Friday, October 19, 2012

Bookshelf: Pirate Queens

In case you didn't notice, Emerson was completely fascinated by pirates this past summer. 
The transition from princesses to pirates came gradually in the spring when Emerson became a bit more interested in what was going on in different parts of the playground.  Although she really had no idea what it meant to be pirate, she tried it out at home with Ophelia in a game they christened "Pirate and Princess".  When it came time to make the long drive to Maryland after school was out, I let each girl pick out three (three!) sticker books for the driveTrue to form, Emerson picked out princesses and fairies, rock-stars, sports girls...  As she fanned them out on the floor of the store to figure out which ones she liked the best, I nosed around the shelves where I found--lo-and-behold--a pirate sticker book!
If any of you have ever had a child with an obsession (especially an obsession that you don't share--I mean, when have you ever seen me in a sequined/pink/frilly anything), you will understand my encouragement in trying to...explore other options.  Let's just say I was happy to buy her the sticker book...and happy to read it to her over and over at the beach...and happy to buy a few more books about pirates at the Assateague Island Visitor Center.  (Pirates: they're everywhere!  Who knew?)
It was refreshing though, for all of us, to be learning something new.  By the end of the camping trip we were old hats at knowing all about climbing the rat lines, scallywags, and salmugundi, and when we got home I hit the library full force.  We found some cool books (mostly non-fiction) and read a bit of them (leaving out the rape and torture of course, and the fact of modern day Somali pirates...) but nothing really came close to the sticker book (there's something about dressing them yourself) and the simple book we bought at Assateague.  What we needed weren't more facts (ugh...dry...), what we needed were some stories--some pirates in action.  Girl pirates in action.
And then I came across this:
Of course when Emerson became  interested in pirates I immediately brought her attention to women pirates, the most famous of which are Anne Bonney and Mary Reade.  Not only does Jane Yolen (and David Shannon, through his illustrations) bring them to life here, but she does it through ballad...which Emerson immediately transcribed and memorized.  Could there be anything better?
Now one small sloop that flew the black
Was Rackham's Vanity,
And it was manned by twelve brave lads
Upon the roiling sea.
When it was far and far from shore
Those twelve brave lads were ten,
For only on the sloop was known
That two of them weren't men.
Though only on the sloop was known
That one was bonny Anne,
And one was Mary Reade who dressed
Exactly like a man.

The book tells the famous story of the end of Calico Jack Rackham and his crew, who were all drunk upon their final capture in 1720--all but two of course...
"A ship, a ship!" did Mary cry.
"Come up and lend a hand."
But Rackham and his merry men
Came not to her command.
"A ship, a ship!" then Anne cried too,
"or else I will be taken."
But Rackham and his merry men
Their duties had forsaken.
So shoulder to shoulder and back to back,
Stood Mary and stood Anne;
Never was it said that they
Were feared of any man.

"What news, what news?" the people cry.
"What news bring you to town?"
"The Vanity is captured,
And two pirate queens brought down."
They marched along the prison walk;
They passed Jack's cell block by.
Called Anne: "If you'd fought like a man,
My Jack, you'd need not die.
"If you had fought right by my side,
This day we'd both be free,
A-sailing in the open air
All on the silver sea."
The  pirate queens before the judge
Each pleaded for her life.
"I am about to have a child;
I am a pirate's wife."
"Oh, you may be a pirate's wife,
Or by a man beguiled,
But never would I hang a maid
And kill the sinless child."
So Calico Jack and all his crew
Hanged on the gallows tree,
But Bonny Anne and Mary Reade
Were by the judge set free.

"Pleading their Bellies."  Emerson thought this phrase was the most hilarious thing in the world until we discovered a better one at the end of the book: "If you had fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog."

If you had fought like a woman, in fact...  Pirate queens--so much cooler than princesses.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Memories of Summer: SEVEN!


What can we say about seven?  We're not sure yet, but so far seven seems like a great age.  Emerson is more of a person--more astute, more present, more clever--but still a little girl who can tie a rope around her waist and spontaneously become a pony--Ophelia at the reins, leading her down the hall.

What can we say about a seven-year-old birthday party? Let's just say the word "pirate" springs to mind.


After last year's party, I was ready to call it quits with big parties, but Emerson insisted that her party this year wold be "even BIGGER!"  Sure enough, this year Emerson wanted to invite her whole class (15 kids), and then some...and of course I said yes...because it's her birthday, and because summer is a festive time of year, (and because I knew a lot of people would be travelling).  Like her last three birthdays, however, somehow most everyone on the list seemed to have made it, and like the last years it was a wild and crazy time, and I was too busy running around to take very many photos.  Emerson had a great time though, and so did the other kids.  All we really needed was a board on a rolling log ("the plank") and a hunt for buried treasure. (I highly recommend this last event for any party with children.  The children were intent on their search and out of the adults hair for at least a solid half-hour.  If it hadn't started raining and we didn't step in with some hints, they might be searching still...)

It was a little lonely without my dad, although Emerson's friend did stay late again this year to sing the "stinky cheese" song and make stinky cheese out of mud.  A pretty moving homage, I'd say.

What can we say about eight, you ask?  The words "small" and "sleepover" sound good to me.  But if you ask Emerson, she might have other plans... And after all, it's her day.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

From The Archives: SIX!

I guess if I'm going to finish my summer blogs and write about Emerson's seventh birthday, I should probably share something from her sixth.  To be honest, it's a bit deceiving to label this blog "from the archives" when the only thing in the archival blog were photos. No words. 

There were the before photos, when everything was normal:

And the after photos, when everything was...well...not.  But we'll get to those in a minute.  First I want to think about all the things I remember about Emerson's party. 

It was hot.  SO HOT.  In the high 90's with humidity near 100%.  We had central air on in the house, but it couldn't keep up with all the people inside.

Almost everyone Emerson invited came, the house and yard were full of girls (and a few boys).

All the kids tie-dyed t-shirts (with sharpies and alcohol, not the traditional way) and ran in the sprinkler and beat up a pinata.

The food was good, the beer was cold and despite the number of kids present, everyone got a piece of the rainbow or the flower, or whatever frosting design they wanted.

The kids had fun, the parents had fun, and most important, Emerson had fun.

It was a wonderful day.  It was also the last day I would spend with my father on this earth.

It's not unusual, I know, to immediately feel regret when someone close to you dies--I should have, I could have...--and my experience is no different.  I had been thinking about calling him, and his girlfriend, for a couple of days after Emerson's party to thank them for the tremendous amount of help and effort they put in to  make it such a wonderful day for her.  Despite the heat, my father was--true to form--running all over the place, setting up, cleaning up, finding kids bathing suits, taking photos, taking a whack at the pinata... But in all of this activity, I have not a single photo of him.  In all the chaos of the party, he was always in the background somewhere.  Before he left, he spent about a half and hour trying to get Emerson's undivided attention for just a minute so that he could give her his birthday card, but she was so enraptured with her friends and the running and the screaming and the sugar that it never happened.  He left the card for her to open later, thinking he would see her again in one short week. (We had planned a family vacation with all the grandchildren for the coming week--a vacation my father never saw).

Yes, I should have called him.  I should have spent more time with him at the party.  I should have made Emerson stop for a minute to open the card from her beloved Poppi.  Come to think of it, I should have called more, spent more time with, and stopped for a minute my entire life, when I was so enraptured with my friends, and the running, and the screaming, and the sugar, and my father was offstage, in the background, quietly making sure everything was taken care of.

And that's the thing about my dad: he wouldn't want me regretting.  Wherever he is, I know he doesn't care that I didn't call him to say thank you, and he understands that I was too busy to spend time with him at my daughter's birthday party.  I know that he wanted to see Emerson's expression when she opened his birthday card, but I know that what he wanted even more was for Emerson to have a good time with her friends.  My father was the most unconditionally giving, caring, and understanding person in my life, and the only thing I regret is that he has to miss the pure joy it gave him to spend time with his grandchildren, and that they will never truly know what a wonderful person was taken from them.

Emerson did open the card after he left.  It had a picture of a piece of cheese on the front with googly eyes, and when she opened it (which she did, about a hundred times) it sang a song: "if you're happy it's your birthday just say cheese!"  It was a typical card from my dad, and Emerson loved it.  She and her friend danced around for the better part of an hour singing "If you're happy it's your birthday stinky cheese!"  In fact, they still remembered it and sang it this year.  Kids...

And then there are the after photos:

True to my father's character, he died the day before Emerson's birthday.  He never would have wanted anything to stand in the way of or taint her special day in any way.  I came home the day of her birthday, after spending three days in the hospital, and that night we did just what Emerson had planned to do for her birthday - "walk around town."  Actually, she wanted to go out for sushi and then walk around town, but she settled easily for hot dogs at home, because she's easy like that.  So we went out into the hot summer night, and took in the sights and sounds of "town."  There just happened to be a side-walk sale, so the streets were even more alive than usual.  It was a lovely night for a lovely girl, who--come to think of it--also spends a lot of time, graciously, in the background.  But that night, with Poppi looking over her, she was a shining star.