Harlequin Unmasked: Music and Dance of the Commedia Dell’Arte
Feb. 22, 2009, 3:30 p.m.
Colgate Memorial Chapel
Featuring Apollo’s Banquet (Thomas Baird and Paige Whitley-Bauguess, Baroque dancers) with the Rebel ensemble for Baroque music
The poignant characters of Harlequin and Colombine dance their way through Italy, Germany, and France, interspersed with instrumental caprices of the 17th and 18th centuries. The program coincides with the end of the symbolic period of Carnival and the beginning of Lent.
For information on other arts events, visit www.colgate.edu/arts
BettyJo Roby, ENG 477: Advanced Creative Writing Workshop
My year-and-a-half-old sister, Paula, ate some leaves from the thick climbing tree. It was sunny and I was six. The leaves had fallen on the patch of grass in front of our Virginia doublewide. All of us, my mom and my brother and I, missed the instant she stuffed the ovals between her gums, but I noticed the dark green bits on her lips an instant later.
Mom, Paula’s eating leaves!
My protective-older-sister cry. Within two seconds my mother was frantically snatching all of the leaves she could reach from my sister’s mouth and throat. Then we were on our way to the hospital where my father had just started his workday as a second shift janitor, my mom toting a few sample leaves from the tree in a plastic baggy for identification.
I was uncomfortable in the waiting room chairs, squirming next to my father, who waited with my brother and me. He had taken time away from his work so my mom could be in the examination room with Paula. My mind fluttered.
What’s taking so long? Why are they making us wait out here?
When they finally let us in to see her, my mom was holding my sister and a nurse was removing a plastic bin of stomach acid mixed with tiny pieces of floating black. The doctor comforted my father:
It’s just a precaution, the leaves probably aren’t poisonous.
We headed home. My father went back to mopping.
From the time we moved to New York, when I was 7, my sister and I shared a room. At first my brother shared with us. That was crowded. But soon we moved to a house with more bedrooms and Paula and I graduated into our own. We shared a double bed. She moved around a lot at night, so I was often on the verge of tumbling onto the floor. We kept each other awake intentionally, too, whispering, often long into the night, about sister-things: boys, friends, school.
Sometimes my mom would take one of her late-night walks around the house to check on us, and would tell us to be quiet and go to sleep. Somehow the excitement of being in the same room never completely wore off.
Around the time I was in seventh grade, we graduated to a bunk bed. I had the larger, bottom bunk. We’d whisper through the dark space that separated us. Some nights she’d climb into bed with me, maybe not ready for us to sleep apart every night yet. Other nights she’d hang her head down from the top bunk, trying to make out my form, her blonde hair waving, wisping like seaweed against the dim nightlight glow.
After I left for college, she kept the same bunk bed so I had a place to sleep when I came home on breaks. We almost completely stopped using the top bunk, though, and we’d usually just share the bottom bunk when I visited. Now that I’d become my own person and she’d become hers, we could share again. I’d climb into bed between her and the wall (so she couldn’t shove me off in the middle of the night) long after she was asleep. Now it was inconvenient to whisper together: she was an early rising high school student and I was a college student on break, so we had opposite schedules. She’d want to stay up to talk to me when I’d come in, but she was too exhausted from her day of school, work, and play practice. Her own person or not, I was still the protective older sister. I’d urge her to close her eyes:
You need to relax; you can’t live your life like it’s a race.
I LIKE to be busy, she’d reassure me. I’d just keep telling her to go to sleep, lying with my spewing brown hair tangling with her blonde in the space between our pillows, lit by the florescent alarm-clock glow.
I watched my little sister being born. I had just turned five years old, and couldn’t go to sleep. My mom had midwives for three out of her four children, excluding only me due to complications, so she was in labor in her bedroom. Midwifery was legal in Virginia. I wandered sleepily into the room, and my father let me stay.
There were boxes of ready-to-eat snacks on the couch, granola bars and the like; I remember that. I’m not sure who was supposed to eat them, because my mother didn’t seem to want to eat anything, and my father seemed distracted. Maybe they were for the midwife. I sat in a chair across the room, and remember the perfect view of my mother’s stretching vaginal canal like a silent movie.
I remember the color red: the blood and the top of my sister’s head protruding bit by bit out of my mother. I remember that, as fascinated as I was initially, eventually I began to fidget, and then doze. It was after nine, after all. I woke up, however, excitement temporarily alerting me for long enough to see my newly born sister. My parents had her name picked out: Paula, after my grandfather, Paul.
She was that, and also still red and bald and naked. More herself than she could ever be again.
She slept in my arms.