Monday, October 6, 2008

Only the Good Die Young

My friend Larissa loaned a book to me eight years ago because she thought I would love it. I said I would read it, and I'm a woman of my word. Read it I shall. It just took me a while to get around to it.

The book she loaned me should be a good book. Everyone says so. It's Pedro Parama by Juan Rulfo.

Meanwhile, it's officially a year and six days since I moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles. That tells me I've gone six days over the one-year deadline to give my friend Kristie a wedding present, since I arrived in town just in time for her wedding last year. I bought the present, months and months ago. It's just been hanging in a bag on my front door waiting for me to wrap it and walk it over to her house.

See, it's not that I'm not thoughtful. I'm just not at all timely.

This brings me to a conviction that first occurred to me in maybe fourth grade. I was reading Little Women and obsessed with a particular scene featuring Beth. She's miserably shy, but the nice old neighbor has given her a piano, and she has to repay him. She overcomes her shyness to take him a Christmas gift (a pair of slippers I think).

This girl's already annoyingly good, and in this scene, she triumphs over her last fault. Shortly thereafter she gets sick and dies. Clearly Louisa May Alcott was warning me: Don't be too perfect or you'll have nothing left to learn on earth, and God will take you away.

I should mention that I played Beth on stage more than once, so there's some identification there.

This reading was only reinforced by my local classic rock station's habit of playing Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" at least once a day during my drives to and from high school.

Billy Joel and Louisa May Alcott were on the same page. If you want to keep hanging out with your friends and eating ice cream and being in plays and writing books and doing yoga and all the other things that embodiment affords, you'd better take your time in perfecting yourself.

So I will read Pedro Parama eight years late, and Kristie will get her wedding present sometime in this decade, and I will rock this day full of teaching and writing and acting and maybe even ice cream.

No comments: