When I was 12 or so my mother and I were invited to visit my grandmother's cousin and his wife at their beachfront house in Ocean City, NJ. He had been successful in business, and was heir to the sandy good looks of the most genetically fortunate strain of my family, as well as our Civil War ancestor's venerable and imposing name.
(A venerable and imposing name did not save our Civil War ancestor from dying young, sick, and broke).
I was prepared to be impressed with my third cousin and his wife. She had been a bookseller and had beautiful volumes in the house, which she showed me (Oscar Wilde!). She also complained to my mother that it was "hard to find good help these days," which struck me as cliche even then, and an odd complaint to share with a single working mother who could afford a day trip to the shore, but not an overnight stay, and not, surely, beachfront property or "help..."
I pocketed the monogrammed napkin that had my third cousin's initial on it, amazed that such a thing could exist. Was I really in this beautiful place? Was I really related to these beautiful people?
I remember a night walk on the beach; the waves making their ruckus, the stars close, and insistent.
Toward the end of our evening we gathered in the sunken living room to watch a memorial video from our cousins' world cruise. "Sayanora, Singapore-a," was the refrain of the treacly choir at the finale of the video. The endlessly repeated melody burned itself into my memory, and I can sing it still.
I think we had a nice evening.
On the way home in the car, my mother sang "Sayanora, we sing-a poor-a."
I laughed--but also marveled at my monogrammed napkin, with its single, architecturally imposing capitol letter.
I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West
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- "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
- "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
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