New Canaan 53

CENTRALPARK WEST R ye W e s t o n UPPER EAST SIDE THE

TRiBeCa m a g a z i n e SOHO NYC

TRAIN OF THOUGHT

Sonny and Cher By Nancy Balbirer

ALP i NE W estchester

greenwich Westport NewCanaan hamptons Longisland Litchfieldcounty COUNTRY CAPITALIST

I spent an inordinate amount of time as a child lying in my canopy bed fantasiz- ing about Sonny and Cher being my parents. I’d imagine them wending their way down our long gravel driveway in the Con- necticut woods, to claim me in their VW bus, along with little Chastity, some stray dogs and cats, and a trunk, (emblazonedwithmy name), full of tie-dyed casual-wear, and miniature Bob Mackie gowns. I figured that while my parents would be a bit sad to lose me, they’d get over it; they had other kids and they’d conclude that I really was better suited to living with a pair of Hollywood Hippies. I had always been a bit “out there”; a sort of pint-sized rabble-rouser, marching to the beat of a different drum, and my parents had, without fail, wholeheartedly supported my myriad nutty endeavors. Once, in Kindergarten, we were asked to paint a life- sized self-portrait. Our teacher, Miss Cohen, had us all lie on individual rolled out white sheets so that she could trace our outlines; our task, then, was to simply paint in the specifics: hair; eyes; clothes, etc. Ostensibly, the point of this exercise was to notice, perhaps for the very first time, who we are, and how we are differ- ent. Even at the tender age of five, I thought the whole undertaking was a big yawn, so instead of filling in my outline with my ac- tual features (dark brown hair, green eyes, pale skin), I filled them in with the comedian Flip Wilson’s (kinky black hair; dark brown eyes; brown skin). Miss Cohen, being a literalist, was none too pleased by this abstraction; I was duly reprimanded for insubordination and ex- iled to “the corner” for the remainder of the afternoon. When my mother came to pick me up and was informed of my malfeasance, she asked to see the offending painting. “I don’t see what the problem is,” she said, perusing my handiwork. “Flip Wilson’s never looked better.” Later, at dinner, when my mother shared the story with my father, he took it as an opportunity to teach me the meaning of the word pedantic. And, that was that. But, as understanding and encouraging as my parents were of their child’s offbeat tem- perament, even they had their limitations. The

experience I could have as the tag-along daugh- ter of counter-culture Glamazons like Sonny and Cher would surely trump anything they could offer me in the pretty-but-staid woods of Connecticut. And so, with heads held high, they would agree to hand me off to the Bonos, whilst I kissed them good-bye tearfully, and promised to write postcards each week from the road. And then, Sonny and Cher would whisk me back to the VW and off we’d go on an endless, pleasure-seeking Summer of Love. When I was eight, and Sonny and Cher announced they were getting divorced, I was completely despondent; it clearly signi- fied The End Of Everything Good. I sort of never accepted it. Yeah, OK–they “split up”; Cher got with Gregg Allman; Sonny re-mar- ried and then re-married...blah, blah, blah… whatever. I just never was willing to believe that they stopped loving each other; that they were not soul-mates; that one day, in my (apparently romance-starved) imagination we’d, all of us, not be reunited as a “family.” I N MY EARLY TWENTIES , I PARTICIPATED IN A weekly poker game with Chastity Bono. One day, I shared with her my kooky early-child- hood dreams of her parents, and the very pro- found inferences I ascribed to the love that they had once shared. Basically, I told her the whole, ridiculous thing. She was standing in my tiny kitchen on Twelfth Street, making us all Sonny’s famous steak recipe for dinner, and as I recounted my tale, she chuckled, knowingly. “I felt that way about ‘Sonny and Cher’ too…” “You did??” “Sure,” she shrugged. “Of course.” Cutting into the meat to see that it was done to perfection, she added: “And, it’s good to have fantasies, Nance. But, you know what?” “What?” “It’s even better to have steak….” Nancy Balbirer’s first book, Take Your Shirt Off and Cry was published by Blooms- bury in 2009. She is currently at work on her second book, A Marriage in Dog Years. She lives in Manhattan with her daughter. *

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