A puppeteer

puppeteerI wanted to study dance in college. I wanted to perform on Broadway. I wanted to walk through campus, and life, with “jazz hands.”
As a freshman, I was at CU-Boulder, living the life of a lab rat as a Molecular/Cellular/Developmental Biology major. My older brother was a year ahead of me, also an MCDB major, brilliant beyond belief. He seemed to understand the “cell,” with all of its asinine complexity, at an intuitive level. He understood physics, chemistry, had memorized the Periodic Table and was even capable of making hilarious jokes about it. I, meanwhile, stumbled around campus humiliated by the forehead crease left by my lab goggles wondering what geek could help me figure out the molarity of my latest unknown.

I eventually changed my major to business, accounting more specifically. It wasn’t so much that I was wildly excited by debits and credits, I’m still not, or that most of the gorgeous fraternity boys were in the B School (they generally studied “finance,” accent always on the second syllable, and went on to be successful brokers or developers), but that I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family and I needed a career, not just an education. Becoming a CPA seemed a safe bet. It has proven to be such.

Because of my college experience, and maybe my perceived lack of personal creative freedom, I always find it interesting to hear what young people are studying these days. I wonder how the parents feel, especially the fathers, when they hear that their young son is going to be, say, a puppeteer. Does this revelation cause Dad to puff out his chest and smoke a stogie on the back deck? Does Mom call over her coffee klatch girlfriends to boast about her son’s incredible prowess with a hand puppet?

When my son (now 21) was little he had a puppet as his constant companion. We got it at Poor Richard’s Toy Store and it was, sad to say, a beaver. Furry brown with lewd teeth and a hopeful demeanor. Bren wanted to take it everywhere. Unfortunately, after about five minutes, he wanted me to hold it. He was a very engaging child and, frequently, when he saw someone he found interesting he would shout, in a loud Mickey Mouse voice, “Look at my mom’s beaver!” This, of course, had an EFHutton effect. Everything would slow to a crawl, people would turn their heads deliberately toward me to see how I would respond.

I learned quickly to deal with this recurrent nightmare. I “worked up” a little beaver dance and performed it on the person nearest to me that appeared somewhat sympathetic. I would take “Beav” and bite the person’s forearm and say “Come help me build my dam!”

I don’t want to malign puppeteers. In fact, I want to laud puppeteers. In my immediate family, we have three CPAs, a pathologist, an attorney, a pharmaceutical drug rep. Our parents are proud of us. We all have careers and children, big houses and big mortgages, lots of demands for our money and our time. We’re living the American dream!

I can’t help but wonder, though, if any of my siblings ever feel like I do while I’m scurrying through the office clutching my mechanical pencil and my laptop, wearing the latest Ann Taylor fashions, picturing myself instead in fishnet hose and a bustier, standing under the bright theater lights, bowing demurely to thunderous applause. When my older brother holds his stethoscope does he secretly wish it were a paintbrush? When my sister makes her closing arguments in front of the judge and jury, would she rather be doing improvisational comedy in a little club somewhere? I don’t have any idea.

I know one thing. I hope my children will pursue their passions. It may be an uphill battle. Already their Dad and I have college funds set up for each of them. We have firm ideas about which elite schools they should attend and what careers might hold promise. I imagine we’ll have a doctor or two, maybe a physicist, probably a computer whiz. The IQ tests have been administered and we know where their strengths lie. But not where their dreams lie.

I have secret wish. I want a puppeteer.

2 thoughts on “A puppeteer

  1. “Sweet dreams are made of these. Who am I to disagree…”
    Good wish, Maria. Pore the sunlight of encouragement on their dreams and passions. May they be the lucky ones.

  2. The last time I was interviewed by a school guidance counselor, when I was in 10th grade, he asked me what career I had planned.

    I told him I wanted to be a hobo.

    Never spoke to him again.

    Actually my plans were to be an agitator.
    Which is a good analogy, the agitator in a washing machine is the part that beats the dirt out of clothes, so they come clean.

    I think I am well on my way to succeeding in that career.

    And if all else fails I can still always be a hobo.

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