And the beat goes on… you really had to be there, but you couldn’t be — it was just lonesome me.
The lyrics for ReGeneration have just been added to my gumbo website as https://georgecomeauxliterarygumbo.com/scripts/re-generation .
I am hoping to find a better title somewhere along the way. The story is a basic family drama involving a widow with four children, three grown and flown and one collegian, trying to maintain 1950’s family harmony as social changes roil society in the 70’s. As the script begins with a Christmas scene and follows the year through to Thanksgiving, also touching on (not examining) some emerging social evolutions, “seasons” has two reasons for being part of the title, and I’m hoping something meaningful but not repetitious will eventually emerge.
While re-formatting the lyrics for uploading, I kept puzzling over the genesis of the script, originally completed in 1993. I seem to remember having written the first four scenes a while before I was dispatched by my first “rightsizing” into a severance pay existence, and had time on my hands to get back to the script. I was able to write a scene a day, dialogue and lyrics, finishing the first draft in two weeks to feelings of “euphoria! I can do this!” – then instantly plummeting into “what next? That was the easy part.”
(Euphoria and Frustration are two of the known drivers for my writing motivation. The third is personally trying to figure out how to adapt to a changing world, especially in light of my basically safety-first large-family based origins, and a feeling that I’m crawling out from under the Baltimore Catechism. The crawling was accelerated when I heard a five-year-old in the late 80’s ask, “Do you think I will ever get AIDS,” and I barely knew what she was talking about. My arduous “long night’s journey into day” now has me reaching for something easier to understand, the Golden Rule.)
Several amalgamated characters and specific events that could be entertaining or instructive or emotional emerged around my life experiences, supplemented by off-the-wall imagination.
The central figure in ReGeneration is “Grammy,” a giant-hearted woman reflecting my Mother’s and Mother-in-Law’s attitudes. My Mother-in-Law was a widow with five children, two school-age, two college-age, and one the daughter I married. She was also the inspiration for the yard sale scenes in the script. My Mother had at least one teenager in the house for a continual almost twenty-nine years (1955 to 1984), spanning the years of segregation to wave after wave as society “trips and falls over stones in its way” (O. Hammerstein) toward inclusiveness.
A pivotal figure is a parish priest reflecting the attitudes of a family friend who frequented holiday occasions at dessert time, and offers bedrock stability for challenges for all the extended family. A specific event inspired the song “Fatho Mofee”: My sister and her husband and four children visited from down south, and had been encouraged to visit a colleague of their own parish priest. We took them to meet Father Murphy, a smiling six-foot-four hospital chaplain. When the hospital door opened, my two year old niece, all of two-foot-four, walked ahead of us right into the bending arms of Father Murphy, who raised her up to his level as she proclaimed, “Fatho Mofee.”
One “borrowed” family experience (I wasn’t there) is the wedding in the hospital – my Uncle had actually performed his Father-of-the-Bride duties in a hospital bed after experiencing a trauma on the eve of his daughter’s wedding. I just transplanted that vision into this script.
Synopsis and Lyrics
Margaret McNally, aka “Grammy” – widow with four children
- Gerry, Jr. – former Navy officer, now international financier, unmarried, always “somewhere”
- Martha – former nurse, now homemaker with three children, married to Lou Watkins, high school computer teacher with television show for children
- Charlie – high school physical education teacher and coach with three children, married to Sandy, homemaker and eight months pregnant
- Karen – college junior, twenty years old
Father Murphy – local parish priest, sixty years old
Johnny Rondido – Karen’s boyfriend
Supporting Players – grandchildren, kids in computer tv show, various friends of family members
ReGeneration opens with all present except Gerry, Jr., at Grammy’s house . The grandchildren stage a black-light song, “Dancing Snowflakes,” holding wands of snowflakes drifting from ceiling to floor. Grammy then makes up words to sing as she passes out presents to grandchildren. The children respond by a rip-off “Here Comes Grammy Claus” that morphs into “The Best Damn Grammy in the Whole Wide World.” The next scene is at Martha and Lou’s house, Lou paying bills and singing to the radio song, “Low Monthly Payments.” The couple then review the fifteen year mark of their relationship, “Closer and Closer and Closer to You.” Then the extended family gathers here for Valentine’s Day, Grammy leading the charge fresh from a yard sale. Father Murphy arrives for dessert, immediately confronted by four-year-old Darlene and her question, “Fatho Mofee, why did my little cat die?” – followed by all the kids asking their own “Why?’s”. Karen shocks the assembly by asking Father Murphy to marry her! She identifies her intended as Johnny Rondido, a local Portuguese hot-rodder and mechanic with somewhat of a reputation, about to join the Navy. Father Murphy calms the turmoil by scheduling an office conference with Karen. Recently widowed Grammy displaces into a soliloquy, “Who Will Give Her Away?,” bemoaning the absence of Gerry Jr. Martha and Sandy are left to cleanup, discussing their troubles, and “Sweep It under the Rug.” Next Lou is conducting his tv computer show with kids in the audience echoing “Computers Can Be Fun,” explaining some programming concepts using flip charts (images not on the web site). Karen meets with Father Murphy and he agrees to perform the ceremony. Then Karen meets her married siblings at Charlie and Sandy’s house for wedding planning, and introduces Johnny, who lets them know he has a two-year-old daughter, Maria. The married couples share, in separate stanzas, lost in their own romantic stories, “Once… Then… Now…” . Grammy hosts a spirited pre-nuptial party at her house, but Charlie wanders to a corner to ask, “Why, Daddy, Why?”, and Grammy at an opposite window asks, “Why, Gerry, Why?” Father Murphy arrives just as turmoil breaks out, and the assembly reprises “Why?” to end Act I.
A rented hall with bar is the setting for the Jack and Jill (bachelor and bachelorette) party that begins Act II. Gerry has returned from overseas to give Karen away. The guys arrive first. Johnny’s friends quiz him about the relationship, and Johnny begins with “THUNDER AND LIGHTNIN’!” but suddenly sentimentalizes into a “Something Different” revery. Charlie organizes the crowd and introduces his long gone brother and asks for a Navy sea chanty to kick off the celebration. Gerry leads “YO HO!” with audience participation, then follows with “Here’s to the Ladies That Do!” – an audience “Yay! Boo!” response song. The women arrive during the song, and Johnny’s flamboyant sister Margarita takes the mike and leads “Here’s to the Fellas That Do!” in response. Karen and Gerry meet off to the side to reconnect, and Karen reprises “Something Different” from her perspective. Gerry hears Johnny’s friends talking about a small, suspiciously dressed, earring-wearing and heavily jeweled guy they just ushered out of the building. Gerry is about to go look for his friend, when Johnny and Karen report there was a car accident, Lou’s car was sideswiped and Grammy taken to the hospital. Gerry and Charlie leave to investigate. The scene changes to the tv studio. Lou arrives late for his show with his arm in a cast, and changes the lesson to an angry, creative demonstration of drugs, for which he will soon be fired. Next Father Murphy officiates as Karen and Johnny exchange vows in the hospital at Grammy’s bedside. As the small crowd there leaves for the church, Father Murphy lingers, and Grammy voices appreciation to Father Murphy with “You Could Have Been One of the Beautiful People.” Father Murphy responds with “You ARE One of the Beautiful People!” The final scene is Thanksgiving at Martha and Lou’s home. Gerry reveals that he works with AIDS hospice and has brought his old high school friend Marcus to the feast. Grammy responds with “Everybody Has the Right to Smile.” The family alternates lines in “What is a Family?”, Martha announces she will bring in an addition in six months, and Father Murphy has to respond one more time to everyone’s questions – “Why?”
N.B. Many moons ago, my brother composed notes for “Dancing Snowflakes”, now residing on my website at https://georgecomeauxliterarygumbo.com/dancing-snowflakes/ .
I was the only one there for the writing, but family, in-laws, friends, and legions of others contributed to the sentiments.