#1 daughter and Son-in-Law are driving cross-country from the Northeast to the Midwest, retracing the path followed by one branch of our family in the 1800s. I doubt that they are even thinking about that as they go. They will stay with #2 daughter tonight and then all of them will come down severally tomorrow.
Last week after choir one of the ladies from the church caught me in the parking lot and told me that there was an opera singer in her yoga class, and would I come this week and invite her to join the choir? She had just moved into town, the lady told me.
Accordingly, I went last night to meet her. By the time I got there, class had begun, and the singer was in the front row. My friend pointed her out. “Her name is Frances — no, Phoenix,” she said.
Hmm. I peered at the rear-view silhouette. “What’s her last name?” I asked, but my friend didn’t know.
I happen to know a singer named Phoenix. It is not that we are slightly acquainted, either. I saw her through some major scandals a few years ago. I will not tell you the details. In fact, I will never tell you the details. I will never tell anyone. I will never so much as breathe to any member of the choir that there are any details to reveal.
But when, after yoga class, my friend brought her new-found opera singer by the choir room, I saw her through the door. There was that look, the look that says, “Oh my God, someone who knows me!”
What to do?
I jumped up, ran over, and gave her a big hug. I could have whispered “Your secret is safe with me” as I did so, but I did not. I quickly returned to my seat before anyone could ask how we knew each other. I don’t know, after all, what her cover story is. She is apparently pretending that she just moved here.
After choir, the director told me that he felt sure he knew her from somewhere. He was grilling me about her, in the innocent way that you do when you are trying to figure out that sense of deja vu. I danced around the questions. I am not good at prevarication, so I probably seemed pretty shifty.
Now what? She may just refuse ever to come back, for fear of my telling everyone all about her. I am hoping that the hug conveyed the message that I didn’t plan to rat on her, but you never know. What is the ettiquette here? A note, perhaps, assuring her that I plan to be discreet? But how to phrase it so that it doesn’t sound like a precursor to blackmail?
In her place, I think I would have brazened it out. “Ah,” I would have said, “Someone who knows me and all my youthful indiscretions! Don’t believe a word of it!”
I had plenty of youthful indiscretions myself, after all.
At book club yesterday, it quickly became clear that my fellow readers had not enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife. They had not even finished it. Ah well, I didn’t like last month’s Little Friend. This did not prevent me from suggesting, when the Piano Teacher sighed that she was ready to go back to a previous century, that we read Frankenstein, which I am about to read for Knitting the Classics. The ladies were up for it.
But the discussion of The Time Traveler’s Wife languished pretty quickly and we began talking about other books we were reading. I told them about The God Delusion and the Piano Teacher told us about the biography of Daniel Boone that she was reading. I casually mentioned that he was a kinsman of mine, and then, knowing that she was interested in local history, told the story of one of his descendents in my branch of the family who moved to the area where we now live.
He had been named Enoch Boone Frost. By the time he died, Daniel Boone was no longer that eccentric Uncle Daniel, but a famous man, so Enoch had “Enoch Daniel Boone Frost” put on his tombstone to do a bit of posthumous bragging about the relationship.
The Piano Teacher protested that Daniel Boone had been admired and respected. I said “There’s many a man who was admired at 40, who was an embarrassment to his family at 20.”
So it may be with Phoenix. She left town for a while, came back and hoped she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew, or perhaps we should say anyone who knew her. But she should have another chance. I hope she could tell that I feel that way.