The Answering Machine (five years later)

The Answering Machine

BY LINDA PASTAN

I call and hear your voiceHoward Family
on the answering machine
weeks after your death,
a fledgling ghost still longing
for human messages.

Shall I leave one, telling
how the fabric of our lives
has been ripped before
but that this sudden tear will not
be mended soon or easily?

In your emptying house, othersSam and Veronica
roll up rugs, pack books,
drink coffee at your antique table,
and listen to messages left
on a machine haunted

by the timbre of your voice,
more palpable than photographs
or fingerprints. On this first day
of this first fall without you,
ashamed and resisting

but compelled, I dial again
the number I know by heart,
thankful in a diminished world
for the accidental mercy of machines,
then listen and hang up.DSCN3064small

Memories of Ana Maria

from Judy

I first met Ana in fourth grade at Alta Heights Elementary School in Napa.  We were close friends.  She was so smart and so interesting.  There weren’t many of those kinds of kids out there!  Every day she had a Hershey’s chocolate bar in her lunch; lucky girl, I thought.  I don’t remember when she moved, but I saw her again at Silverado Middle School where we picked up our friendship and continued with it more intensely at Napa High School.  She always looked the same; she never changed.  We used to follow John because he was the smartest boy in the school.  She was the only girl who could understand his questions in math or science class, and wasn’t afraid to challenge or questions any of his thoughts or of the thoughts of our teachers.  Every day at the end of science class, she would hang back and ask Mr. Schroeder, our biology teacher lots of questions.  John would be there too, as well as the other two or three “smartest boys in the school.”  Our teachers probably hungered for students like Ana to ask intelligent questions.  She truly wanted to KNOW.

I was always shy, and Ana challenged me with, “Let’s do this!” for things I would NEVER have done.  She wasn’t afraid to be social.  I needed that.

In college, she came to my dorm freshman year, all the way from Cal Poly and she convinced me to get a pack of cigarettes from the machine in the dining hall.  We tried them in my dorm room.  I never tried it again, but I’m grateful that Ana got me to experience things I would never have done.  Really.  It’s a funny memory.

Touched by an Angel

by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Once Upon an Eclipse

written by Ana-Maria for AMT

Lily (Princess)
Amanda (Princess)
Alyssa (Princess)
Nicole (Princess)
Trisha (Lady in waiting)
Wise Owl
Wise Mouse
Kitty
Magic Mirror
Sun
Moon
Clock
Narrato
Pub Girl

Scene 1 – Castle

Narrator:  It is the year 1460 in the land of Formaggio.  The Vigo Princesses and their Lady in Waiting are happily taking a stroll.

Princesses stroll by smiling.

Narrator:  It is a bright and beautiful day.  The sun is bursting with pride at its glory.

Sun strolls across stage beaming.

Narrator:  Suddenly there is a solar eclipse and it becomes darker and darker.

Moon walks on stage, Sun crouches behind Moon.

Narrator:  It is a long solar eclipse plunging the land into total darkness for a full five minutes creating confusion and fear.

Everyone appears frightened, Sun appears surprised and not too pleased.

Narrator: Once the eclipse is over everyone is relieved and happily celebrates having light once again.

Sun is in corner of stage looking mad.

Lily: Thank godness, the light is back!

Amanda: I am so happy.

Alyssa: Let’s celebrate!

Nicole: That’s a great idea!

Kitty is happily playing.

Alyssa: Let’s have some music!

Amanda:  I totally agree, darling.

Music!

Narrator: Well, not everyone is happy…

Sun: (grumpy and mad) The moon took five whole minutes! Five whole minutes where no one could see me! I feel so bad for the people who couldn’t see my awesomeness for a whole five minutes.  The moon thinks she’s the star but she’s not!  I am the star of this show!

Narrator: And so the Sun did not set.  There was no night and so everyone stayed up and stayed up and stayed up…

Princesses yawn and appear tired.

Lily: Do you want to play chess, dear sister?

Nicole: Of course, I’m so good at chess.

Lady in Waiting walks in.

Trisha: Dear princesses, would you like a drink?

Alyssa: No, no and no.

Amanda: Yes, yes and yes.  I was dying of thirst 5 minutes ago.

Trisha walks off stage to get drinks.

Lily: Check mate! I win!

Nicole: No, you cheated!

Lily: No!

Start pushing and fighting and grab pillows.  Lily whacks Alyssa with pillow.  Alyssa tries to whack Lily and instead whacks Amanda.  All the sisters fight.  Kitty joins in. Trisha comes in with a tray of drinks.

Trisha: Girls, girls, calm yourselves!

Trisha gets whacked.

Trisha: Oh no you didn’t!

Trisha joins in the fighting.

Clock walks across stage with hour hand going round and round.

Alyssa: Stop! This is silly.

Amanda: We need to have a family meeting.

Princesses sit down.

Lily: We have been up for 36 hours straight!

Nicole:  We are so tired and grumpy we can’t stop fighting.

Amanda: What should we do?

Lily: I know, let’s ask the Wise Owl for advice.

Alyssa: Great idea!

Nicole: Let’s go.

Alyssa: Let’s go, kitty.

Princesses walk off stage.

Scene 2 – Owl House

 Owl and Mouse are sleeping.  Princesses arrive at Owl House and wake them up. 

Wise Owl:  Yawning.  I feel like I have been asleep for days.

All Princesses: You have been!

Wise Mouse: I feel very rested!

Alyssa: Hello Wise Owl.  I am Princess Alyssa.

Lily: I am Princess Lily.

Amanda: I am Princess Amanda.

Nicole: I am Princess Nicole.

Wise Owl: Hello.  This is my trusted advisor Wise Mouse.

Wise Mouse: Hello.

Wise Owl: How can I help you?

Alyssa: It started one day when we were taking a stroll on the palace grounds when suddenly it turned all dark.

Lily: We were so petrified! We didn’t know what to do.  When the sun finally came out we were so happy we decided to party.

Amanda: We partied for 36 hours straight because for some reason the Sun wouldn’t set.  The day went on and on and on!

Nicole: We got so tired and grumpy that a fight broke out.

Alyssa: The sun won’t set so we can’t sleep.

Lily: We are so tired and grumpy!

Amanda: We don’t know what to do.

Nicole: Can you help us?

Wise Owl:  Hmm.  Wise Mouse, what do you think?

Wise Mouse:  I think we should ask the Magic Mirror.

Wise Owl:  Yes, yes.  Splendid idea.  Wise Mouse fetch the Magic Mirror.

Wise Mouse goes and gets the Magic Mirror.

Wise Owl:  Mirror, Mirror on the tree, what is it that we should see?

Magic Mirror:  If it is truth you seek, find the Sun and ask her to speak.

Wise Owl:  )looking confused) What??? (turns to Wise Mouse) What did she say?

Wise Mouse: I think she said that we should talk to the Sun.

Wise Owl:  Yes, yes.  Splendid idea.  Wise Mouse fetch the Sun.

Wise Mouse returns with the Sun.

Wise Owl:  What is this I hear about you not setting?

Sun: (very upset, Princesses are in the background yawning). You want to know why I won’t set!  Well I’ll tell you! The Moon totally stole my spotlight! And she didn’t even ask!  I mean I’ve never done anything mean to her! Well, except for the time I scared the cow when it was jumping over the moon and it peed on her.

Wise Owl: I see.  Do you plan on never going to sleep?

Sun: Yes! As far as I am concerned the Moon can stay down for the next million years!  (Sun stalks off).

Wise Owl:  (turns to Princesses) Yes, you do have a problem.  I will help you.  But first you must give me something.

All Princesses:  What would you like?

Wise Owl: (Thinks for a while then turns to Wise Mouse)  What should I ask for?

Wise Mouse:  I don’t know.  How about we ask the Magic Mirror.

Wise Owl:  Yes, yes.  Splendid idea.  (turns to Magic Mirror) Mirror, Mirror on the tree, what is it that we should see?

Magic Mirror:  If you seek a treat, keep the friend, find another meat.

Wise Owl:  (looking confused) What??? (turns to Wise Mouse) What did she say?

Wise Mouse: (shrugs) I don’t know.

Magic Mirror: Oh, for goodness sake.  Do I have to spell it out for you.  You promised the Wise Mouse you would become a vegetarian and you know how hard it is to find a good Veggie Burger in the forest.  You could request that.

Wise Owl: Oh yes, splendid idea. (Turns to the princesses).  Fetch me a Veggie burger and then I will tell you how to solve your problem.

(Princesses thank the owl and leave).

Amanda: Let’s go, kitty.

Scene 3 – Castle

(Sun in background is listening)

Amanda: So what exactly is a Veggie Burger?

Alyssa: I’m not quite sure…

Lily: I know, I know, it’s an animal.

Nicole: No, I think it is a mineral.

Sun:  You don’t know what a veggie burger is???  (Turns to the audience) Such ignorant princesses!  A veggie burger is full of fresh vegetables and grains that I grow.

All Princesses:  Oh.

Lily:  Where could we find a veggie burger?

Sun: You can find the best veggie burger at the Morningstar Pub.  (turns to audience) Morningstar, you know, means sun.  I go there every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  Just ask for a Quiche Vegetable Delight Appeal!

Alyssa: Oh, thank you very much!

Amanda: Let’s go there.

(Princess walk to pub)

Scene 4 – Morningstar Pub

Pub Girl:  Morning, girls.  How can I help you today?

Alyssa: Well, we would like one of your… (turning to sisters) What is it called?

Nicole: Ah, vegetable something.

Lily: something with peal

Amanda: something kitsch

Pub Girl: Something with vegetable, peal and kitsch. (Looks a bit confused.)  Okay, here you.

Alyssa:  (picking up the kitsch item) What is this?

Pub Girl: You said kitsch, didn’t you!

Nicole: (picks up the banana peal) A banana peal???

Lily: That doesn’t look like what the Sun described.

Pub Girl:  The Sun!  You should have said so.  She always orders the Quiche Vegetable Delight Appeal.

All Princesses:  Yes, that’s it!

Pub Girl: Alright, here it is.

All Princesses:  Thank You! 

Scene 5 – Owl House

(Princesses visit the Wise Owl and Wise Monkey again and bring the veggie burger)

Nicole: We brought you the veggie burger.

Wise Owl: This is fabulous.  (Passes burger to Wise Mouse)

Wise Mouse:  Very Yummy!

Wise Owl:  Wonderful.  Now to solve your problem.  Wise Mouse, fetch the Magic Mirror.

(Wise Mouse goes and gets the mirror.)

Wise Owl: (talking to magic mirror) Mirror, Mirror on the tree, what is it that we should see?

Magic Mirror: If you seek to change the mood thank the Sun so she feels good.

Wise Owl:  (looking confused) What??? (turns to Wise Mouse) What did she say?

Wise Mouse: I think she said that we should have a party for the Sun and tell her how important she is to all of us.

Wise Owl:  Yes, yes. Wonderful Advice.

All Princesses:  Yes.  Great Idea!  Thank you, Wise Owl.

(Princesses leave). 

Scene 6 – Castle

Narrator:  And so everyone prepared a big party for the Sun.

Alyssa: Thank you, Sun, for the light

Lily: Thank you, Sun, for the warmth.

Amanda:  Thank you for helping the plants to grow.

Nicole: Thank you for solar power.

Wise Owl: Thank you for veggie burgers!

Wise Mouse: Thank you for an excuse to party!

Lady in Waiting:  And, you know, without the sunlight we wouldn’t be able to see the Moon.

Sun:  True, true, all true.  I suppose I shouldn’t deprive you of my wonderful reflection as it bounces off the Moon.  Dear Moon, we are friends again!  Let’s celebrate!

Music!

 

 

 

 

Ana Maria

Carla, Ana Maria’s niece

I miss you so much Ana; it has been 3 weeks, and I still cannot believe you are all gone. I carry you with me, but sometimes it is not enough. I love you all, so much. I wanted to include the words I spoke at your memorial, if only to reach out somehow…..

When I thought about what to say about Ana Maria, I realized that if I talked about what she meant to me, it would probably resonate with everyone who knew her. She was such an honest, open person, just wholly herself.

Ana was 13 years older than I am; she was born January 1, 1961. She was my aunt, but she was also my sister and another mother. Most of all, she was my mentor and friend. When I was about 8, I would look forward to her visits from college so much that I could not stop smiling the whole day. My face would ache from smiling so much. She would visit and make my lunch and put little notes in my lunch box saying, “I love you.” She would hold my hand until I fell asleep at night, tell me funny stories, and build blanket forts with me.

When I was in high school, Ana Maria moved in with my mother, sister, and me. We were a house full of women; even the cats were female. We had one male dog, Scootchie, who I like to say ran away because the house was too full of estrogen! What I remember most from those days were just the feelings of security, love and fun whenever I was around her. Ana was in her late 20s at the time, and she and my sister, who was then 8 years old, would spend a lot of weekends going to garage sales just to look at and pick up random silly stuff, like a huge stuffed purple snake. They called that “garage sale-ing,” and they did it just for laughs, which was totally an Ana Maria thing to do.

After that, Ana moved to a cabin on the top of Montebello Road. She was working as an engineer at Phillips Semiconductors then, but she also worked at the bookstore Printers Inc, because she loved books so much. I think it was during that period of time that she met Robert, and I cannot remember a moment when I doubted that they would be together forever.

Ana was such a smart, curious person. She was always wanting to learn, and she would pass that knowledge to me, in the form of books or cds, whenever she could. She had no limit to her curiosity; in fact, she never saw limitations or obstacles in anything. Instead, she always saw challenges as things she could solve or fix. When she and Robert married and lived together in Palo Alto, she decided to redo the furniture, and that is what she did. She took furniture apart, reupholstered it, then put it back together, and it looked professional. She told me that she learned the hard way to write down how she took stuff apart, so she could put it back together again.

When she decided to go back to work after the girls were in school, she took a part-time job. She enjoyed it, but when she realized she wanted to head in another direction, she started her own business. She kept the part-time job but also had the energy for her own business as well as be a mom and a huge help to El Carmelo school. She was truly tireless.

She was also so creative. She made the most amazing costumes for the girls; I remember one costume was a magic mirror; another was an alligator head. They looked like a costume shop had made them, and when I told her how great they were, she would just smile and say that she had fun doing it. She hosted art camp at her house and put on plays and fashion shows with the neighborhood children.

I think what inspired me most about Ana Maria is that she never gave up and she only saw the potential in people and things. I never saw her get discouraged, and I think that is truly amazing and awe inspiring. She believed in herself and the people around her, and she lived her life with grace, humor, and kindness. She opened her heart and her home to anyone who needed her. She was truly the best mother, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend that anyone could ever ask for.

I am devastated by this loss, as I am sure you all are. What brings me a little peace is to think of what she would want. I can picture her telling me to get up, get moving, and focus on the positive. She would want us to celebrate her life and to treasure what we have right now, which is each other. Most of all, I don’t think she would want us to be sad for long. She would want us to be at peace. I think of that when I think of her. Ana was also a very spiritual person, and she believed in angels. I truly feel like she is with me now, and that helps as well. When I see how many people she touched, I am grateful that I had her in my life. She will always be a part of me, and I think a part of you.

Thank you.

Ana, I am trying to listen to you, in my heart. But it is so hard. I think of you all every single day. I love you.