Fame and Fortune
In the 1940’s, my mother was a beautiful young woman, my father a handsome young man. He was a talented writer, she an aspiring actress, but they were stuck in Oklahoma, where nothing fabulous was likely to happen to them. So they gathered their artistic friends and hit the road, arriving in Chicago unmarried but ready to pursue their dreams of fame and fortune. They embraced the bohemian life, establishing a group house, pooling their resources and making friends with Communists. My father became a writer on CBS Radio’s Gary Moore Show, and my mother became a model at Neiman Marcus, the next best thing to being an actress. They were on their way.
But WW II came along, and they decided to tie the knot in a dignified civil ceremony before my father was drafted. They had a war baby, and then a few more children, as my father developed an interest in foreign affairs and eventually joined the State Department, happy that his Communist dalliance was not discovered. Although my mother had to fight the urge to walk out the door, abandon her children and go to New York to become an actress, she stayed put and did her duty as many women did in the 50’s and 60’s. She took joy in community theater, entertaining on a grand scale, and a late-life career as a bookseller. Long before my father died, a disillusioned alcoholic with his first book still unfinished, she accepted the conditions of her life and appreciated the pleasure her children had given her. But something still nagged at her, a sense that her life was incomplete, that something remained unfinished. Until the day she died, she continued to look over the horizon, make plans, seek recognition and reward, hoping for glory through achievement.
My siblings and I, all clever and creative, were raised to be famous artists. My oldest sister would be a writer, my oldest brother a musician, my younger brother and I visual artists. It seemed proper to aspire to such goals, and we firmly believed that we would achieve them.
Decades hence, we are still clever and creative. We have had adventures, joined the counter-culture or traveled the world. Some of us had children and some pursued careers, carefully chosen or accidental. We all read and think and have opinions, and each one is still an artist in his or her own way. But none are famous. Although observers might call us successful, happy, at least interesting, perhaps we all wonder from time to time if we failed.
Each of our children is creative and clever; many dream of fame. They pursue dance, drama, visual or culinary arts, and the vast world of digital design and construction. Some work in the entertainment industry. They are young and their dreams are vast.
Maybe the third time will be the charm. Better yet, perhaps this generation will come to understand that living a decent life constitutes good fortune, even if the glow of fame does not illuminate those essentially ordinary days.