Sunday, October 3, 2010

After-school Specials

“What seest thou else in the dark backwards and abysm of time? In Shakespeare's work, elements of prophecy and vision are recurrent themes, often punctuated by impending darkness to set the mood. One can imagine that the sinister nature of these predictions was all-too-real for Shakespeare's time, where faeries still lit lanterns in the still night, and witches plotted strange and unnatural alchemies. The dark and frequently cynical message of Shakespearean prophecy works with the paranoid tremors of the day, where anything outside of Christendom was foul magic indeed. Thus, any use of it must somehow be justified. In the case of Macbeth, the faith that the titular warlord has in the witches' fortune is his undoing, as he is still ignorant of the clear anathema demanded by interruption of nature's course (having committed regicide). One must not ignore the urgings of the supernatural, as they do tend to be entirely correct, but again underlined is the often dark settings of any words of prophecy. A seer warns Caesar of his impending death at the Ides of March; A ghost tells of murder and betrayal at the hands of a certain uncle-cum-king of the Danes; a coven of witches push on a nobleman the expectation of royalty and invulnerability, provided that the deal is sealed in blood. Even the more benevolent use of magic has sinister undertones: consider the vile Caliban that the magician Prospero has restrained.
Anathema is just as constant: Brutus, Macbeth, Claudius, etcetera, all meet their ends for having consorted with unnatural prophecy. Even the great Prospero burns his books, washing his hands of magic once and for all, and in this case, the appeal to the audience is explicit as in his parting words Prospero asks for the indulgence of their benevolence...”
My eyes are heavy as I read this last sentence. “Not a bad start,” I write, “but it needs more focus. Your use of language is deft, and this makes for an intriguing introduction to your essay. Just be careful to stay on track! It remains unclear as to whether you're talking about magic, prophecy, or simply attitudes towards witchcraft in Shakespeare's time.”
The pronouncement is already bleeding through the page in appropriately red ink. I've made my mark, given my opinion, and have made the opening blows for him to start trimming the fat from his essay. A sigh escapes from my lips. I am the Grand Executioner of rhetoric, but even this righteous work is making my eyelids heavy.
“Mmm? What is it, honey?”
That sweet little face looks up at me like I'm a work of art wrapping a visionary-mastermind. I can't tell if she's looking cute like this on purpose, or whether she's just incidentally showing off my impacts as Number One Mom. Ever. I have as much written on my coffee mug.
“I'm done my homework. Can I watch the TV?”
“You're done already?”
“Ahuh!” Her head bobs, wiggling around those lovely little bangs.
“Well, okay, but only until Daddy gets home. Then you wash up for dinner, right?”
Oh, honey, you're going to be a heartbreaker when you grow up, like it or not. You know I can barely refuse you as it is. So innocent and full of some of that happy fluff that too many of us adults need to be stuffed with. We're so empty next to you, sugar. Momma loves you so much.
She's in the other room, and has already flicked on one of those 24-hour kids networks, you know the kind: less eyebrow-raising content for parents. God knows we need some kind of distraction for those little minds now and then, and having TV babysitting your kidling lessens the guilt if they're getting in some of that ostensibly wholesome educational programming.
I have to smile. Not that she keeps one off of my face every time she flashes that cutesy thing she does with her eyes. I did something right.
But! Back to the papers. Older young minds must be moulded into essay-writers of superlative quality. I live in hope. If I have to be cynical, it'd be to say that it's more to enforce some sense of literacy on these kids. Keep 'em in school.
…Something whispers impatiently in the back of my head: “That's what you get for letting TV babysit 'em, huh? They don't know a book from a boulder, much less a raven from a writing-desk!”
My brain is such a smart-ass sometimes.

Don't overdo it. My little star pupil here has some nice stuff down about the Bard's hocus-pocus, but he's missing a few details. Maybe it'll add to his argument?
Maybe it'll throw him for a loop, make him do a re-write. Hm.
“Have you thought about some of Shakespeare's comedies? Midsummer Night's Dream has some comparatively sunnier instances of magic.”
The ink is on the paper. I've done it. I've made my verdict. It's a bait-and-switch approach to teaching: if the kid is smart enough to address that, he might come over with a stronger essay. Maybe throw in some of the disasters that happen with the spells, or some of that 'center cannot hold' jingle-jangle by magical mischief-makers.
“But what if...”
The voice is back, boxing my ears.
“But what if he really is defeated by this? You specifically mentioned it, so he knows that he has to mention it if he wants a good grade!”
So? I'm starting to feel the coffee leaving me, and I rub my eyes impulsively.
“So-- if he can't fit it in, he'll give up and toss this away!”
Voice is right, but it can't be helped. Sometimes, a bit of unnatural selection is needed. What doesn't kill us makes us better writers, right?
Right, really happy endings for Poe, Plath, and that nice Mr. All-American novelist whose Grapes of Wrath turned out to be ball-bearings in a loaded shotgun fixated on providing a last meal at the behest of its owner. Oh, Hemingway, you cad.
“So don't stomp on them!”
I swat Voice away. I'm a teacher, fer Chrissakes. 'Kill with kindness' is hardly a guiding philosophy if you want a student to progress. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is an indespensible tool in the ink-stained quest for truth, knowledge, and academic happiness.
Rewrite, restructure, and he'll pass with flying colors.

Already later in my mind than it is in that 'real world' outside of it. Note to self: learn to control time. I'm massaging my temples over a mug of hot tea, thumb and forefinger working magic headache-healing semicircles on either side of my forehead. I'm in the doorway to the den, where Shawna's nice and hypnotized by Big Bird and Elmo. Go, learning box, go! Make my kid smarter for me while I do other stuff!
Ah, she ain't doing half bad, I have to say, even if I'm a teensy bit biased in that regard.
Well-put, clearly capable judge of character. You've earned another Mom Of The Year mug, and good on you for being so awesome.
Why, thank-you, equally impartial part of me that congratulates my hard work as a mother. I think I will celebrate with a goofy smile and a bit of hot tea.
“What's the matter, Mommy?”
“Oop, nothing to worry about, honey, Mommy just forgot her tea was so hot.”
I didn't need those tastebuds anyway. Stupid goofy grin. Stupid parental pride making me get blindsided by the thermal properties of microwave'd Earl Grey.
“Okay, Mommy, just be careful.”
Shucks. Look at Shawna give me some good motherly advice. She's a natural. The self-satisfaction, having survived a minor scalding, bubbles back to the surface, where it puts a probable smirk on my features. Kids: Clearly the best medicine.
“Hey-hey, sexy lady.”
The whisper in my ear, low and purring, is so sudden that I almost spill/scald myself again. I'm caught off-guard, and a little swear escapes my lips.
“Shit, Stu! You scared me!”
Fortunately, Shawna's too busy singing along with a number-reciting plush Dracula on the TV to have picked up on my misuse of the grown-up language.
Stu's standing there, giving me a wide grin. “Sorry, babe. Thought you heard me come in.”
My ass. He's not sorry, and I'm damn sure he crept up on me on purpose. I narrow my eyes, giving him the pouty you're-in-some-shit-now pucker. Don't giggle when he's looking at you like that, you'll never fake being pissed at him.
“Guess I'm sleeping on the couch tonight, huh.” Oh, that's right, you know what's good for you. He pulls some puppy-dog face, trying as hard as I am to keep it straight.
“Not a chance. I'm going to let this offense slide, but you'd better make it up to me.”
This nets another grin.
“You're too good to me.”
I am. He pulls me close, and I get that eyes-closed rush when I'm in his arms all over again. God, I love him. I can only think of how he still does this to me. I breathe it in, getting a nice hit of cologne. Aw, shit. I've caught myself letting it slip. Old habits, right? Loving, forgiving me, checking for perfume on his clothes. Old habits die hard, dammit, but I'm trying, Stu. I really am. You gave me my life back.
He doesn't sense my stiffening, and pulls away to greet our daughter on one knee and with open arms, the standard opening for accepting a flying daughter. She turns away from the TV, and her face lights up. Here comes the pitch...
“Daddy! You're home!” She bursts from her sitting spot on the rug right into a chest. Like a spring-loaded man, he clamps his arms around her the moment she hits him at Mach 3. Kiss, kiss.
It's a bad mindset that I've triggered. I had to hold myself back from glancing at his collar for lipstick, and now I'm trying not to think that it's only Stu who gets that kind of warm welcome. When did I last get to catch our daughter on the welcome-home kid-launching? Stu gets them all.
Come on, it's not true, and you know it. Number One Mom for a reason, remember? Smiles and sparkles and hugs and snuggles, to say nothing of bed-time tuck-ins and kisses goodnight.
“Number One Mom forever.” I murmur. And don't forget it.

No comments:

Post a Comment