The Tradescantia Pallida


Why was Shirlee-bunny on stage shaking a tambourine and singing, "You are some kind of wonderful?"
I think it was all those years of screaming into her broom handle that propelled her to this particular moment of glory.
That as well as the cool shirt she was wearing that she found for only four bucks.
And the fact that the lead singer of Grand Funk, I mean, Riled Up, motioned for her to join them.
Some days are just like that.
Wisconsin winters can be long if you let them.
Let me tell you a little story about last year's first spring day for us girlfriends.
I call it, The Wandering Jew.

My sweet Sven refers to it as, The Tradescantia Pallida.
He majored in landscape architecture.
The story takes place sometime in April.
After eating a hearty lunch at an outside café in our neighboring city of Madison, we hoofed it to a cultural event in a park.
There were different types of ethnic music playing under several tents.
Booths were set up with merchandise for sale such as clothes, crafts, and jewelry.
There were food carts.
And there was beer.
It was a perfect little world on a perfect little Saturday.
From the park we stumbled upon a new business.
It was a distillery.
"Let's go in there," we said.
Inside, sitting around a massive barrel table, we sampled a few samples of some real expensive shit that we were supposed to sip.
And then back out into the sunshine we all fell into line with our jackets tied around our waists.
It is very liberating for Wisconsinites the first time we get to parade around the outdoors without our coats.
A feeling of freedom.
Of power.
Like a rush of cocaine.
Before it ruins marriages, and everybody has to quit or die.
We were feeling the power.
Claudette had the sidewalk.
"I think I am going to enter my plant in the fair this year," she says.
This was an interesting comment, as I had never seen her anywhere at the fair other than the beer tent, except for those years our children's artwork was all hanging in the pavilion and we parents walked through it with them, praying that they would spot their masterpieces sooner than later, so that we could take them home and hang them on our refrigerators.
And then there was that one summer when somehow, we all ended up inside a booth selling hamburgers and hotdogs.
I think it might have been for the snowmobile club.
As we walked along two by two, Claudette continued. "I don't know what the plant is called. But it is huge and the leaves are green and purple."
"A wandering Jew?"
"No, I don't think so," she says.
"Does it look like this?" Jasmine hollers back to us from up in the front of the line.
She was pointing at something on the ground.
We all gathered round.
"What is that?"
There laying on the narrow and crooked pavement in the warmest part of the day, was a wandering Jew.
"Yes!" Claudette says. "That's it."
"Well, that is a wandering Jew," we told her.
"Oh," she says.
You never know what you will run into in this neighborhood.
Just a few feet earlier we had hopped over a pair of men's underwear, a mini pad and a syringe.
My sister Louisa picked up the forlorn looking weed.
"What are you doing out here little guy?" she says.
We all narrowed our eyes and looked suspiciously up and down the rows of apartments lining the street.
"Who could have done such a thing?" we thought.
We ordered a glass of water at our next stop and stuck him in it.
Now, the reason Claudette had even been talking about entering a plant in the fair was because our very own Shirlee-Bunny is a bit of a fair celebrity.
Never at twenty-three could I have foreseen that in four short decades my new friends would be competing with the 4-H Club.
They were not the Aunt Bee type.
I was invited to go out of town with them for a weekend bowling tournament.
"But I'm not on your team," I'd said.
"That's okay," they'd answered. "We don't bowl."
"What?" I remember saying.
Been friends ever since.
Standing there on the sidewalk that afternoon last April, I remembered how it had begun.
It was Shirlee-Bunny who had said, "My fresh cut flower arrangement took the blue-ribbon last year."
And then Claudette, not wanting to be outdone decided she must enter her what'cha-ma-call-it.
And then right there on the sidewalk there was a sign.
From somewhere beyond.
Another dimension.
We all knew at that moment as we stared at that what'cha-ma-call-it, laying there on that sidewalk, on that afternoon, that the universe was much larger than we were.
We took the green and purple foliage to our room at The Hotel Ruby Marie, and he spent the night in a plastic cup of water on top of a mantel, underneath a freakish looking woman in a garish picture frame.
The following morning, he was the center piece on our table of eggs, crab cakes and hash browns at the Come Back In.
He rode shot gun on my lap as we hydroplaned our way to the cottage through the pouring rain, in order to sit inside and shiver while we looked out at the dark gray waves and remnants of ice, to dream of our future.
The summer.
And then my sister took the wandering Jew to his new home.
Where he has lived happily ever since, in a pot of soil in her spare bedroom.
This last Sunday the temperature climbed to forty-nine degrees.
The sun was shining brightly.
And, well, The Frog Pond, in Morrisonville, had a band playing from one until four.
Our favorite part of the day.
After breakfast and before supper.
We left our coats behind in Mac's car.
"Thanks," we said to Giselle's husband.
"I'll call you later," she told him.
There are a few things in life you cannot beat.
Hanging out with your girlfriends on a sunny February afternoon when the temperature is soaring is one of them.
I mean.
I am not religious.
But times like these make me think that perhaps I am.
It was, "Some kind of wonderful."
Shirlee-Bunny is now touring the US.
Be sure to watch for ticket sales in your area.
All international shows have been canceled until further notice.


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