Over Saturday morning scrambled eggs and green grapes, Hadley and I discuss role models. She’s naming people she admires, anybody from athletes to singers, Tik Tok celebrities, teachers, and friends of mine.
“And then,” she begins, pointing a fork at me, “there’s Celena and Tara.”
She waits, eyeing me as though she’s speaking in a code only she and I understand.
Maybe I didn’t have enough coffee because I’m not sure what she’s getting at, so I repeat what she said. “And then there’s Celena and Tara.” Maybe repetition will crack the code.
Hadley chuckles, puts her fork down, and pops a grape in her mouth. She rests her head on her hand and looks at me like I’m holding out on her.
“What?” I ask, shifting in my seat.
“C’mon, Mom,” Hadley says. “They’re so different!”
I lean back in my chair, understanding now what she’s getting at. Hadley’s thinking black and white, right and wrong, Capulet and Montague. On paper, or worse, on social media, these two probably wouldn’t be friends.
“This is true,” I tell Hadley. My cousin and my friend of over 30 years do have different views on many topics, and they are passionate about what they believe. It is also true that I admire, seek advice from, and have such fun with these two women.
Hadley watches me, waiting for more.
“However,” I say, picking up my fork and pointing it toward her, “both of them are unapologetically genuine and gracious. I do not know any other women who make no excuses for who they are, what they want, or how they feel and think.”
I stab some eggs on my plate, then swirl them in hot sauce. “They make room for everyone,” I say. “I’m grateful to call them my role models and friends.”
I was thinking about Celena and Tara, and friendship and role models after finishing Sonia Barkat’s “Auras in Suburbia,” the third and final 10-minute play in her collection, Winter Stars, and feeling embarrassed by the characters Susan and Mrs. Eldmire. Here are two women who have succumbed to the trite clichés of suburbia, and perhaps womanhood.
I know that at times, I succumb to the same behavior. At this very moment, for example, I am willing myself with every ounce of my being to sit and write this post instead of designing THEE BEST virtual school setup for Hadley and Harper because WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I JUST LET THEM SET THIS ALL UP THEMSELVES?!?!?
I know Celena and Tara have bouts of this too. However, my friends refuse to wrap themselves up in it because they know there is so much more the world has to offer. Also, they know they have more to offer the world. And so do I, which is why I’m still writing.
This leads me to the setting of the play. Sonia’s decision to use hedges as a detail is important. The characters in this play are hedged into this life they live and they are all trying to do something about it.
Ah, but this is comedy, a genre that gets us laughing, and makes us comfortable so that, yes, we might slip on the banana peel and fall, but now we get to see the world from a different perspective.
And Sonia does this well. Her first sentence—”A suburban area with a lot of hedges”—is hilarious. “Hedges” is a thick, sort of choppy word to say. It lends itself well to a giggle. Sonia’s description has us chuckling but also alert to the detail.
The same is true with all the swooshing Mr. Jefferson, Susan’s husband, declares he hears. Truth swooshes. Murder swooshes. The trench coat belonging to Carl the gardener, who Mr. Jefferson has become inexplicably suspicious of, swooshes.
Here, the word swoosh is humorous in part because it’s fun to say, but also because of all that Sonia pairs with it—truth, murder…and a trench coat.
Those of us reading or watching the play have the choice to roll our eyes and cast these characters off as ridiculous, close the book, walk out of the playhouse, and say, “Well, I’m so glad that’s not me.” Or, we can laugh along, notice the details Sonia has sprinkled in, and let the characters see into our soul—for even 10 minutes—and in doing so, become more empathetic to others, and ourselves.
Hadley holds my gaze for a moment. I can tell she is thinking logically. She’s concerned with discernment, but I’m pulling her into the grey, where nuance and ambiguity lurk, and where friendship as bright as fire flickers.
“Finish your breakfast,” I say.
She picks up her fork, and we eat together silently.
We’re discussing Sonia Barkat’s collection of 10-minute plays this month.
For Discussion or Journaling:
1. How can comedy help us become more empathic? How can it help us look for, wonder about, and tell the more genuine story?
2. Do you observe places in your life where you are hedged in? What do you do to bring wild beauty into those places?
3. Do you see yourself in any of characters in “Auras of Suburbia?”
Catch up on the other Winter Stars posts.