Tragedy Plus Time: When Bad Things Happen to Funny People
by Kate Tellers
And we’re back. When I was a child, the return to life after the holiday break would bring a chorus of the same question over and over in the school hallways:
What did YOU get for Christmas?
Classmate 1: My Little Pony and a Pogo Ball!
Classmate 2: A Cabbage Patch Kid and a Pound Puppy!
Classmate 3: NINTENDO!
Me: An abacus!
In spite of (or perhaps because of) this, in my adult life I am the self-proclaimed Best Giver of Gifts of All Time. Earning this title was has not been easy, and sometimes there are setbacks.
The Incident with the Earrings: Claire’s Birthday Present
365 days in advance.
I am high on the victory of the vintage-beaded-clutch-from-the-back-of-a-thrift-store-in-Cleveland gift of 2008. I resolve to top my cousin’s birthday gift in the coming year. Claire hates her birthday, and not without reason. The days on and surrounding her day have included lock-outs, break-ups, grand theft and death– sometimes in the same calendar year. The fact that I could dangle something sparkly in front of her and briefly distract her from her annual disasters has lit a fire beneath me.
364 days in advance.
The obsessing begins. I re-read our email threads and walk through her apartment in my mind. I replay the holidays we’ve spent together since we were born. No, she did not want to play with my abacus either. Damn.
301 days in advance.
Inspiration has struck! I have found my salvation in nameplate jewelry. Or something. Metal. With a name. Hers! Maybe her initials? Regardless I know in my heart this is right.
300-50 days in advance.
The months are peppered with internet searches and visits to jewelry stores of marginal repute on the LES. Nothing is right, it’s either too bling or not enough. Flimsy or too luxe. Or behind bullet-proof glass.
49 days in advance.
Inspiration strikes again. I will have something handmade. I will hire the friend I sang Les Miz duets with in junior high who has moved to LA to work with metal. I will have my aunt mail a cancelled check with Claire’s signature and mimic that for the design. It will yield earrings, with Claire’s initials “cmf” in her own hand. And she will love them.
48 days in advance.
Fantine/California Gurl emails and says she cannot fill this order for two months. It’s fine, eye on the prize.
On the day.
No present, no disaster, no homo.
45 days after the day.
I give Claire her gift in a courtyard lined with lights. She cries. They are perfect “cmf” in perfect script. My crown remains intact.
52 days after the day.
I notice Claire is not wearing the earrings. She tells me she cannot. In a high level meeting at work she was reprimanded for wearing earrings that said “c**t.”
Kate Tellers is a writer/performer/director/producer currently at work on the cabaret “I Sing Dead People,” “Disco Balls” (director) and on-going projects with The Moth.
Follow Kate on twitter @katadudle