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Spam, Social Security, Purpose, and Gypsy Rose Lee

Spiritual Smart Aleck
Baby June and Louise, ca. early 1920s
Baby June and Louise, ca. early 1920s

Got an email in my junk box in which the subject line announced I had won a UK lottery. It was awfully good news. This living on Social Security is not a piece of cake. I can barely afford cake. The subject line made me smile once, a little, before I deleted the email unread.

Living on Social Security you can budget. You can designate where every penny is going, but life doesn’t change that much simply because you’re living on a fixed income. There are always those little surprises, like that emergency room bill that wasn’t quite covered by insurance. There are the occasional expected expenses, but so seldom expected that you forget to budget for them, like the new tires I need to get for my car before next winter. Plus the 140,000 mile major vehicle maintenance, which I really ought to schedule soon seeing as how the Honda is up to about 144,000 miles.

Shoes. You have to have shoes around here. My shoes are sandals, usually, and I hadn’t looked at my sandals for a long time. They were my best pair, in my mind, so I was shocked when I looked at them to see that the heels were worn right down to the leather uppers, and the leather was fraying. Those poor babies were beyond repair. So now I have a new best pair. That took care of any wiggle room in the budget for this month, and that was before the ER bill.

It really is extraordinary how many things I’m noticing as I return to the land of the living. When you begin to recover awareness of the life that’s been going on without you while you were immersed in your personal drama, you find that there is a lot of catching up to do, and you might feel a little lost without the intense sense of purpose and direction that propelled you through those years of your spouse’s illness.

On the one hand you are deeply relieved that those hard years are behind you. On the other hand, doing the dishes and laundry and vacuuming and other household chores, while gratifying in its own way, does not give you a feeling of worth and purpose. Plus, there is now nothing to distract you from the dishes, laundry, and vacuuming.

So I was pleased when my granddaughter auditioned for and was cast in Drama Dock’s summer production, the 1959 musical “Gypsy.” I am now a stage grandmother for my granddaughter while she’s in a play about a stage mother, Rose Hovick, and her two daughters, June and Louise.

The family lived in West Seattle. Rose found West Seattle boring, and decided she would make her talented daughter June into a vaudeville star with Louise as a supporting performer, and the three of them would live the exciting lives of touring vaudevillians. Both of Rose’s daughters would grow up to find success in show business – June as actress June Havoc, and Louise as Gypsy Rose Lee, the classiest stripper ever to remove a glove.

The true story of Rose Hovick’s life would have been a little too out there for America in the late 1950s, so the play is a fictionalized version of how Louise became Gypsy Rose Lee. It’s a good show, well written, with some great laughs and great songs, some of which became hits back in the day. My granddaughter and everyone else working on the show is enjoying the community that is forming among the cast and crew. The show is about to kick into high gear with nightly rehearsals. It opens in July. You’ll be hearing about it in coming weeks.

It’s nice to have something new to think about, and work on. It’s especially nice to say at rehearsal time, “Oop, can’t do the chores. Gotta go.”

Like all denial, it only goes so far. Guess I’ll go work on the budget, or else fold the laundry. Have you ever noticed that having to work on a budget makes folding laundry attractive?