Dreaming the Impossible Dream

From the Archives:

This is a repost of an entry from my old Livejournal blog. I’ve reposted it in its entirety, because it captures a moment seven years ago. The details have changed, but the swell of emotion from remembering that moment has not.


One of the passingly beautiful memories I have of my mother’s Amphitheatre was exploring the subterranean prison set from Man of La Mancha. It was bleakly magical, with a terrifyingly long, winding staircase. There was a blood-shuddering creak of an opening door; from that cold shaft of light, the Inquisitor descended. Within the crawl space of this set, there were cells – the persecuted prisoners could lean through the bars and tug at the clothes of their passing persecutors. Dante could not have envisioned it better. During one of the dress rehearsals, I crawled into a cell with one of the actors and played out the scene with him, all hunched over; I howled for mercy on cue, banged on the unyielding cell door, drooped hopelessly into the corner like the wizened, diseased, forgotten prisoner I was. That night was the first night that I saw Don Quixote sing “The Impossible Dream” in costume, on the set.

To dream the impossible dream.
To fight the unbeatable foe.
To bear with unbearable sorrow.
To run where the brave dare not go.

He had a thrilling voice, a trained opera singer, and he thundered out with a tenderness that I could hardly bear. I, balled up in the darkness of the cell, strained to see through the rusted grate where he stood in a pool of light.

To right the unrightable wrong.
To love pure and chaste from afar.
To try when your arms are too weary.
To reach the unreachable star.

Every night, I was spellbound during the song. He was a battered old man, ridiculous to most and consumed with delusion, but had a dignity that was transcendent.

This is my quest, to follow that star.
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far.

I have found my star.

I have been drifting for a long time, as I have tried to deny the undeniable. Theatre courses through my blood and to try and do anything else is a bit of a farce. It is my birthright.

I never realized how unorthodox my upbringing was until I was much older. From the time I could toddle about, I was underfoot backstage. My playpen was the orchestra pit. I learned to sew buttons (badly) in the costume shop. I dodged wood shavings in the workshop, perched under the conference table at auditions. I ate ice cream at Ehrler’s with Ado Annie and played hopscotch with Little Orphan Annie. My first kiss was in the lobby, the son of my mother’s assistant director – purely by accident. We were playing tag and bumped smack into each other. I had the best Halloween costumes in my school.

Once I was eight, I was permitted to audition like everyone else. If I was cast, I could do no more than one show a season. Still, I accompanied my mother to endless rehearsals, gorged on Moon over My Hammy at Denny’s at two in the morning. I was her Best Girl, her P.I.C. (Partner-in-Crime). I took scores of notes for her on legal pads, fetched her Diet Coke, always called her Mrs. Meade. I watched, enrapt, as she scolded, praised, and inspired her actors. I watched whole worlds unfold, worlds that were once only inside her head, now shared with the world outside.

On the vastness of the empty stage, late at night, when no one was around, I bowed countless times in endless curtain calls to an invisible audience.

Last week, I stood on another empty stage and looked out at the audience. I was four states away, a decade and a half later, and yet for a moment I was that girl again. Saint Augustine has a brand-new, 4500 seat outdoor ampitheatre that has no theatre company. The official state play of Florida, Cross & Sword, has been shelved for ten years. In the space of the last month, I have met a woman who studied costume design in school, a lighting/sound designer friend has moved down from Kentucky, and my mother said in passing that I should start a theatre company and she would come down summers to help me. Last night, I was having cocktails with a friend and she confided that she had always dreamed of doing set design…before I’d even told her about the theatre project. Events are overtaking me and I am a little afraid.

But I know this is what I ought to be doing. And I’m a little scared of failing, but I’m more scared to not try it. I am the youngest among the people I have collected around me, people whose talents complement and underline my own. I tell myself, ‘I am the Artistic Director’, and it sounds like a role  I am playing. But I have to do it. My beautiful, brilliantly creative mother is scrapbooking and arranging flowers. My friends are all working jobs that are not fulfilling, daydreaming of doing what they really want to do. And I’m there with them, but I’m not willing to wait any longer.

Now is the time and I’ll follow my star.

Among the Bright Stars We Will Dance

This post is about true love. Not the love that we see in movies and books, but the true thing. In stories, the couple ride off into the sunset triumphantly. They kiss and the screen fades to black. They live happily ever after.

The stories rarely show illness or death. But those too are part of life and the ending that every true love will face.

This post is a tribute to my great-uncle Bob Paris. He passed away last week at the age of 88. He lived a long, full life. He fought in World War II, flying P-40s in China with the famous Flying Tigers squadron. You can read the full obituary.

This post is not about his heroic service to our country or the countless people he touched in a positive way. This post is about the true love story of Bob and Joyce, his wife of 63 years.

I never saw Bob without Joyce or vice versa. They were a unit in our family. For every event in my entire life, no matter how small, Bob and Joyce would drive all the way down from Xenia, Ohio. They were here for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Derby parties, barbeques, family picnics, 4th of July, Easter, Memorial Day, graduations and so on. They were such a permanent staple to our family that I scarcely even registered it. Though he was a dashing war hero, this is how I saw and loved my Great Uncle Bob.

Through his last illness, Joyce was always there. It was like watching a candle flame, burning against the darkness. She was so brave at the funeral, though very still, and she only stood to read some poems that she had written to Bob. I have included one here. Regardless of your faith, I believe it is a true testament to the power of love.

Together Forever
When we fell in love, it will be forever.
The ties that bind us will never sever.
God is the one who brought us together.
The storms of life we will always weather.

Life goes by in such a hurry.
We don’t have time to fret and worry.
Let’s cherish every moment together.
Life on this earth will not last forever.

We’ll be together in heaven above,
Because we’re united in steadfast love.
We both can rejoice in God’s perfect plan,
That he created for woman and man.

Someday among the bright stars we will dance.
Then we’ll continue our loving romance.
God created love to last forever.
So we’ll always be happy forever.

Goodbye, Uncle Bob. Save those dancing feet for Joyce.

The Fairy Ring Writing Contest Submission – Anna Meade

In the interests of being fair, I offer up to you my own submission to The Fairy Ring Writing Contest. I can’t win, of course, but I wanted to share my humble effort as I believe all writers are in this together. I hope you enjoy.
Violets by Anna Meade
“I want a man who’ll twine violets in my hair.”
I wrote this sentence and then doodled violets in the journal margin. My whimsy would be the death of me. My days were spent on the outskirts of the woods behind my parents’ home, sprawled under a tree on a faded blue-check blanket, barefoot and hair-tumbled and romantic poetry-addled.
I rolled onto my back, staring at the late summer sky. My too-long skirt tangled round my legs, so I sat up to extricate myself. The shadow fell over me then.
I squinted up at him in the sun, “Hello.”
He smiled and put a finger to his lips. His step barely stirred the grass. He took me by the hand to his bower, where we supped on honeysuckle and blackberries. 
“Every day I am with you feels like a year,” said I, idly leaning against his shoulder.
He smiled, so tenderly, and wound flowers through my curls.
His hands were gentle and his kisses were poignant. I stayed awake as long as I could, but my traitor eyelids fell. I slept so heavy, filled with ambrosia and dreams, and when I woke all the forest was in the chill grip of autumn.
I shivered and hurried back towards the edge of the woods, back to my parents’ home. I ran to the door and pounded, “Mother! Father! I’m back!”
The door opened and a startled wrinkle-raisined face peered back at me. “Are you looking for someone, child?”
I stumbled backwards and ran towards the forest, heedless of my way. I found my tree and beneath it, mostly buried in the dirt, I unearthed the smallest fragment of paper. It was weather-faded and nearly illegible, but I knew what it said:
“I want a man who’ll twine violets in my hair.”
Painting by John William Waterhouse; Photography by Andrew Kuykendall