Thursday, November 15, 2012
Pirate or Policeman?
My remarkable dad, Ensley Tiffin, a man of many talents, had a grand time when he was younger in musical theater in Memphis as a part of Memphis Open Air Theater (MOAT). He especially held in his heart fondness for the Gilbert and Sullivan shows. My sister and I grew up with Dad singing from Pirates of Penzance, "A policeman's lot is not a happy one...." - then, as the song dictates at the end, Dad in a deep bass voice would sing the last 3 slow syllables "...happy one." (My niece Amelia is currently carrying on the family tradition of musical theater in her high school and college acting career.)
How I wish now that I could have paid more attention and appreciated all Dad's stories, but since he died when I was 26 years old, I guess I wasn't old enough and wise enough to appreciate the time I had to listen to this amazing man. I do remember this, though: He said in Pirates of Penzance, he had to play double duty. They didn't have enough people to have a separate cast for policemen and pirates, so the men in the chorus played both roles. They would do a scene, then have to go quickly change costumes and come out as the other characters, switching back and forth as the show continued.
I think about that story when I think of all the various characters Dad played in his own life - Son, husband, son-in-law, brother-in-law, father, uncle, father-in-law, grandfather, friend, Methodist Sunday School teacher, choir director, chairman of church committees, lay speaker, bank teller, conscientious objector who nevertheless served in the US Army, passionate Democrat, stamp collector, letter writer, reel-to-reel tape operator, home movie cameraman...not to mention the usual roles of a parent as chauffeur, teacher, homework helper, groundskeeper, grocery buyer, vacation planner, bill payer, etc. Some of these were simultaneous, and others were of a chronological nature as his life stages progressed.
Then I think of all the characters I have played in my life. I tend to focus on my failings but I try to concentrate on the successes - from my relationships with family and friends to my jobs and concerts and hobbies. And so do we all play our roles on this earth. Sometimes we might wish that the cast could be bigger so we could have more down time, but then when life demands it, we rush offstage and change from our policeman costume into our pirate costume for the next scene. As they say, life is not a dress rehearsal and sometimes we just have to make up the script as we go along. I guess that's what makes life adventurous - these tragedies and comedies in which we participate. We're on stage completely unprepared, sharing scenes with others who are likewise winging it, knowing that somehow it all comes together and miraculous things can happen. One minute we're doing one role and the next minute we assume a totally different one, and the change can happen at any moment.
At this Thanksgiving, besides the usual extraordinary people and circumstances I always have to be thankful for, I am realizing that my role is changing once again - as of January 8, I will be grandmother to 4 instead of 3 grandchildren when little Emily Jean is born. I will have to say out of all my roles on the stage of life, Grammy has to be one of my favorites! Am I ready for the next act? Bring it on!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone.