Saturday, February 25, 2006

My Jane Austen Action Figure

So I open my front door, step onto the green outdoor carpet that covers my front porch--sorta like a mini putt golf course, with a few wrinkles and badly in need of a manicure. I’m gonna get the mail when I almost trip over a small box on the porch floor. I haven’t ordered anything and the box doesn’t have a return address. It’s small and light enough that I can pick it up with one hand. It’s addressed to Beth’s Front Porch.

When I open the box and brush away some of the white packing peanuts, I see the words with writing desk & quill pen! I pull out the clear package and can see a six inch high woman dressed in a regency white and green dress, complete with curly brown hair under a cap, Pride and Prejudice in left hand, quill in right. At the top, in large white letters on a black background: Jane Austen Action Figure: “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

I flip over the box, and on the back of the package are some interesting facts about my new action figure. For example, her Weapon of Choice: Character Study. There are these quotes:

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking

People always live forever when there is an annuity to be paid
them. (Sense and Sensibility)

There are people who the more you do for them, the less they will do for themselves. (Emma)

If there is anything disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it.

The packaging tells me, in case I don’t know it, Jane Austen was an enduring and much loved English author who wrote novels which reflect universal and timeless truths about humanity. It also tells me there are small parts not suitable for children under 36 months.

In fact Jane has figured tangentially in my work. There is, for example, this paragraph: Frizzy asks if Jane Austen is ok. I say she is, as far as I know. It’s a touchy subject. Jane is Frizzy’s dog, the one she got after Emily Dickinson passed on. Frizzy says when she was in high school she didn’t like Emily’s poetry much, so when she got her first dog she named her Emily. In that way Frizzy hoped she’d some to appreciate Emily’s poetry in a better fashion. I figure Jane got her name in the same way. Later, Frizzy calls and says she has to move because the family she’s living with is allergic to Jane Austen.

But that’s another story.

There’s a small card buried in the original box that was on my front porch. It says:
With Love for Beth’s Front Porch. And won’t the green outfit
go well with the orange carpet? Love you, Dan.

(For those of you following my blog, you may recall that the orange carpet is in my magic carpet-ride writing space.) So whoever would send me such a thing, eh?

This is from the guy who went to Parris Island with me to see his nephew--my son-- graduate from the USMC boot camp. (If you’re reading Beth’s Front Porch, you know about this, and Jarhead, and you deserve to graduate from boot camp, too, for sticking with me.) It’s early in the morning, and he and I are in the stands, and the ceremony is taking place on the parade ground, and the unpredicted rain begins. It’s relentless, torrential. Most of us are unprepared: no hat, no umbrella, no jacket. But I have mascara. Evidently it is not waterproof. It burns when it gets in the eyes. It leaves football player like smudges on the skin. So Dan turns to me and with a compassionate look, pulls out a handkerchief—a real handkerchief—and gives it to me. But it’s the look that gets me. He looks compassionately at a woman whose mascara is running and whose son has become a jarhead. She needs that moment. She remembers what it feels like.

Well, that’s just a little aside. For me it’s the best moment in the trip.

Oh, and he’s the same person who when I'm a senior in high school gives me a poster of a woman on a beach, which at the top, in script, says
I long for what might be.

This is my brother. As a child, I used to imagine I was adopted. Maybe, after all, I am not. Maybe, after all, my tribe is my tribe.

I want to thank my Jane Austen Action Figure for serving as a catalyst for this epiphany. This is much more than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ever accomplished. At my house, anyway. And, although I don't much like talking to someone through a blog entry...thanks in all ways, Dan. Love, Beth


Paula said...

Dan should be the first one to reply, but it's 1:30 in the morning and I've been checking every day for over TWO WEEKS now looking for a new I'm staking my claim.

Beth, this is the greatest entry EVER, tender and funny and sad and poignant and did I say funny? Am I gonna see Jane and the orange carpet next week? AM I? AM I, HUH???

Paula said...

P.S. I can bring my Sigmund Freud Action Figure (gray suit and cigar) and they can flirt...or analyze each other...or do whatever action figures do.

V said...

What a love your brother has for you. Your writing is so clear, shimmering.

beths front porch said...

Vince - thank you for the comment "what a love your brother has for you." And so it is true, and I love him back. But I didn't want to actually say those words in the blog. Too easy! Also a tad syrupy. I just wanted to show it. Love, after all, makes the world seem a better place. Beth

Erin said...

Beth, what a beautiful entry this is! I would love to read more of your story about Frizzy. I especially enjoyed the last line, "Later, Frizzy calls and says she has to move because the family she’s living with is allergic to Jane Austen." Clever.

Your brother sounds like an absolute gem.

robbo said...

As a recent viewer of the latest Pride and Prejudice, I can say that if such figures existed when I was a teenager, Jane Austen would have been my Farrah Fawcett. No, I wouldn't have imagined her as the beautiful star of the movie, but better yet, as the hidden away feminine creator of the tender,powerful,evocative moments in the film.

Vicky said...

I'd almost given up on a new entry, Beth! Oh, this is so achingly beautiful. What a sweet, good, and loving man your brother is. How deeply he feels for you - and all this described in words so gentle. Thank you so much for sharing this gem of an entry. And Dan, if you are reading this, your sister is pretty wonderful too. I can sense a family resemblance.

Love, Vicky

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