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The Act You We've Known for All These Years

The Act You We've Known for All These Years

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Published by GoodMenProject
Stuart Horwitz's heartwarming story about busking with his daughter, Fifer. Be sure to DOWNLOAD the PDF so you can watch the short film at the end of the piece. Text and video from THE GOOD MEN PROJECT.
Stuart Horwitz's heartwarming story about busking with his daughter, Fifer. Be sure to DOWNLOAD the PDF so you can watch the short film at the end of the piece. Text and video from THE GOOD MEN PROJECT.

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Published by: GoodMenProject on Jan 31, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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 T H E A C T  Y O U ’ V E K N O W N  F O R A L L  T H E S E  Y EA R S
 b y  S tu a r t  H o r w i t z
e wake up day after day to the sound ofour daughter singing somewhere in the house.On different mornings, we take her singing tomean different things. We tease Fifer abouthow perfect everything is, and she’ll say, “Iadmit it. I love my life!” Underneath thisrepartee is a sadness that Bonnie and I try tokeep from becoming real jealousy. We envyher unconscious joy in living, the ability aten-year-old has to just brush off the hurtand wake up singing. Other days, her singingreminds us that she is a unique individual, aproduct of her parents, but with somethingelse mysterious thrown in.It used to drive me insane that my daughterdidn’t like to read. She could; she would.She just preferred to cut designer fashionsout of paper and adorn them with tiny beadsand messy glue. Me, my whole life is words.I coach writers, I teach writing, I write. Froman early age I saw myself as an incarnationof genius whose work would someday behoused between Hesse and Huxley on thelibrary bookshelf. When, in my adolescence,I confided my literary dreams to my dad, hedid his best to undermine them. “If you goto law school,” he said, “I’ll pay for it, but ifyou get a graduate degree in English, you’reon your own.”He knew what he knew; I know what I know;he was not particularly predetermined to sethis offspring free, and neither am I.Then something happened in my mid-thirties,when my daughter was six or seven: I stoppedreading. I brought crates of novels to a used-book store and traded them for a T-shirt. Istarted to look at the world more directly,without the filter of black lines across whitepages. I picked up the guitar. How sweet itwas to make music, to bang on strings andsing to myself—this simple lesson I learnedfrom my daughter on those mornings when Ihad ears to hear. No one was recording me;I wasn’t going to make a name for myself.Something even better was emerging: Iwas alive. 
One day, when Fifer was eight, we received anotice that our local community center washosting tryouts for The Wizard of Oz. For theauditions, kids had to sing a song withoutany accompaniment. My daughter learned“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with helpfrom her grandmother and Bonnie, and thenthey trundled off to the audition.“They wouldn’t even let me be a Munchkin,”Fifer said upon her return, with adisappointment that was not tinged withbitterness, if an adult can imagine such athing. And this is a kid with perfect pitch.I’m not bragging, because her talent doesn’tcome from me. We had started learningsome songs together, with me on the guitarand her on vocals; I would look over at thetuner, during an obscure part of the Beatles’“Within You Without You,” for instance, andshe would be right there on the B-flat. Iremember a friend of hers, a kid symbolicallynamed Dylan, once asking her, “Why are youalways singing?” Fifer replied, “Because it’smy destiny.”Besides being fated to become a vocalist, mydaughter loves money (she’s a Capricorn). Tosee this trait so apparent in a child’s eyes wasa little shocking, but it gave me an idea: Wewould step it up on the songs we had beenpracticing—which made me happy, fulfillingmy role as the father who was supposed tomake her stick with things—and then wewould play them on the streets for money.Busking is what it’s called; we learned thatterm together. “Some dads take their kidsfishing,” Bonnie said. We would performSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bandstraight through twice (with the exceptionof tracks two and four, which we never gotaround to learning). Though Fifer vowed meto secrecy—she wanted to keep her “normalgirl” status, playing softball (pretty well) andviola (no worse than anyone else in thirdgrade)—she looked forward to our “gigs” asmuch as I did.Her enthusiasm for performing didn’t surpriseme. One time when she was about three, weattended a crowded story time at the locallibrary. After the reader had stepped down,Fife crawled between all the sprawled-outkids and patient parents and got into the bigchair. Then she picked up a book. “Now it’smy turn,” she said. She couldn’t read yet, soshe sort of performed the book by looking atthe pictures. The reader, an older gentlemanwho was vaguely famous, came over andclapped me on the shoulder. “I’ve never seenthat before. Good luck, Jack.”Maybe it was genetic. In my early twenties,as a performance poet, I had stood in front ofthe American Express office in Prague afterdawn, declaiming Bob Dylan lyrics, with ahat placed on the sidewalk to collect tips.
They wouldn’t even let me be a Munchkin

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