Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Musings of Julia, Senator Kennedy and Crossroads

I've been thinking. About my blogs. My plays. My cooking. My life. Can I change what I want to be when I grow up? I construct blogs in my head. And discard them. I write down snippets of plays on an errant piece of paper which floats away. My thoughts float with them. They escape and I begin again. I wonder at new beginnings at this time in my life.
Senator Edward Kennedy died today. A deeply flawed man. The end of the Kennedy era. A progressive era. As a grade schooler, I certainly remember President's Kennedy's death. It's a benchmark for my generation. As an early McGovern support in my teens and later a 'Robert Kennedy for President' supporter, the assassinations remain fresh in my mind. In both cases I can see the room where I heard the news. Hear the people speaking in muffled tones. Feel the confusions in my veins. It is permanently etched.
As I grew, the scandals and tragedies that followed Senator Kennedy were of no interest to me. Somewhat judgmental, I ignored the headlines and the politician. I was not interested in the bad-boy behavior of a grown man. As an actress, I landed a temporary gig working for CBS News during the 1980 Democratic Convention. (You will note that most of my jobs as an actress did not involve the stage!) I had a press pass, "played" at being a reporter and was ushered into a room with Joan and Edward Kennedy. I was young and determined not to be impressed. I was impressed. By what? By a politician's rhetoric? No. By their vulnerability. Both of them. There was a brief statement. Very brief. And a little chat. No spin. That would come later. I never forgot the quiet, pleading look in their eyes - before it was showtime.
I've brushed my shoulders with a number of famous people. Clumsily serving chocolate cake to Robert De Niro, gushing over Tennessee Williams, standing slack-jawed in front of George Cukor. (The by-product of being a waitress; another non-stage job during my "acting" years.) I never found the witty remark or sought to get their attention. Well, I did gush over Tennessee and he hugged me. In his white suit complete with his requisite panama hat, he deigned to hug a greasy waitress.
I'm flitting. How I connect Edward Kennedy and Julia Child seems to result from a short in my brain. To me, this all makes sense. As the years passed, I would take notice of some legislation Senator Kennedy passed. It was always on the side of those who came into life with fewer advantages than he. He remained a progressive. He boozed and chased skirts. Chappaquiddick would forever be his legacy. Yet he put it all aside when the Senate was in session. He made sure his laws were worthy - even if his behaviour was not. And then something happened. Was it his new wife? His age? Or life? And he settled down to be a good senator. And a good senator he was. A life-long Democrat, he had no problem crossing the dreaded party line to work in a bi-partisan fashion to get laws passed.
He was as effective in a Republican senate as in a Democratic one. In his later years, he became the man that was earlier expected of him. A wealthy man who believed in giving voice to those who had none: the uninsured, the mentally ill, children, immigrants. He's been waging a war for health care for all - for over thirty years. And for me - the interesting thing is - his most effective years were in the last third of his life. To be sure, he passed worthy laws earlier, but it wasn't until his later years that he was finally able to fit into the shoes of an elder statesman and wear them well. He was given time - something his brothers were not and he used it well.
I think of my fleeting middle age, (AARP has claimed me as one of their own), on how people can make an impact later in life - how they still can still come into their own. Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was not published until she was 48. It would be two more years before The French Chef would be televised. Why does my mind stray from Senator Kennedy to Julia Child? The common denominator is minuscule. They are both currently in the news.
I am at a crossroads in my life when I thought my "crossroad" years were over. I have not been thrilled with being back in the crossroads. I would have preferred to have made my crossing years ago and to spend these years building in my new place. I've started over before. I am not sure I am ready to again. But I find comfort that the legacy Julia Child left is from the last half of her life. And that a frat-brat senator can use his later years to become the Lion in the Senate.

End-of-summer musings. Wondering what is next. When I cross over, what will I find?


Sophia said...

I'm sure you'll make it through, Claudia. you are a great woman with a beautiful heart, an insightful mind, a deep wisdom, and beautiful writing skills.

Pearl said...

Claudia, I have without a doubt, that you will continue to accomplish life-changing goals. Maybe you would not find them life-changing, but I am sure that your decisions and actions have been life changing to others.

And what a beautiful, honest and true dedication to Senator Kennedy.

I have missed your writings.

Katy ~ said...

Oh, dear lady. You are fortunate to be at a crossroads. You are not stagnant. It means you have an opportunity for growth and achievement, perhaps in ways yet to unfold.

Choose carefully and wisely. Journey well.

I envy you this time.

Heather S-G said...

My brain works in much the same as yours does, I think. Sometimes I feel like everyday is a crossroads...which way is "correct"...which way is more pleasurable...of which way should I steer clear? (I feel your connection.) I definitely think that the way you decide to take ultimately leads to make you who you are tomorrow, so listen to your heart! Who knows what the future holds. :)

Wanda..... said...

Your post was very moving Claudia...we all face crossroads of it in professional or personal areas of our and faith come to mind.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book "Gift from the Sea" is an inspiring book.
It reminds me not to be fearful of change.

My life is in transition too...this has been the first summer for 21 years of not babysitting any brought a sadness as well as an opportunity...time for blogging for one and meeting others such as yourself that I admire.

I wish you well in your journey and the path you choose.


Anonymous said...

What a moving post! A great tribute to Edward Kennedy. Julia Child is definitely a wonderful example of great achievements later in life; this also makes me think of one of my favorite historical characters Ben Franklin who really got most of his famous achievements in the latter half of his life as well.

OysterCulture said...

What a lovely post, and like you I'm at the cross roads and while very excited at the choices ahead, feel I would be equally content if I was plodding down one path and done with the indecision. Best of luck and I am sure that whatever you decide will be the best outcome for you, and lead you on some new and exciting journeys. As a sage friend once told me you have to savour the process as much as the outcome, and I have to remind myself of that everyday.

There was a list and of course I cannot find it of all the late bloomers out there, Julia of course being one, so she is definitely not unique. Grandma Moses is another artist that comes to mind.

unconfidentialcook said...

Crossroads are the pits! I'm working on a magazine now in which we're doing an article on Second Acts--people who switch careers. There's a man who was a Buddhist Monk for 26 years...and then becomes a nurse. So inspiring. As difficult as they are, crossroads make one's life a lot more interesting and multi-dimensional.(I will keep telling myself that.)

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

Claudia what a powerful and well thought out post. I think the Victoria Reggie complimented him well and thus he settled down to be the person he was destined to be.

I'll be interested to see how the road crosses and turns for you. you are talented on so many fronts...more success is waiting for you. what an exciting adventure to look forward to.

Like wine, we get better with age!

Reeni said...

You always evoke emotion in me Claudia. Your words are deep, rich and thought-provoking. And I enjoy the interesting little snippets of your life that you share with us. I wish you much happiness in whatever road you decide to take!

I'm sorry your having trouble commenting on my blog. Thanks for taking the time to e-mail me and for your sweet compliments!


Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

Claudia, First of all, Please accept my apologies for not getting back to you from your July 10th visit to my blog....I totally relaxed this summer to the point of almost nothingness (and my blood pressure dropped 10 points on the top and 10 points on the bottom as a result). I vow to return comments and now I am at your comment. I had no idea that you were the author of JOURNEY OF AN ITALIAN is a journey, huh? I appreciate your comments that you made today regarding the Kennedys and your brush with celebrities. I, too, used to live in California in the 80's and was so disappointed in the superficiality of what I experienced and also with my own brushes with celebrities in L.A. I am homegrown from the Midwest and Italian and it just did not gel with me. I completely support you in whatever life-changing decisions that you make, having made so many of them by now in my middle-aged years. Blessings to you for whatever you decide. I am going to gladly begin to follow your blog and your interesting comments and recipes . . . and I welcome you back to my blog when you have a minute. Amore and ciao, Roz (aka bella)

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Claudia

I Believe a good life is one that is always evolving, always learning, always open to new adventures. I found turning 50 very liberating.

Sorry I haven't visited lately --I'm on vacation in the wonderful wild west!

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

Thinking of you!

Barbara GF said...

Life's highways would be boring without crossroads, Claudia. Fall makes me feel that way, too.
Lovely tribute to the Senate Lion and the "French Chef." Salude!