Matthew Craig Burke 1 p.m., April 30
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An introduction to the PRINCESS GEEK
With the release of my new book, PRINCESS GEEK, a month away I wanted to give you a glimpse into its pages. Without additional fuss and muss, here is the Introduction and a peek at the front and back cover (Copyright 2013 by Lance Arthur Smith. All rights reserved.)
Introduction: The Princess Geek
Bedtime for our three-year-old daughter Scottie (her full name is Carmen Scotland Smith) lays roughly between 8 and 9. Earlier this week, Colleen and I relieved our stalwart babysitter around 11 PM, having both put in a long workday. We're married actors, and are fortunate enough to be not only in the same Coronado, CA based company (Lamb's Players Theatre or LPT, for those into the soul of wit), but also in the same production this season. Unfortunately our performances force us to return home well after everyone in the neighborhood has brought in their garbage bins. We like to decompress nightly by watching Modern Family or the latest serialized action/drama/high-concept television show. Twenty-two minutes, then off to sleep.
This particular night, as we ambled into bed we heard a tentative little cough, the creaks of failed attempts at opening a door, the titter-tatter of feet across our hardwood floor, another series of attempts to open our door, and finally our daughter's firm request: "we watch Back to da Future?" She does this at least one or two times a week, one of the by-products of moving her out of her crib and into a big-girl (toddler) bed. We acquiesced, and despite it being an ungodly hour for my little weewok to be awake, we relished it. She hoisted her little body, along with her mass of blankets, up into our all-too-tiny queen bed. Smack dab in-between us, she pointed to the screen, asked for Back to the Future Part III ("da one with cowboy Marty"), and tucked in for the long haul. 11 o'clock at night. And we let her get away with it. For twenty minutes. That's when we tried to get her back to her bed, and it's also when the walls shook and the heavens raged in our house.
Other evenings she's asked for Big Trouble in Little China, Spider-Man 1 and 2 (I'm reluctant to introduce her to the mess of the third film), The Twilight Zone, and Elmo's Potty Time, among many others. This assortment of viewing options is not exclusive to bedtime; on the contrary, you never know if she'll choose something "geeky" or "norm". I'll get to those terms in the first chapter. In the meantime, allow me to fill in the rest of the panel (comic book reference).
Colleen and I found out we were pregnant during rehearsals of the musical Hello Dolly! The stereotypical exclamation point at the end of the title is indeed courtesy of the musical's authors, and is not my embellishment (I love this show, by the way. And parentheses, as you'll discover the deeper you plunge into this tome). Colleen challenged herself as the choreographer, and it was yet another show where we were cast as romantic leads. At the time, Scottie was not Scottie. She was Botard.
At the end of Dolly, a repairman appears to fix the proprietor's roof or something. Our costume designer is incredible- she had also picked coveralls for the actor that sported a nametag: BOTARD. Colleen and I borrowed the moniker to refer to our tiny fetus- this gave it a tangibility. Though we had yet to discover its sex, it now had a name.
In the months that followed, and despite the whirlwind of activities and planning, we found time to imagine what this little person would be like. While finding the baby's heartbeat at office visits (with some assistance from the Doc) and likening the infernal device to a tricorder from Star Trek, I pondered how much I'd let pop culture and media seep into our weewok's life. My buddy's son coined "Weewok" when he was around three or four. That illustrates my past and ongoing conundrum perfectly- of course I'd let her (we couldn't wait till birth to discover 'it' was a 'she') watch, read, and listen to certain things, but what would those things be? I had a lot of concrete opinions about the issue, and so did my wife. But the concrete opinions mutated into malleable, silly-putty thoughts on a daily, or even hourly, basis.
My daughter's taking her nap right now, which happens to be one of my two optimal times to write (the other is Monday night after 8:30 or so- it's our one day off, Scottie's in bed, and Colleen is at school learning to be a Master of Nonprofit Management). I survey the evidence of today's grandiose adventures: papers strewn about, toys everywhere, crumbs of chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwich on the piano, and trampled crayons. I clean up before my writing session- there's Thor's hammer. She wanted me to fly her around while she summoned the winds to carry her through the clouds. Strapped to her left arm was Captain America's shield, and her uniform of choice- a Tinkerbell outfit, complete with fairy wings. "I go to da fairy meeting, Dada." "Of course," I replied. Why wouldn't you want the added security of the God of Thunder and the Star-Spangled Avenger when traveling to the sketchy dens of Pixie Hollow?
Ah! Here's my Collected Works of Shakespeare. It's a heavy, hernia-inducing book with Scottie's favorite Shakespearean character: Bottom, from A Midsummer Night's Dream. I find it underneath the Cincinnati Bengals banner hanging in our living room. Scottie watches football with me, but her favorite sports appear to be baseball, fencing, and dancing (dancing is a sport).
It's not all cheery, as you most certainly know firsthand. She bypassed the terrible twos and proceeded to the Tharkian threes (Tharks being the war-mongering race of Martians from Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter series). Timeouts are especially tricky because Scottie might decide to turn the timeout corner into her "dragon castle", where a doorknob becomes a parapet and the wall her Spider-Man scaling slope. Enforcing the rules is constantly an exercise in creativity.
I aim to raise a well-rounded young woman. That's where I'm writing from for the duration of our time together. Yes, there is a great glob of geek in her, but also a healthy helping of everything else a little person needs to become… a big person.
So if you're a single mom with a little boy, will this book be of any use to you? I emphatically reply, "Yes. I hope." Keep in mind that most men are still little boys deep down. Myself included. Boys and girls are becoming increasingly aware of each other's toys and interests (more on that later). If you have no kids, why read? Perhaps my daughter's exploits will resonate with something in your own geeky past. It's cool. If you're not into comic books or movies, or sports, will you understand? Perfectly well, I believe. You're geeky about something, I guarantee.
Thanks for picking up this book. Good luck to both of us. Especially if your daughter is anything like mine, and you are anything like me. You know- geeky.