Saturday, January 17, 2015
Book Excerpt- Act Two for Three
A little book about the friendship between Jenna, the actress trying to adjust to life as a widow, Natalie, who chose a career instead of marriage and Liz, wife/mother/grandmother/volunteer/former cabaret singer. They think their lives are settled; they don't expect any drastic changes but they are in for some surprises. Travel, internet dating, family problems, new friends, computer classes, a career change, a romance and more give them a lot of things to discuss and plan at their weekly luncheons. They find that they can adapt to and even welcome and enjoy the life changes in spite of or because of their age; they are (shush, don't tell) over seventy!
Check out this excerpt from the book!
The computer screen showed three women of a certain age, somewhere between 65 and 70 (in one case, a few years over 70). Two of them, the blonds, were in the same room; the third, the brunette, was in a different place. This was their first attempt at Skyping and they were anticipating a long, face- to- face conversation.
Jenna Bliss (the blond on the right) was a sometimes actress in regional theater; her specialty was writing and acting in murder mystery plays. She was a recent widow. Natalie Lynn (the blond on the left), was a professional singer who had chosen a career and travel over marriage and Liz Cunningham (the brunette), was a combination wife, mother, grandmother, volunteer worker, singing instructor , organizer, book reviewer, former cabaret singer and more. The other two said it was exhausting just thinking about all of the things she did.
Natalie was petite and fragile looking, but in her case, looks were deceiving since she was an avid tennis player and walker. She also carried her own equipment (microphones, computer, stool, suitcase filled with costumes) to all of her shows. She loved to shop and had a closetful of clothes. She usually wore tailored slacks, colorful jackets or shirts during the day and sequined, glitzy dresses and high heels for her shows. She could count on the fingers of one hand the times in her life that she had performed without wearing false eyelashes. “I really can’t sing without them.” She lived in a one bedroom condo in downtown Miami; the same one she bought when she came to Florida from New York in 1975.
“Why would I ever move?” she would ask when people suggested that she might like an apartment in one of the newer buildings that were springing up all around her. “This is a perfect location. I can walk to shops, the theater; the view is spectacular and I have no expenses.” The mortgage on the apartment had been paid off long ago.
Jenna had medium length straight hair and bangs to, as she said, hide the lines in her forehead. She was a swimmer and a walker and looked taller and thinner than the numbers on the scale (138 pounds) said when she compulsively weighed herself every morning. She and her late husband Phil moved to Miami Beach from Chicago five years ago after a particularly bad snowstorm persuaded them it was time to follow their dream of living on the beach. Phil was retired and Jenna was sure she could continue acting and doing voice-overs, extra work and commercials in Florida. They bought a condo on the beach and life had been almost perfect until Phil had a heart attack and, within the space of five days, died. People tried to tell Jenna he was fortunate not to have been ill and suffering. She just looked at them and tried not to hate them for even mentioning the word lucky.
Liz was the flamboyant one of the three. She was all bright colored long dresses or jackets, lots of clunky jewelry, big picture hats, oversized glasses; she was the one who got noticed first in a crowd. She and her husband were both native Floridians; they lived in a huge, sprawling house in an old Miami neighborhood; it was filled with books and crafts and antique furniture and lately, with grandchildren and pets.
Natalie and Liz had been friends for over thirty years; they met at an ASMA (Association of Musicians and Singers) meeting when they were both starting out in show business and their friendship continued even after Liz began her family and did less and less professional singing.
Jenna and Natalie met last year when they were waiting to see a doctor, Jenna for an ear ache and Natalie for her annual check-up. Natalie was leafing through a magazine when she looked up and saw that the woman sitting across from her was crying.
“Is there anything I can do?“ she asked.
The woman looked up.“It’s this form I have to fill out. I don’t know what box to check. I mean, I know what box should check, but I just can’t make myself do it.” She explained that her husband died a month ago, “So that means I have to check the box that says ‘widow.’ I can’t do it. Here,” she handed the form to Natalie. “Would you do it for me? Please.”
They decided, after seeing the doctor, that they would meet for coffee, and, over the following months, although they were so different, they became firm friends.
A few months ago, Natalie introduced Jenna and Liz; it was a tentative friendship at first. Jenna envied Liz her still healthy and lively husband and her close-knit family who lived just minutes away. Jenna’s two children lived in New York and Arizona. Liz saw Jenna as the personification of her worst fears: losing a husband, children living far away, being alone; but they were slowly working their way to a sort of friendship.
The women got in the habit of meeting once or twice a week for lunch or coffee on Lincoln Road, the very trendy stretch of blocks in Miami Beach where there were dozens of outdoor restaurants, cafes, jewelry and clothing shops and art galleries. They talked as they ate banana muffins or biscotti and sipped skinny lattes or caramel iced coffee. They talked about everything and they listened to each others’ problems.
“I’m so lonely , I have no family nearby, I’m all alone.”
“I’m worried about my career. There just don’t seem to be any singing jobs anymore.”
“I never have any time for myself; someone always needs something or wants something.”
They encouraged each other and offered advice.
“Maybe you take an exercise class or find a group or club to join. You have to make yourself go out and meet people.”
“You’re a wonderful singer; you just need to do some marketing, some networking. Maybe you need a new agent. Do you have a Web site?”
“You have to be firm and say ‘No’ when someone asks to do something you don’t want to do. Let’s practice. Will you come and clean my house for me? Come on, let’s hear a big ‘NO!’”
And they made each other laugh.
“I bought one of those big body pillows and I named it Phil.”
“I sang at a retirement home and one older man fell asleep right in front of me and he was snoring!”
“My grandson calls my house Camp Grandma.”
They talked about traveling and movies and books; they were all reading the best seller Invisible
Me and they pretty much agreed with the author’s premise that, after a certain age, nothing new or different or important was likely to happen . Natalie and Liz said they were sure that there wouldn’t be any big surprises or changes, that their lives were well set. Jenna reminded them that things could change in a minute, but even she admitted that she didn’t expect anything radically different to happen to her. “It is what it is,” they agreed. But then…
The computer screen showed the three women raising their wine glasses in a toast. “We’ve really come a long way in a year. Here’s to us!”