The Performer

Your Life in Six Words
December 11, 2016
My Latest Work in Progress
December 19, 2016


My parents are organizing their house. All eight of their children are out of the house and they are finally tackling the accumulated possessions of almost four decades of marriage. My father hasn’t yet retired as a puppeteer, but he’s slowly easing into the process, giving some of his older puppets to his grandchildren. I find that particularly poignant. Puppets are inextricably tied with my childhood. I did some housecleaning of my own and found the beginning of an essay I’d penned years ago.

My father came once a year to my school to perform a puppet show. The day before the show, I proudly informed my best friend that I didn’t need to pay the required two dollars because it was my father doing the show. That was as good as announcing it to the whole class, because although I was shy, my best friend could not keep quiet about anything. So everyone knew that it was my dad. I sat at the edge of my seat along with the rest of my classmates. The stage darkened and Dad came out front wearing a long white beard over his own thick black beard. A flowing caftan covered his slender build and he walked stooped over, large calloused hands gripping a knobbed wooden walking stick.

“Which way to the Kotel, which way to the Kotel, ” he asked in the quavering voice of an elderly man. Different characters appeared on the colorful stage; a young man, a crotchety old woman, a pompous king, each with their unique voice and personality. The entranced audience almost thought the puppets had a life of their own. The voice changed seamlessly from pompous ringing tones, to the sweet tremor of a child, to the husky voice of a young man, to the thin crackling voice of an old woman. But I recognized my father’s voice in them all…

What physical object evokes emotions from the past for you?

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