Friday, May 8, 2009

MOTHBALL REBELLION

Did you ever open the closet on a chilly October day, reach for the coat, find it full of holes?

I had a mannish top coat, tan and white, snappy, tailored that I loved. Why the moths attacked it, I'll never know. I tried to get it mended. Two tailors wouldn't even consider it. Bye bye coat!

JC had a pair of black watch trousers (expensive, perfectly tailored, perfect fit), gone, devastated, rendered completely unwearable by moths.

Vaguely I remember a sweater or two -- nothing especially favorite or precious, but I know a couple of my sweaters occasionally had to be disposed of because of the seasonal winged visitors.

I remember my mother had a yearly ritual, a certain time, a date she'd mentally reserved. "It's time to put things in moth balls, my dears." And after she took care of my father's clothes, (I was never aware of her taking care of her own things) she went room by room, requiring the four of us (M, J, me and D ) to organize, fold, lay out our own clothes which were packed away in suitcases. Which, like garlic powder, we obediently seasoned with moth balls -- tucking the white balls into pockets and the folded layers, which made the garments stinky, unwearable.

After the summer, in the fall, Mother and Ann the maid, housekeeper who seemed like part of the family, hung everything out in the back yard, on a clothes line.

The odor didn't ever go completely away. That's what I remember. I didn't like mothballs . Forgetting the fact that something you loved to wear could be ruined by moths, I thought the ritual of packing it away, unpacking it, airing it was a ridiculous waste of time. Something a wife does for a husband and
family.

JC with his "SHENANDOAH" salary (JC doing the musical on Broadway was the first time we had money to spare), bought us zippered plastic rectangular containers, with room for a dozen hangers, on which were loaded with wool, silk, flannel, corduroy fancy things. And we got( did we buy them or find them on the street?) our two standing steel closets, which we cram with suit jackets, top coats, four capes ( I'm a cape fancier), wool scarves, wool gloves, and moth balls in sealed manila envelopes which I put in carryall bags so that there's a minor sniffable presence of the smell. (Dichlorabenzine --I used it in "Shattering Panes," one of plays in The Readery. (Contact me if you want to read it --plays are hard to read if you're not a actor or director.)

Anyhow, JC, every spring, after it gets hot, packs away his things; in the late fall, usually after it gets really cold, unpacks them. And ritually hurts his back lifting those heavy suitcase. Dr. Em prescribes, (insists on) a routine I developed from my transcontinental tours: If your lower back aches, take six brief hot showers in one day, and kneel in the shower with a rounded back, for a minute or two. If you can't kneel in the shower, after the show kneel on a bathmat with a rounded back -- that's it -- six times.

(Its a drag. But six is the number, six showers, and sometimes you have to do for two days, but somehow it magically does fix an unhappy lower back.)

As for me -- still rebelling, forever rebelling against some of the excellent, practical, exceptionally helpful routines I learned from Mother -- I never pack away anything. Just keep things in a large plastic container all year long. And sweetly cajole JC -- it's your 4th shower -- you've got time to take it before you head for the theater. I think, I'm not quite sure, but I think he's moving around more freely.

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