I Met Esther Today

Or, rather, I revisited Esther today while waiting for my doctor’s appointment.  Arriving a half-hour early for my 8 a.m. (yes, I am type A), I had time on my hands so I thought I’d fiddle with my new phone.  Not able (or rather my 13-year-old neighbor has not loaded it for me yet) to access my Kindle books, I decided to browse through the free Apps (FREE being one of my mantras).  I’m not into slicing fruit with my fingertips or projecting birds, angry ones at that, with levers, but I am into reading.  Woman Blessing Sue Busler’s Prayer of Listening was resonating in my subconscious, so I scrolled until I found a Bible App.

Woman Blessing Julie Ford had gifted me with a Bible about a year ago, and I was pretty faithful on daily readings for a better portion of the year, but eventually fiction, kiddos, t.v., hub, Norovirus, etc., distracted me from my frequent meetings with the Word.

Today is a new day;  I’m sexist (the other way), so I opted for a book of the Bible named after a female, Esther.  Here I discovered a brazen woman for the time, Queen Vashti, who “refused to come” (1:12) when her king and husband, Xerxes ordered her presence in order to “show off her beauty to the officials and all his guests”  (1:11).  This man who had been partying for a week and “For six months he made a show of the riches of the imperial court with all its splendour and majesty”  (1:4), sounded like a guy who could have benefited from some time to reflect on his behavior (did I mention his harem of women?).  On the advice of his advisers (all men I might add), Queen Vashti was banished from the throne for her apparent insult to the king.  She was probably better off without him.

Fast forward through some verses and enter Esther, Queen Vashti’s replacement.  Esther, cousin to Mordecai from the tribe of Benjamin, was a Jew (although Mordecai urged her to keep this secret from the king).  Meanwhile, the king’s prime minister, Haman, detested Jews and convinced the king to have them put to death.

When Esther heard of this, she took action.  Instead of waiting to be summoned by the king (you go, Girl!), she threw a two-day banquet inviting the king and Haman (keep your enemies closer . . .).  The king, apparently swept up in the attention, repeatedly tells Esther, “Tell me what you want, and you shall have it- even if it half of my empire”  (5:3).  Finally, she replies on the second night, ” . . . my wish is that I may live and that my people may live” (7:3), uncovering Hamon’s plot to exterminate the Jews and the fact she herself is a Jew.

If you want to learn what happens and understand the meaning behind The Festival of Purim, crack open the book of Esther.  You won’t be sorry you did.

Teaching Compare/Contrast with The Little Mermaid

A good friend of mine, Sarah Kirkpatrick, invited my squirts and me to see a production of The Little Mermaid at Metcalf Theater located on the SIUE campus.  Directed by Johanna Beck, a 2012 graduate of SIUE in Theater Education, this production mesmerized my kiddos.  A modern take on The Little Mermaid, costumes consisted of colored jeans and brightly colored tank tops for Ariel and her sisters.  Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula’s hench-eels slithered around the stage on scooters wrapped in lights.  A ten-minute intermission occurred between Beluga Sevruga and Les Poissons with an opportunity to purchase fundraiser cupcakes, but they were sold out by the time Sarah and the squirts approached the line (bummah!).  During the performance, Sebastian surprised the squirts by running and hiding between the rows of seats in the audience.  On the way home, excited chatter asked when we could see this show again.

As luck would have it, talking with a friend at church, Carolyn Biagi, she told me about Hard Road Theater located in Highland, IL.  When I visited their website, I was pleasantly surprised to see their next production was of The Little Mermaid Jr.  Kismet!  I ordered the online tickets, and we headed to The Kennel at Highland High School on the second performance evening.  Directed by Gentry Nessel, this performance, too, took on modern elements intertwined with traditional costumes.  Ariel, Flounder, the Princesses, Flotsam, and Jetsam all swam with the use of shoes with wheels.  The overall age of the performers was much younger than those in the SIUE production, but the caliber of the performance was the same, phenomenal.  My daughters sat on the edge of their seats throughout the 21 scenes.  The fact that there was no intermission was not missed as a concession stand was available prior to the opening scene complete with beverages, popcorn, and snacks.  

The ride home consisted of discussion of the comparison of the two productions.  They were unable to pick a favorite as both showings rocked.  We look forward to another lesson in compare/contrast with use of theater.  In fact, I was able to sniff out an upcoming dance performance of The Wizard of Oz coming in January, performed by Dance St. Louis.

Zelda Lockhart’s Fifth Born Book Club

Reading through the Monarch Magazine, I came across an interesting article about an author who graduated from Old Dominion, but grew up in St. Louis, MO.  When I read further, I discovered Zelda Lockhart and I walked the same hallways in the Batten Arts and Letters Building on campus and shared the same phenomenal professors:  Dr. Wilson and Dr. Heller to name a few.  Cool!  Thus, it was a no-brainer that Lockhart’s novel, Fifth Born, moved to the top of my reading list.
The protagonist, Odesssa Blackburn’s childhood is told from the first-person perspective, allowing the reader to witness happenings alongside her.  Based on Lockhart’s own life, this novel is rich with the deplorable effects of familial secrets continuing from one generation to the next.  Not only are themes of physical, mental, and sexual abuse revealed in Lockhart’s writing with horrifying realism, but also themes of racism and sexism within the confines of what should be safety within one’s own family. 
The enormity of familial dysfunction is exemplified through the beauty of Lockhart’s dialogue, which reaches across generations and races such as in Ella Mae’s telling of her constant yearning for her mother:

You could love somebody who didn’t hardly know how to be good to you, like I love Motha.  And you could love somebody you only seen once, like my baby.  That’s because it mostly ain’t about love, it’s about needin folks to be what they supposed to be.  This was supposed to be my mama. . .  Sometimes people do what feel like it’s gonna make things better for right then.  They don’t bother to think about what the turnin of the years gonna bring.  (176, 201)

Typically for book club, I suggest an array of items for foodies to serve at his/her discussion.  In this case, my stomach was turned while and after reading Lockhart’s Fifth Born.  Instead, what came to my mind was the lemonade Deddy insisted upon being served to Cousin Devon and Gretal, “Get your smart ass up and go get them some lemonade”  (18).  In essence, this lemonade with its mix of sugary deliciousness and mouth-puckering sourness represents the pivotal shift Odessa’s life would take with her own sweet innocence being overcome with the acridness of others.