My 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth recently finished the East coast leg of her college theater program auditions — and had just one day at home (and school) before traveling to auditions in Western states.
Before heading off to school between trips, she presented me with gifts she’d chosen at the NBC store. Lizabeth is a third generation Arizonan whose grandmother once worked for NBC in NYC.
They’re humble gifts in terms of monetary value, which is a good thing for parents soon to have three children in college — but they’re rich in meaning.
The first is a magnet with the beaming Gilda Radner in all her SNL “Roseanne Rosannadanna” glory. Perhaps now Lizabeth understands all my references to the character during my many “big hair” days.
The second is a black coffee cup — an homage to a love affair ended too suddenly with wordsmith and advocate for the everyman Keith Olbermann. It’s a “Countdown” cup with quips like “Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?”
Interesting timing considering that I shot off an e-mail just the other night to the broadcaster whose show fills the once upon a time “Countdown” hour. He’d apologized for offending folks with a piece on “sports socialism” — which I consider a commentary of true genius.
I ponder the fate of Valley arts in education every time I drive by a huge sports field full of bright lights long after players have gone home for the day. Would that our schools had performing arts centers even half that glorious.
But my letter to MSNBC suggested that another apology might be in order — from broadcaster Ed Schultz, who stigmatizes people with mental illness during every single episode with a segment called “Psycho Talk.”
That’s no “first,” of course, since it happens countless times a day over the airwaves and in everyday conversations. So let me return to another “first” I was recently delighted to find.
My mother-in-law deserves the credit for this one — a little book from the editors of New York magazine, titled “My First New York” which she first found at the local “Anthropologie” store. (Who knew grandmothers shopped such hip locales?)
Its preface notes that “the book started out as a magazine feature that, like the city it celebrated, soon grew a bit crowded for its size.”
A bit like that first outing with Lizabeth to see a Broadway show touring at ASU Gammage in Tempe — which has snowballed into her full-blown love affair with acting and musical theater (and all things NYC).
“My First New York” shares the early NYC encounters of dozens of folks now famous — including artists, filmmakers, actors, musicians, comedians, writers, choreographers and more.
Think Paul Taylor, Tommy Tune, Liza Minelli, Tom Wolfe, Judy Collins, Chuck Close, Ira Glass, Audra Mcdonald and Michael Lucas (best that the kids not know about this last one).
We got another first this same week — of the medical variety. I remarked while chatting with a source for a print piece recently that my kids have seen docs in nearly every medical specialty except oncology. But that’s no longer the case.
In lighter moments, I can snag a glimpse at the Roseanne Rosannadanna phrase that now graces my refrigerator door: “It just goes to show you, it’s always something.”
But as anyone whose children have faced serious illness can tell you, cancer is no laughing matter. It brings too many “firsts” families wish they never had to face.
As I ponder the many firsts that have recently come our way — from the delightful to the dreadful — I’m hoping with all my heart that you’re treasuring every tender first for your own growing family.
First smiles. First steps. First words.
First fingerpainting. First day of school.
First dance class. First music recital. First theater outing.
These are the firsts that give us courage to face the future.
Note: Gilda Radner lost her life to ovarian cancer, but her journey has inspired countless others — including “Gilda’s Club.” Click here to learn about the “Noogieland” program for children living with cancer. Click here for information on the 20th anniversary release of Radner’s memoir titled “It’s Always Something.”
Coming up: Building bridges