She told her joke by asking, “What is black and yellow and goes zub, zub, zub?” Of course, the answer is a bee going in reverse. Thus we rode this joke off into another round of high-energy talking, joking, and drinking some less than satin wine.
If I were to compare her to some famous author, perhaps the Nobel-prize winning Doris Lessing would come to mind. She’s funny, yet serious at the same time. She’s a loving mother and grandmother, yet has a life of her own and has mastered how to sail through the narrows and out into the sea. She seems to be always smiling, quite radiantly in fact, cuts a sexy figure on the dance floor with her husband, and delights in fixing food for the soul as well as the plate.
The evening tossed us all about the room, from coming of age tales about helping raise a gaggle of younger siblings, to dealing with theological doubt, to knuckling under to her father–her “droll model” and instiller of discipline–to rebelling against the “advice” of a steely eyed and stern nun and dean of her college. The nun was a diminutive fury in black who when challenged was reduced to tearing multiple numbers of three-by-five cards in two, the way some people sit and knit by rote while paying attention to something else. When our friend was a young woman, she was learning to be assertive while gaining comfort in her own skin. More importantly, she was learning to do it not heavy handily by galumphing through the mud, but lightly by means of a sprightly number of twists and turns on the dance floor that left her feet above the ground and her head high in the air.
Now as we all sat together and chimed in on sobering themes of betrayal and how we will perhaps eventually transform our own deaths into a personalized ritual of rebirth, I wondered how we had been so fortunate to finally have this brightly shining candle now lighting up our lives. She was an incandescent new presence, like some recently discovered swirling universe in the night sky, bumping up against and into our very world. In the brave vein of Lessing who gave up “another” life to gain her freedom, this radiant whirling dervish also knew she had to leave home on her own journey of discovery in order to find herself. And find herself she has, arm in arm with her husband of near equal charm who is also a master of the dance, wisely knowing when to hold her and when to let her spin off in her own light fantastic.
Although our evening didn’t veer too far off into a kind of sophomoric trip into the meaning of life, we did stir up the pot of religious hypocrisy, political humbuggery, buffoons of social awkwardness, so-called well meaning bunglers, sanctimonious self-appointed modern day saints and goddesses wrapped without sin, and the lost ones who once we partied with but who are now off haunting other graveyards of time. Definitely not a nasty or gossipy person, she would nonetheless have been invited by TR’s oldest daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth to take a close-by seat at the dinner table: “If you have’t got anything good to say, come sit next to me.” Like this earlier Alice, she has a keen sense of timing and can run the point of her dueling sword through a villain so that he won’t know he’s been mortally wounded till he keels over with an insouciant shrug after a few steps forward as though nothing untoward had happened. In skewering wayward priests who have had their evil way with young boys or taking her own boys out of an after-hours repugnant public school program with a “creationist” agenda, she knows how to spot the enemy and put his bulbous head in the bull’s eye of her aim. She has no time for our age’s grand inquisitors who quote scripture as they tear holes in men’s souls.
The evening could only have been better had Ms. Roosevelt actually been in the room herself rather than just her spirit. How we would have delighted in hearing her tell Senator Joseph McCarthy after he had once taken the liberty of addressing her in an unwelcome familiarity: “The trash man and the policeman on my block call me Alice, but you may not.” Our “Alice” is warm and personable, but would not have been adverse to telling a modern-day Lyndon B. Johnson that she wore wide-brimmed hats so men of his ilk could not kiss her.
As the evening came to a close well after midnight, we all went to bed laughing. What else could you ask for from any company?