My parents have gone out to dinner, and all the kids went to a Reformation dress-up party, and I’m trying to remember why I decided not to go. That decision has left me in charge of a chilly, rain-swept house on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere (sorry, just setting the scene here) with a kitchen full of the ginger drop cookies that didn’t quite get finished yet, every piece of the Wall Street Journal Friday edition, and an exciting conservative start-up paper, which seems to be local to all of Ohio, and is all revved up about some very scary amendments coming up on our ballot.
Anyhow. My brother fished up a velvet-and-sequin cape and vest, and I believe he’s impersonating Frederick the Wise, protector of Martin Luther. The littlest sister has a black velvet doublet (it used to be a prom dress, but was way too short to do anybody any good, so it had its skirt cut off, and the waist cut sharp to imitate an Elizabethan doublet), and as of last notice she’s Magdalena, Luther’s daughter by Katherina the runaway nun. Unless she decides to switch to Elizabeth, sister of aforementioned Magdalena. My second-youngest sister decided to go with some nice clothes which-don’t-mean-anything-in-particular. The other sister has a nice new Celtic sweater, and another brown heather cape, so I told her she can be “Countess Kilcorran, rebellious lady-in-waiting of Mary Queen of Scots, who secretly likes to listen to John Knox preach.” She looked a bit sceptical, I don’t know why.
No, we didn’t make all these costumes specially for the Reformation party. But since you asked, I’ll tell you about it. Years and years ago, the summer before my last year in high school, I dragged a lot of kids from the homeschool support group out to our house, having persuaded their mothers that it would be good for them to participate in a Shakespearean play. The summer before we had done the last act-and-a-half from Much Ado About Nothing, only it fell a little flat, for a couple of reasons: the younger kids simply could not get the old English phrases out. They persisted in stopping at the ends of the lines of blank verse, which of course mostly spoiled the sense. The priest, who had a long and important monologue, skipped it, which shortened our only performance by a good ten minutes. And, most frustratingly, I was playing Benedict (we had a shortage of males of the appropriate age), and my Beatrice was a calm, mild-tempered girl who simply could not snap back the repartee as it should be done. So, that last summer, I decided on Merchant of Venice as 1) not as boring as a historical play 2) not too tragic, because my actors refused to die or cry and 3) not as burlesque and innuendo-filled as the comedies. A spot of anti-Semitism I figured could be dealt with by giving both the actors and the audience a thorough lecture on symbolism in literature, and also how Shylock in the play only acts out what the Jews have always done, rejected free grace offered in the new covenant. (The fact that most of my audience were dispensationalist slightly hampered this plan.) Also, I rewrote the play, leaving out half the characters, one or two subplots, and all the archaic language. Of necessity, this also meant losing the beautiful blank verse. But I figured it was worth it, to get sentences that my actors could read.
I’ll gloss over the part where I had to go through two or three actors who couldn’t stomach Shylock’s hateful lines, or the disgust the other characters have to show him, before I ended up taking it myself (I hadn’t wanted to give myself a starring role first off, after all). But the costumes were tremendous. They were made by the mother of two of our actors. She had four sons, and thus a pent-up longing to search through thrift stores for beautiful, rather than functional, clothes. She turned blankets and battered prom dresses into magnificent Elizabethan-ish costumes, and I contributed hats, made completely from my imagination. My sisters sewed sequins on the princes’ clothes, and gold ribbon on the judges’, and the helpful mothers persuaded the boys that just because this doublet last appeared as a nasty comforter did not mean it didn’t work just fine in its current incarnation. The play went rather well. The church we were using for a stage was half full, and I was the only one to forget any lines. At least, that was what I was told. If it happened, I was so wound up I didn’t even notice being prompted.
Returning to the present. We took the final test for family medicine today, and everyone else has next week off. For various reasons, I’ve arranged to start internal medicine next week, and have the week after off. If I can figure out the pre-posting function back here, some posts will show up anyhow that week. I’ve been given my assignment for the next month, back in the big downtown trauma hospital, with attendings who specialize in infectious diseases. I don’t know what kind of patients to expect. I’m going to have a pager again, and my mother is trying to curb my glee by reminding me how annoying it will be. I’m also informed that Tuesday night will be my first on call, and I don’t need my mother to tell me not to be excited about that, but I am. I’ll be exhausted, and have trouble staying awake to drive home, but – on call! This is, after all, what real doctors do, isn’t it?