Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chip Off The Old Block

My gram loved English. I’m not sure how many language she spoke, but my grandfather spoke eight, and I know she knew at least three, even if not fluently. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I would lament to her “why didn’t you ever speak to us in any other languages!? We could’ve been bilingual!” I don’t remember if she ever answered that question, or if she’d just do her patented half-smile and nod. When I returned home from a three month stint in Moscow, Russia, she would ask me simple phrases in Russian with what I could only imagine was a Czech and Hungarian accent over the top. Her sister Pearl would ask me as well, and seemed to have a slightly stronger grasp on Russian, but for a few words I felt connected to my Gram in a whole new way. And eventually, to me, it was ok that they never spoke to us in their home languages. Her and Gramps were doing what they wanted to do and what they had dreamed about—assimilating into America; successfully and gracefully, and Gram Loved Speaking English.

She had special words and phrases that she’d only use with certain people, which I didn’t realize until after the second night of shiva, while my mom and auntie and I were sitting together talking in the living room, and I had mentioned that I had a voicemail on my phone of her singing me happy birthday (which she would do every year) and that she always ended conversations with me by saying “good luck in whatever you do and love you to pieces.” My mom and auntie’s eyes opened wide and said that they had Never heard her say “love you to pieces.” I’d been hearing it after every phone conversation of my life. Telling and hearing stories about her is like a treasure chest with no bottom in sight. While I didn’t inherit another language from her, I did inherit a bizarre verb and sentence structure that had my first grade teacher scratching her head wondering if English was the first language spoken in our home. “I can have it, the crayon?” I imagine asking my little classmates. “You like it, my dress today?” Mrs. Brooks was informed that yes, we do speak English at home, but Sarah puts sentences together like her Gram. I’m a chip off the old block.

Despite her love of the language, there were still certain colloquialisms that escaped her. Certain phrases that weren’t used quite right, though to the Gram-trained ear made complete sense. The other day I was explaining this to my partner Billy, saying to him, “Gram would say things in such funny ways sometimes…she was always using misanthropes.” “You mean malaprops?” he asked, deadpan. “Yeah, those!” I said. We burst into raucous laughter. I’m a chip off the old block. Many of these phrases were written down in what I’ll dub “The Book of Gram-isms”. There are a few other choice selections that have the honor of sitting in that book (Auntie Evie’s “it’s like a haystack in the ocean” comes to mind), but it’s mostly full of when Gram would fully and completely, without hesitation or shame, use a phrase that made perfect sense to her, and usually also, to us. After a bad cold or illness: “It knocked me off the socks.” After our turtle, Speedy, was done soaking in his bath and needed to be put back in his tank: “He had his day in court.” Seeing a line of ants walk by on the sidewalk: “There must be a herd somewhere” (an ant hill) The most famous of these phrases however, was one that came out of a conversation that she was having with my mom regarding my youngest sister “Lil’ Soph” being the last one at Niles North High School, after the three older siblings had been there for a ten year stretch (not all at once, of course.) My mom said “Sophie’s going to be the only one still at Niles North this year!” and Gram, without missing at beat (as it was always with her come back lines) said, “Yup…she’s the last of the Mohicans.” This, of course, is not the literal use of the phrase, but to her, and to us, it made perfect sense. If someone or something was the last of something, she’d always wax poetic with “yup, that’s the last of the Mohicans.”

I hadn’t realized that we were going to be given to option to speak at her funeral on Sunday, and I of course would say something, but knew that it wasn’t something that I could really sit down and plan. I knew I would probably say something about how funny she was; even up until the last few days of her life, if a nurse would ask her if she needed anything else she’d say, without missing a beat “a stack of hundred dollar bills.” Or how clear and honest she was; when I was a young child and asked her why she had her phone number on her arm and her answer to me was “Sarah, there use to be some very bad people in the world, and someday I’ll tell you about it.” as I went back to reading a little blue book with a boy, dog, and tree on the cover. (Her tattoo, by the way, she outlived. Sitting at her bedside before she took her last breaths, by mom looked down at her arm and said that the number just looked like a blurry bruise or birthmark, totally unreadable.) Or what an amazing public speaker she was, and that when people ask me how I can get up in front of people and perform, I say it’s probably because of her. But these weren’t the stories that ended up making it into my eulogy.

On Friday, I was sitting on the CTA riding downtown for a “take my mind off the world” outing with my dear friend Ashleigh. It was the middle of the day, and there were maybe three or four other people in the car with me. I usually don’t listen to music or distract myself with my flip phone on the train, so I was just sitting, looking out the window. At some point three women boarded the same car, one CTA worker and two of her friends. They were talking about this and that, and I was only half paying attention it mostly was background noise. But then a few sentences rose above the rest. “Yeah….” said one of the women, “she’s been at that job for a long time…most of her friends left a long time ago…she’s the last of the Mohicans.”
My heart skipped a beat and I closed my eyes, thanking my Gram for telling me exactly what she wanted me to say at her own funeral. I’d never experienced her as controlling, but if she wanted something, she’d ask for it.

So, as the last day of sitting shiva comes to a close and our nervous systems begin the process of coming back together, I know that they are being repaired and reinforced with such love and grace. That the past seven days between her transition out of her body to the end of our shiva period has been blessed with some of the most intimate, beautiful, funny, heart-breaking, and authentic conversations that I’ve ever shared with my family. It has put so many things into a different perspective and I have a deeper feeling of Oneness with many things and an eagerness to listen to my intuition than I’ve ever experienced before. The quote “those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” in relation to my own personal issues with people that I may have, or my fears or worry about appearing a certain way as I walk through life comes to mind. There’s too much that matters to worry about the stuff that doesn’t.
I fully plan on needing to lean on my friends and family for a bit longer (as we all should, through our entire lives), and am so grateful that I have people around that are safe and willing to be those shoulders when needed.

Last night, as we were talking about, again, how “nice” Gram’s funeral was and how much she would’ve loved it, my mom remembered something that Gram had said to her after hearing about how hard it was for a friend of hers' granddaughter to get through a eulogy. My mom told me that Gram had said to her, “Sarahla will say something.” My mom of course didn’t tell me this until last night, and told me that if I hadn’t said something at the funeral, she never would’ve told me that Gram had said that.
I’m very glad that I did speak, and that she told me. The last few years of Gram’s life were filled with speaking engagements about her life and her holocaust survival stories, and she would have people laughing, crying, and everything in between.
She would always end her talks with schools by saying, “be kind to each other”, among other things. I have, and will even more consciously now, carry this as a mantra through how I live my life, feeling honored that I had such an amazing example of what that type of generosity and kindness looked like. In this way, I really do hope I can be a chip off the old block.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

To Tell You.

The girl you didn't know you needed.
Mostly because she never updates her blog.

I need to tell you that less than 8 months after major knee surgery, I performed an aerial hammock act. I don't think I'd ever been so nervous. Take that Doctor Who Said I'd Be Starting To TRAIN Around One Year Out. (But seriously. Thanks for doing a good job on the knee.) I'm at 1 year and 2 months now. I'm doing jumping squats and deep lunges at the gym. Little tweeks and soreness sometimes. But it's getting better and better.

I'm not getting professional (i.e. paying) aerial work right now, which is really really frustrating. But hardly anyone is. It's been...hard...lately.

I need to tell you that I was invited to join a band today. In the past few weeks music has suddenly come roaring back into my life with the force of a thousand missiles. And it's awesome.

I hadn't sat down at a piano with any of the songs we were going to jam with today really at all...we were just going to improvise anyway... but i've been listening to them a lot. Well I just sat down and...all of my past music training...all of my confidence in my own ear...all of it just...worked. I guess being a musician for more than ten years (despite the breaks) stick in the far corners of your mind. I made up amazing phrases and chords on the spot, with the guitarist playing along. I even sang harmony at the same time. And I felt alive. Like the most wonderful form of therapy that there ever was. Orgasms mixed with dark chocolate and warm laundry. For a long time it was my therapy. And suddenly, when my life has felt the darkest it's felt in a very long time; with nights spent on the floor of my closet with the door closed wishing that I'd just have the courage to ask someone to come over or even just stay on the phone with me for a few minutes...music comes shooting back into the picture. It's scary the things that God actually hears you say.

I'm finally starting to feel like I have the potential to create a real community for myself here. Like, running into people at coffee shops and at plays and realizing that I know more people than I think I do. I've felt so incredibly free floating lately. And not in a No Cares In The World kind of way. More like in a Oh My God Someone Please Tell Me That You Can See Me I Think I'm Disappearing kind of way. I have a few wonderful friends, some who've just moved across the country (a'hem coughcough) before we had a chance to have a 2nd annual memorial day picnic...but there will be more in the future. Maybe in a different state or time...but somewhere.

I need to tell you that the performance I was yesterday afternoon went really well. I was funny and looked cute in my costume. And after it was over, I decided to take a 3 hour drive to surprise my little brother to see a play workshop he was putting on. He's an amazing kid, that one. And I love long drives. It helped my stress level. It lowered it a bit. Driving. In the car. Just with music. And a notebook perched on the steering wheel in case anything brilliant decided to float through my head.

I need to tell you that my cat is snoring a few feet away from me.

I need to tell you that I'm still sad a lot of the time. I miss people. People that are here and people that are far away. And I don't know if they're thinking about me. Maybe they are...if I try very carefully to feel it.

I wish I knew that I meant the world to someone.

photo by The One and Only.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall, Late.

I love fall. I felt so creative on Monday (the first day). I had one of the best aerial rehearsals that I've had probably since before Gnometenna Removal of 2008.

Speaking of the Little ACL That Could, it's been 7 months since surgery. And I'm getting ready for an aerial performance on November 1st. Cool huh?

Can't say that it's 100 percent, because it's not, but I'll wait until 1 year has passed until I start to get *really* annoyed. I'm not gigging as much as I want to [uh...strike that...] At All, but hopefully once I get this act together I'll be on the radar a little more. It's getting frustrating. Not going to lie.

I'm being overwhelmed with these huge feelings of self doubt in regards to 2 seperate classes/workshops coming up that I'm going to be participating in. One is an audition class and the other is a "masters" scene study. I'm being overwhelmed with huge feelings of self doubt in regards to these two things. Did I already say that? Springfield is a part of us all...a part of us all...a part of us all...

I wish the damn leaves would start their changin' already. I wish a lot of things. That's the one that is pretty likely will happen whether I do something about it or not.

Hmm. How hopeless of me.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Scary Things.

1. Drinking more than you have in probably 3 years and making yourself so sick that you remember why you said you'd never do that again. (oh my god. I feel like I'm going to feel nauseous forever.)

2. Realizing that you love Boulder, CO and maybe you should move there.

3. Feeling like you poisoned yourself last night.

4. Applying for jobs that you have no business applying for but you're tired of worrying about if you're good enough so why the fuck not.

5. Wondering how you're going to make enough money to live on for the rest of your life.

6. Feeling like you need to throw up again but there's utterly nothing left in your system.

7. Having the same fears and problems that you did before you got to forget about them for a few hours.

8. Realizing that how you physically feel right now was not worth forgetting about your fears and problems for a few hours.

9. Michael Phelps is quite possibly the alien's first attempt and sending us a man/fish hybrid, and they've seen that it was successful and now they're going to invade (maybe).

10. Oh my god I seriously feel so incredibly ill.

Friday, August 1, 2008


There is sentimental value in the strangest things.

It's not really about the bike. Because it is old and there are bigger/better/faster ones on the market. I can't afford a new one at the moment, but someday I will.

But my dad gave me those baskets before I left for grad school in Boston. It was my car over there. I knew how it worked, how it felt. It took me everywhere. Lately, it was *still* my car. It was my moms, then it was mine. I loved that bike.

Who knows if I'll ever see it again. If you see some punk ass mother fucker riding or selling an old white TRECK with green and black mesh baskets on the sides, kick him in the balls and take it back for me.

This isn't helping my outlook on the world.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I did an ankle hang on the trapeze today...something that my knee was saying a big NO THANKSMKAYTRY AGAIN NEXT TIMEKBYE even just a few days ago.

I should be more excited about it. I keep thinking that these little victories will be more like huge celebrations...that I'll get all emotional or something. And there were even people around when I did the trick today.

But there was nothing.

A small "yay"...but mostly, it doesn't seem like a big deal. Is it? Isn't it?

I'm in a complete creative black hole, and it's sucking me down deeper into whatever the hell it is that I'm trying to fight off. I'm falling into negative assumptions about everyone, myself, my friends, my life, everything. I'm a horrid choreographer (it's never been my job...) and I desperately want to start putting acts together. But I just can't. I listen to my music and I can see how it feels or what fucking colors the piece is suppose to be...but I can't think of the moves.tricks.sequences.whatever.

I feel like that one part in the Neverending Story...you know...that bog part...where it's just...well...you know.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


Yesterday while I was teaching a circus class a student asked me to demonstrate a simple tumbling sequence that I had asked them to do. It involved a lunge, straight leg lift, cartwheel, half turn, into a backwards roll. A cartwheel. My physical therapist had come to class (beyond the call of duty, right?) to see the kind of things I need to be able to do...so I looked over at her and said..."can I try a cartwheel?" She smiled and nodded.

I felt my heart lurch a little. Never in my life had I been nervous to try a cartwheel. It's my knee. It knows...stop be scared...

So, 6 months after tearing my ACL by doing a partner cartwheel...I did a cartwheel. I had complete control, and nothing bad happened. I don't know if I'll ever be able to try a partner cartwheel again, but never say never. I'm coming up on 5 months out from surgery. I hear that 6 and then 8 months are when things start to feel more "normal". Whatever that means.

Small victories...