When I was a little girl–and perhaps it’s because I’m a redhead–all I wanted to be when I grew up was Annie. I used to sing songs from the musical on my front lawn, at 7am–belted "Maybe" as if my meal depended on it. I didn’t want to grow up to be an actress, or a singer. I wanted to be Annie, the way today I imagine young girls want to be Hannah Montana. It’s not that I wanted to be an orphan, inventing names for stray dogs, I just felt so connected to her yearning. I remember that want: the want to be wanted. And I loved the theme of hope, long before I knew anything about "themes." The hope of being saved, the hope of something bigger than you looking out for you, the idea of believing in something so much that no one can convince you otherwise.
I recently received an email from a woman who attended Wheatley, my high school. She was one year my senior–an incredibly talented actor with a mesmerizing voice, and her mother knew it. From what I remember, when she wasn’t cast as the lead, her mother appeared the next day to complain. I heard this from my mother, who was far from "gossipy." The way I heard it: "You don’t know how good you have it. My daughter does commercials in the city. She has more talent than anyone here. You’re making a huge mistake." And then, I heard the alleged response from the faculty: "We have to give other people a chance." So they cast a short dumpy girl who couldn’t really sing as the lead. I always thought the girl who’d been skipped over was totally screwed for being talented, as if it worked against her.
"I just wanted to let you know that I was on vacation this week and read "Moose". I absolutely loved it ! It made Aruba even better! You truly have a gift! You totally captured Wheatley! I don’t know a woman today that does not obsess about her weight. We all do. And that’s why your book speaks to us all. Having two little girls I too hope that they can grow up without those constant thoughts haunting them daily. But you will see as yours gets bigger and bigger that all they really need is love and fun in their lives. I find that all kids are pretty happy if they are being engaged in life. My five and a half year old is just starting to be aware of her body and how she looks. Anyway, reading your book also reminded me of something. In school we did "Annie" and you had a great solo in that Herbert Hoover song (And a beautiful powerful voice, that totally blew me away!), and then you dropped out. I got your solo by default and I always wondered what happened? Why did you quit? I hope I am not asking a weird question, but you seem pretty open about your life… Okay I’ll stop rambling…Thanks for a great read…I am going to start your first book this week. (I can’t even believe who your wasband was! That’s just crazy!!) Congratulations on all you sucesses and your children and your happiness. Happy New Year!"
What a great email to receive… especially from someone I admired. Why did I drop out? Because I was cast as Ms. Hannigan’s understudy. Otherwise, my only solo was as "Sophie" with the line, "Today I’m stealing coal for fires. Who knew I could steal?" in a song bashing Herbert Hoover. And how much does it suck to be an understudy? You basically want and pray for someone to fall ill, to get dysentery, despite not knowing what the eff dysentery* is. It was fun, though, to sing a song with lyrics like: "I’ll call you Olli, my hot tamale," paired with, "Why don’t you pet me?" and "You want a smootchie, my little poochie?" Also, what great writing, to give her a scheming brother with the nickname "Rooster." It’s so authentic-seeming that way.
Today, right now as I type this actually, Abigail is sitting on a red beanbag, totally mesmerized, watching Annie. I can offer her a big "smootch," even sing all the words to every song, even "Dumb Dog," but she remains unmoved, on her knees, staring at the film. She does NOT have an attention span for anything on television the way she does for this particular musical. And I like to think it’s genetic. That she gets it from me, the way I inherited my father’s love for The Moody Blues. I’m betting that one day there will be psychology studies in music preference, and we’ll learn that part of our tastes are genetic. She must get this from me, the love of musicals with children, with yearning, with hope, and with, let’s face it, Carol Burnett. She’s as amazing as dysentery. I love Carol Burnett!
*I’ve since looked up dysentery, and I can tell you, if a girl is going to wish it upon another girl in a Mean Girls kinda way, she picked the right affliction, for sure. "Infection of the intestines resulting in diarrhea with the presence of blood and mucus in the feces." Awesome.
3 YEARS AGO: Don’t Cry Out Loud