Monday Morning Musings:
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
“This play is so American. . .[it] shows us that transformation can only happen when we break apart our fears, our suspicions and our judgments. Because the America I know is not the one that is portrayed by only a few, isn’t the one that discriminates against its citizens for their differences. NO. The America I know and cherish and honor is one that all these characters are creating.”
— Emmanuelle Delpech, From her Director’s Notes, The Legend of Georgia McBride, Arden Theatre, Philadelphia
When was the last time the four of us had spent a day together at a museum?
We all wondered, but couldn’t remember,
somewhere amidst childhood’s ghosts
left behind with dolls and story books,
ghosts of Halloweens past
when little girls dressed in costumes
that they slept in,
a princess and a clown
(not a creepy one at all).
And so we went,
a family outing,
our girls married women now,
but still crazy sisters, having fun,
interpreting the works of art
And since the big new exhibit is on Mexican revolutionary art
and it’s close to Halloween
there are Day of the Dead displays
We eat Wawa hoagies*
(My daughter misses them in Boston.)
I score Super Momma points
by making hot fudge sauce,
totally spur of the moment
(in record time)
so we can have it with our coffee ice cream
as we watch Grey’s Anatomy
It’s another ghost from the past.
It is Halloween weekend,
my husband and I go to the theater
(which, I guess fits, when you think about it)
In the play,
a man discovers his inner femininity—
becoming a drag queen,
with the help of a real drag queen.
After a slow start,
the play picks up
struts its stuff,
so to speak,
along with the actors,
a feel good show
about finding your passion
and not giving up,
accepting those who are different from you.
A good lesson, don’t you think?
After the show, we drink coffee
sitting on a bench outside of Christ Church in Philadelphia.
a beautiful October day,
we watch the people in the present
learning about the people of the past,
as they walk in and about the beautiful eighteenth-century church
where George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others attended services.
We walk the streets, some still cobbled,
where founding fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers
where free and bound lived and worked.
None of them was perfect,
neither are we.
But the past is a foreign country.
people then did not know all we know now
(perhaps we have lost some of their knowledge, too)
Progress and human rights come slowly
as babies crawl tentatively before they walk and then run eagerly
to explore the world.
So are there stages
that rise and fall.
And of discoveries that humans uncover and embrace with hesitation
Thirteen colonies came together,
representatives walked the streets we now walk,
worked together to fight for independence,
and later, to form a more perfect union,
evolving over centuries
with greatness from the start,
along with evils,
slavery, racism, sexism, xenophobia.
We should not move backwards
to the foreign country of the past,
not regress, but rather progress,
build upon the great to make greater.
We travel to another part of Philadelphia,
one of the largest urban parks in the world.
We are there for a Lupus Run/Walk
my younger daughter and her husband run,
my husband and I walk,
some people drag their heels,
some are in drag,
There is a team of Star Wars characters,
others in purple tutus,
a sea of purple t-shirts.
We begin at Memorial Hall
(now the Please Touch Children’s Museum)
with its figure of Columbia at the top,
it was an art museum,
constructed for the Centennial Exhibition in 1876,
a huge exhibition with many buildings
and many visitors.
A Women’s Pavilion gave women a chance to display and demonstrate
the new opportunities available to them in professions and business
there were displays of dress reforms, too.
But women were segregated in their own pavilion,
and still denied the vote.
And so we run/walk through
beautiful Fairmount Park
passing statues of Civil War generals
and the Japanese Tea house
I imagine women in suffragist white,
ghosts flitting among the statues
I think they would echo
“When they go low, we go high,”
standing calm amidst storms of hate.
Women have always had to fend off and fight
the gropers and grabbers,
and some of them loved other women
though not out in the open.
I amuse myself by imaging Susan B. Anthony
reading grievances while drag queens in the audience cheer.
(This did not happen.)
But the past is a foreign country
we can’t impose our views on it.
Our own pasts, well, perhaps they change
with, in, our memories
which are imperfect.
merging and shifting,
taking on new tones and meanings.
On this Halloween
my memories of Halloween past
merge with the present.
I think about the future,
We are at the crossroads,
there are ghosts all around.
We must push back the hate and fear.
A wise man once had a dream
of freedom for all
freedom for those of every color, of any religion.
He was killed by hate.
But still we dream.
I think about the future
*Hoagie is the Philadelphia name for a sandwich served on a long, tapered roll. Wawa is a convenience store chain that is much beloved in parts of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
We saw The Legend of Georgia McBride by Matthew Lopez at the Arden Theatre.
On suffragists on Independence Day 1876, see this.
Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream speech.