Back in my high school days, the Drama Club was one of my favorite extra-curricular activities. I participated in every production that occurred while I was a student.
My all-time favorite role was Penelope (Penny) Sycamore, the mother in You Can’t Take It with You. This wacky woman, the matriarch of an eccentric clan of characters, was always at her typewriter, writing plays.
As the climax of the action nears, we learn WHY Penny writes plays–because eight years ago, a typewriter was delivered to the house by mistake!
I think about his whenever I talk about the peacocks in my house.
We moved here nearly seven years ago, after our previous home burned down. For three weeks John and I and the “little kids” lived at my sister’s house, the big boys stayed with friends, and our dog hung out at my other sister’s (Emily was away at college). We needed somewhere to move quickly, somewhere that would accommodate our large family and our need for an in-home office.
We ended up in a home that had been customized by the prior renter, who apparently had a thing about peacocks. There’s a peacock stepping stone in the garden and a statue just outside the front door. There are peacocks painted on either side of the front entry and another in the breakfast nook. There’s even a tiny one in their family coat of arms which we’ve chosen not to paint over in order to give this very new house a little bit of history.
Now we could have asked our landlady to paint over all the peacocks. (We did ask her to paint over the red tree on the living room wall which was encircled by the words “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one, single, solitary step.“) Or we could have just tolerated the peacocks.
Instead, like Penelope Sycamore did with her misdelivered typewriter, we embraced the unexpected. Searching for meaning, I found that peacocks have been a Christian symbol of resurrection, which seemed fitting as we left our old lives more or less in ashes and started all over with a new home and new possessions.
And, as it happens, Cracker Barrel has a collection of peacock decor items which have over the years put me in serious danger of becoming a crazy peacock lady. I have a peacock lamp and a variety of decorative items like candle holders and vases in peacock colors. I bought throw pillows to match the theme and eventually plan to paint one wall a peacock blue. I even have peacock shoes!
As I wrote the above, I realized that maybe there’s a reason why the role of Penelope Sycamore meant so much to me. I don’t know whether I absorbed something from her, or if the casting was foreshadowing, but there is more of Penny in me than I ever knew.
Like her, I’m the mother in a houseful of rowdy people who may or may not be related to me at any given time. Penny welcomed a Russian ballet teacher, an expat grand duchess, a drunken actress, and the mailman (who never left) with unfailing hospitality and good humor. When my boys were younger it was not unusual for our house to be filled with people I had never seen before.
Penny didn’t let her family responsibilities get in the way of her personal pursuits, and neither do I. Like Penny, painting or typing with the chaos all around her, I’ve learned to tune out all but the loudest screams while I blog or read. I ignore the shenanigans in my basement just like Penny remained unfazed by the sounds of exploding fireworks in hers.
Like her, I’ve learned not to care about being conventional but rather to follow my heart and allow my family members to do the same. Penny equally applauded her husband’s fireworks, her son-in-law’s printing, her older daughter’s dancing, her younger daughter’s engagement, and her father’s snake-collecting. It never occurred to her to worry about what others would think of the family’s lifestyle.
Penelope Sycamore was completely secure in herself and her family. She didn’t even think about whether other people would like her or not. She was able to put worry aside, fully inhabit her days, and enjoy life as it came. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.
I will not die an unlived life . . . I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid . . .
~ Dawna Markova
Thank you, Penny. Now bring on the peacocks!