Monday, December 03, 2012

Eleemosynary

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Wynona Ryder in Beetlejuice

eleemosynary
[el-uh-mos-uh-ner-ee], adjective:
1. Of or for charity; charitable; as, “an eleemosynary institution.”
2. Given in charity; having the nature of alms; as, “eleemosynary assistance.”
3. Supported by or dependent on charity; as, “the eleemosynary poor.

I was prompted a bit to think of a favorite word. This one finally came to mind. I performed this monologue in college. My mother performed Artie, the mother, in a full production.was in the play.  Grandmothers. Mothers. Daughters. So much resonance in my heart for this relationship...especially my mother's mother, my mother and me--all the different fire signs of the zodiac: Grandma was an Aries, Cardinal Sign. Mom is a Sagittarius, Mutable Sign. I am a Leo, Fixed Sign. We dwell in warmth. And burning. And smoke. And heart. Because what is love, any kind of love, but a heart set on fire?

ELEEMOSYNARY, by Lee Blessing
This play examines the delicate relationship of three women: a grandmother, Dorothea, who has sought to exert her independence through strong willed eccentric behavior, Artie, her daughter, who has run from her overpowering mother, and Echo, Artie’s daughter, who is incredibly smart and equally sensitive. After Dorothea (who has raised Echo into her teens) suffers a stroke, Echo is forced to reestablish contact with her mother through extended phone conversations, during which real issues are skirted and the talk is mostly about the precocious Echo’s unparalleled success in a national spelling bee. In the end, Artie and Echo come to accept their mutual need and summon the courage to build a life together, despite the terror this holds after so many years of estrangement.

Echo: Uncle Bill hardly remembers you, you know that? I asked him what you were like as a little girl, and he couldn’t even say. He remembers Grandma even less. He didn’t have one interesting thing to say about her – about Grandma. They don’t have a single picture or her, either. Not even in their minds. To them, she’s just a woman who lived a big, embarrassing life. They all think they’ve saved me just in time. Not just from Grandma–from you, too. (A beat.)
So I started wondering if they weren’t right. Maybe the smartest thing would be to forget you completely. And Grandma. After all, what did I ever get from the two of you, except a good education? You especially – what were you ever to me, except a voice on the phone now and then? And I looked around the new room where I was staying, and it was real nice and... blank, the way a thing is before you put any time into it. I thought, I could live a whole new life here. I could invent a whole new me. I could be Barbara if I wanted to, not Echo. I could fit in. I don’t mean I’d become like Whitney and Beth. I’m not that crazy. But I could become like Robinson Crusoe, and adapt myself to a strange and harsh environment. I could live in a kind of desert. I could even flourish. Like you have. I could live without the one thing I wanted. But I kept hearing your voice. That voice on the other end of the phone, hiding behind spelling words, making excuses – or so energetic sometimes, so... wishing. I don’t even remember what you said, just the sound of it. Just a sound that said, “I love you, and I failed you.” I hate that sound. And I will never settle for it, because no one failed me. No one ever failed me. Not Grandma and not you. I am a prize among women. I’m your daughter. That’s what I choose to be. Someone who loves you. Someone who can make you love me. Nearly all the time. I’m going to stay with you. I’m going to prepare you for me. I’m going to cultivate you. I’m going to tend you.

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