My childhood best friend visited recently. It was lovely to see her but much too short. She lived across the street from us when we lived in urban St. Louis. The big brick houses in our neighborhood were filled up with kids, many of them Catholic, like us. I figure in our square block there were at least a hundred kids. Whenever you wanted to play with a friend, youâ€™d stand on the walk in front of their house and call out, â€œOhh, Anne! Ohh, Lyn!â€ It was a somewhat rundown but wonderful urban neighborhood, around the corner from what is now the hip and groovy Delmar Loop. We moved there when I was ten and I loved every single thing about it.
Though Anne was two years younger than me, we shared a romantic sensibility, so we became friends right away. She loved ballet and we both loved classical music, books, and art. Every time I see her now, itâ€™s as if no time has passed. And this time she reminded me of our teenage vow to meet up in Paris one day, saying, â€œItâ€™s not too late to meet under the Eiffel Tower!â€
I had pulled out the falling-apart piano music that she had given me when we had our little ballet school. We were just teenagers, maybe 16 and 14, when her ballet teacher moved away and handed over the â€œschoolâ€ to her. It was really just a couple of classes of little girls that met on Saturday mornings in the basement of our parish elementary school. I played the piano and Anne taught the classes. We even put on a recital, for which we made costumesâ€“mostly tutus out of nettingâ€“for those little girls. This morning, the melody of â€œAdagio at the Barreâ€ has been running pleasantly through my head.
Itâ€™s pretty amazing to think about all of this now. Anneâ€™s teacher and all those parents entrusted her with those kids and we were paid for the lessons! I suppose we did a pretty good job, though. As a teenager, I was not eager to get a job at the movie theater or make money by babysitting. Being in other peopleâ€™s houses, especially at night, seemed creepy to me. But our little entrepreneurial venture suited me perfectly. It was not like working, at all, and yet we were paid. Many Saturday afternoons weâ€™d take the bus downtown or out to Clayton and spend all of our earnings on little luxuries or things for the apartment we were going to have one day.
Along with our sisters, we had other ventures back then, too. A â€œboutiqueâ€ in the basement, with a sign in the basement windowâ€“the Fried Banana. We made little crafty things to sell there and somehow thought we might get customers. We put on plays and a circus and one summer we had a daycare.
I suppose, with all of these projects, I was always going to be an entrepreneur of some kind. I always wanted to do my own thing, and here I am. Maybe it’s genetic, as four of the seven of us siblings have ended up self-employed.
â€œThis is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.â€
â€• Alan Watts
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on myÂ website. And if you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”