It’s Exactly Like That ( A Geeklet Story )

Today I got a text from my daughter that said simply, “Sonnet 18.”

Guess they’re learning that one in class now (along with Hamlet and East of Eden, apparently. A real mixed bag!) “Easy peasy,” I texted back. “You’ve been able to sing that since you were three.”

“I what?” she responded.

Did she not remember? Oh, it is one of my most primal memories. I went on a quest.

For context let’s start here. A long, long time ago, before we had anything like iPhones and the idea of a “custom ringtone” was something that the height of personalizing your phone, mine was, of course, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour singing Sonnet 18. I mean, I know, right? How do you know that exists and not make it your ringtone? I love Shakespeare, I love Pink Floyd. It’s like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups of music.

Then one day I caught my children singing it. How do you capture that moment? They called it “the song Daddy’s phone sings.” You can’t explain to your kids, not at that age, that they just elevated their Daddy’s universal joy. Sure I’d spent the first years of their lives talking about Shakespeare and “decorating their lives” with Shakespeare, but here was the first moment when I heard it come back to me, and I knew I was changing their lives as much as they’d just changed mine. Music to my ears, in infinitely more ways than one.

Even better, I managed to record it.

I sent that off to my daughter to show her friends at school, along with some pictures of what she looked like when she was 3, because that’s how old she is in that clip.

When she came home from school today and we were talking about it, she said, “Does that make you sad?”

I looked at her funny. “It’s literally been my purpose in life, I’ve literally spent eighteen years shaping your brain the way I think is best for you to go out into the universe.”

“YA THINK?” she said.

“Moments like this, when I know the plan worked, you think that makes me sad?”

“No,” she said, “not sad like that. Sad like, looking back at those memories, that were so long ago.”

I knew what she was saying. That thing we sometimes call “happysad.” She was right, of course. But I can get happysad about a lot of things. I needed a different answer.

“You know,” I told her, wondering if my voice would break, “I honestly don’t remember much about teaching you guys to ride a bike. But you know that scene in all the tv shows and movies, right? Where the parent is running behind with a hand on the seat, and the kid doesn’t have the training wheels anymore, and then suddenly the parent lets go and they’re doing it by themselves? That pride, that exhilaration?

That is exactly what it feels like. Every. Single. Time.”

That Is The Question ( A Geeklet Story )

My daughter is heading off to college next year but I don’t care, they’ll all be geeklets to the day I die.

Today I’m at work (from home) when I get a text:

“Do you have Hamlet?”

It’s a new semester and she’d mentioned they’re doing Hamlet, so that was not an unexpected question. I love when the kids need to draw on my Shakespeare library, it’s why I’ve been building it over the years. Just the other day I found a Taming of the Shrew in my mailbox – my oldest had let one of her friends borrow it last semester, and she was returning it.

“Which version?” I ask, because you don’t get full dad points if you don’t drag stuff like this out unnecessarily. I honestly don’t know how many Hamlets I have. I don’t typically collect individual editions, there are too many. I do have multiple “Complete Works”, though.

David Garrick doing his impression of my son when I suggest volunteering at school.

“Uhhh,” comes the reply. “Hamlet. High school. Just Hamlet.”

“Well there’s Arden, Riverside, Folger … ” I reply, then go looking to see what’s on my shelf. I find the Arden edition, which is a bit intimidating. I fear she’s looking for one of those glorified pocket editions that’s just the text with a few glossary words sprinkled down the edges. This is very much not that. Less than half of each page is actual play text, the rest is footnotes. Great for research, but probably overkill for this assignment.

Later that evening, at dinner, I find. out that she relayed this question to her teacher. “Did your dad tell you to ask that?” said the teacher. My reputation precedes me!

I can’t wait to see how it goes. I”m probably going into her class at some point, though to do what and speak on what, I’m not sure. I’m willing to pretty much go off the top of my head, as long as I can keep the kids’ attention. That was easier when they were in elementary school.

For comparison, my son did Julius Caesar last semester. I knew this was on the curriculum. And I heard about it in the context of, “Oh, yeah, we’re doing Julius Caesar in history class.” I said let me know if you need help. He said, “We finished it.” The closest I got to any actual content was when he mentioned “some guy talking at a funeral”. Sigh. I guess I teased him too often with “I’m coming in to your history class to talk about Shakespeare when you get to that topic.” Both girls got a kick out of that, and at one point had a school reputation as the Shakespeare experts. My son, on the other hand, will bend over backward to make sure his friends and classmates never see me 🙂

Wait You What? Why? [ A Geeklet Story ]

It feels weird still telling geeklet stories when one of the geeklets is in college, but traditions must be followed! It’s fascinating to look at how the conversations and stories have evolved over the years.

So my daughter’s off to college (second year, actually) and last night she got to hang out with the Shakespeare club. Naturally, I had to speak with her this morning and get the scoop.

“We actually didn’t talk much about Shakespeare,” she told me. “It was a lot more getting to know each other stuff. Oh, but I did learn, the production this year is Hamlet.”

I’m of two minds. “Really?” I start with, “Of all the plays? What are they going to say about Hamlet that hasn’t been said a million times already?” But, reconsidering, “If you want to get immersed in Shakespeare, Hamlet’s going to be one of the best choices. Sometimes they’ll go off and do a Comedy of Errors or a Two Gentlemen of Verona or something, but all you get out of those is the laughs. Something like a Hamlet is where you can really spend all the time getting into the details of how you’re going to tell it, and why.”

We talk briefly about “gender-bent” productions and the difference between “a woman playing Hamlet” and “playing Hamlet as a woman.”

“I’ll send you resources,” I continue. “Sarah Bernhardt famously played Hamlet back in the 1800s. There’s even video.”

The conversation continues, and then she drops a bomb on me. “Last night I was reading Taming of the Shrew, and that ending is just …”

“Hold on,” I say, “Pause. Back up. You were doing what?”

“Reading Taming of the Shrew?”

“Before or after you met with the Shakespeare club? Something came up in conversation?”

“No, before.”

“Why?”

“I wanted to refresh myself on the story.”

I’m momentarily speechless, a rare event in this Shakespeare-related universe. “You’re telling me that, of your own accord, you said hey I think I’ll catch up on my Shakespeare and decided to re-read Shrew?”

“Well, yeah. Not the whole thing, not in one night. Mostly the ending.”

We then talk so long about the ending of that one, the ending of Midsummer, the ending of Merchant, that I eventually have to go to a meeting and put a halt to the conversation.

I think it was probably fourteen years ago? That I was tucking in a cute little curly-headed five-year-old girl who needed a bedtime story and I thought, “What the heck, never too young to learn about Shakespeare.”

Look how far we’ve come. I can’t wait to see what comes next. But I tell you right now, documented for the record, that if any of my kids end up on a stage delivering lines, I’m not sure my heart will be able to take it.

Oh, That Question [ A Geeklet Story ]

School’s over now, so my kids are decompressing by starting to have friends over just to hang out, not to study. Today my daughter’s friend arrived and headed straight for me.

“I had to tell you,” she began excitedly, “For my Latin final, I wrote about the Shakespeare question. And my teacher said it was the best answer he’d ever seen!”

“Great!” I replied, thrown by the leap from Latin to Shakespeare. She’s also probably talking about an AP (Advanced Placement) course so I think that maybe this was one of those situations where they gave the kids multiple prompts and they had to pick one, and one was about Shakespeare. “Exactly which Shakespeare question are we talking about?” I finally asked.

“About authorship, how people think he didn’t write the plays.”

“Oh,” I said, rolling my eyes, “that question. I hope you are on the side of the man from Stratford?”

“Of course,” she replied, “I’m definitely a Stratfordian.”

“Good girl,” I told her. “I don’t think I would have let you into the house otherwise.”

Mutiny! A Geeklet Story

It’s been a while since I got to tell a geeklet story! My son kind of got ripped off for his last year of middle school, where they’d normally have done some Shakespeare in the second half of the year. The start of the pandemic basically threw everything into chaos and that never happened.

But here we are a year later and he let me know this week that they’re studying Shakespeare in his class. The teacher, who had his two older sisters before him, knows our family and already mentioned our special context :). I said, “You realize you’re going to be expected to knock it out of the park, right?” and he kind of sighed and said, “Yeah, I suppose.” He’s not one for showing off how smart he is. He did also say, “I know we’ve got those pictures of when we went to England and saw Shakespeare’s marriage bond, but I didn’t know if I’m allowed to show those.”

What the..? I told him, “Of course you can show those! If you remember, I actually told you guys that while we were taking the pictures, that any kid can come back from vacation with pictures of Aruba or Disney World, but you’re guaranteed to be the only kid coming back with pictures of Shakespeare’s marriage bond.” Of course, the moment has already passed now, they’re done with the “Shakespeare’s bio” stuff and he’ll never get the chance to share that picture, dang it. I would have killed to hear that he told the Anne Whateley story.

Cut to the next day when I ask him about school and he said they’re into reciting stuff out loud. I said, “Which one are you reciting?” and he told me, “Something about a mutiny.” That took me longer than I should admit. Mutiny? I went to ships immediately – Twelfth Night? Tempest? Hamlet? But I knew there was no mutiny in any of those. Then it hit me, duh, the obvious answer. “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. That’s the prologue to Romeo and Juliet.”

“I figured you’d know,” he said. “Anyway, we were all taking turns reciting, and we got to a section where the teacher said that nobody ever gets this part right on the first try. And it was that mutiny part. It was my turn, so I read it fine, first try, and then her head pops up because she was reading something at her desk and only half-listening to us, and she saw it was me and she said, ‘I should have known you’d get it on the first try.”

“What did you say to that?” I asked.

“I told her, ‘We read this stuff as bedtime stories when I was little.'” That’s my boy!

I look forward to a whole new set of geeklet stories coming soon!