Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Possum Lake: Champaign 1994

There wasn't much water around Champaign, Illinois. In the city, there was The Boneyard, a small creek that ran through campustown and around, its tiny banks littered with trash and broken bottles. The Boney, as some called it, would flood in big rains and flood the streets (until they built a huge retention pond after Fru and I left). There were miscellaneous "lakes" in the new neighborhoods--manmade retention ponds, essentially. There was the Sangamon River--supposedly, I could barely see it--around Mahomet and a few other rivers around the county and some lakes south of the county, but there was no real bodies or flows of "water" to speak of.
And then there was Possum Lake, which has nothing to do with real water either.
When my two girls were about three or four and one or two, they would listen to music and dance to it. The dancing mainly consisted of running around in circles and falling down. One Xmas, they listened to the Nutcracker Suite, and though it was too long for them to really absorb, they did love a few sets centered around the Russian Dance section. So, I would play the Russian Dance and a few others over and over for them, way past Xmas and New Years.
Their dancing to this music became kind of an act and I became the "Director" of their musical show. Me being me (which is who I am), I gave their performance the name of Possum Lake (as in Swan Lake, as in ballet). They had no idea that I was making a joke. For them, Possum lake was a real and beautiful name for their ballet.
So, when they wanted to hear the Nutcracker's Russian Dance and others, they'd ask to perform Possum Lake.
I made up specific parts for them to perform with moves such as "barbeque tongs" and "banana splits" and the "vulture dive". This was how I entertained myself while they entertained themselves which entertained all of us. So, I'd put on the music and they'd get ready--they sometimes wore tutus--and off they would go with their rendition of Possum Lake, perfectly executing the "barbeque tong" moves and other difficult steps up to the crescendo of an end where they ran faster and faster in circles until they crashed like vultures into the serene waters of Possum Lake (our dining room carpet, usually).
But, this is what I did to them. I could never quite let things be normal or what they were supposed to be, I always had to make them slightly off kilter. I suppose I imbued them with a sense of creativity, of making something into your own, also a sense of cynicism and sarcasm--for better or worse--and maybe, perhaps, irony . . . I don't know. Both my girls turned out quite different, but they both have a great sense of humor.
And maybe that was all it was, after all, humor. Making something funny just to have some fun. And it was fun.
What would childhood be? What would parenthood be? What would anything be if you couldn't have some fun? . . . Today, I'd pay great gobs of money to see them perform Possum Lake once again.

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