Friday, February 12, 2010

The Corner of 42nd Street and Fantasyland

Sometimes I imagine what Emma’s real family would be like. And by that I don’t mean her birth parents, who were, after all, a couple of ordinary people. No, by “real” I mean “meeting with her approval.” Her supermodel/secret agent mother would be impossibly beautiful, even after six birth kids, all boys, plus a few more adopted ones, again all boys. Her NBA coach/multimillionaire father, when not busy coaching the family teams, would relax by windsurfing on their private island. And the brothers would alternately compete with her, adore her and take all her advice. In this family, every spare minute would be spent running, jumping and competing. And, most importantly, no one would ever, ever discuss the relative merits of Michael Kidd and Agnes De Mille, or spend precious moments deciding which musical remake they’d most like to star in, should Broadway ever call. This would be a family of tote boards and ice packs, not sequins and magic wands.

Poor Emma.

Instead of a Kennedy-esque dream family, blesssed with wealth and boundless energy (and minus the pesky addiction problems), she’s stuck with us. Sure, she’s always known we were boring (I swear to God, I saw her rolling her eyes at me when she was four months old and I couldn’t figure out how to zip up her onesie). But this seems to be the year that she’s also realized that we aren’t normal, and she hasn’t been pleased.

I noticed it last Friday night, our Movie Musical Night (popcorn made in our battered old pot, homemade pizza, and the roulette of whatever DVD has shown up in our request heap at the library). Mary Katherine was singing along, loudly, with the sailors in On the Town, imagining herself, I suspect, in the Jules Munshin role, given her ambitions as a second banana (look for her to be the scene-stealing Rosalind Russell part in a majority of major motion pictures produced in the 2020’s). I had one eye on an impossible NY Times crossword puzzle and the other one focused on the happy trio. I was just about to launch into some obscure anecdote about Comden & Green when Emma turned to me and wailed, “I used to think everyone knew this stuff, but now I know. It’s just us!” The piteous wail got our attention, and she told a sad story about how she had jokingly sung a little tune from Meet Me in St. Louis during biology class and had been met with uncomprehending stares. “Nobody knows this stuff but us!” she j’accused.

I decided not to suggest that this was really important stuff, and that knowing all the lyrics to You’ve Got Trouble, including the reprise, could not help but make her a better, more well-adjusted person in the long run. No, the kid was wise to the fact that she lived at the corner of 42nd Street and Fantasyland, in a town where everyone else is lined up in a neat row on Normal Avenue (cross streets, Norwegian Dullard Drive and Boring as Hell Boulevard, but still).

All mothers disappoint their daughters, but to know you’ve disappointed yours in such a fundamental way is hard for me. Still, she knows that I love her. And maybe someday she’ll be happy that she can recall all the words to Wonderful Town, even if she doesn’t really want to, now.

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