mind and heart a bit.

I will never enter IKEA again without seeing the store as metaphor for the crazy spiritual journey we each take. We are, every one of us, God Projects: sometimes lost, unprepared to put it all together, puzzling over a manual in a foreign language. But determined, by the grace of God, to succeed.