It’s interesting to realize that when it comes to date of birth, one has no control at all. That being said, I spent the entirety of my childhood years dealing with having cherry trees and axes on my birthday cakes because I was born on George Washington’s birthday, a day we no longer celebrate since his and Lincoln’s birthday have been turned into one of those generic three-day weekend events created by Congress to give themselves a long weekend. But most people just have regular days that they celebrate their own special day on.
But just as I have a famous person to call my birthday-twin, so does my daughter. Yesterday, October 3, was her birthday. It just so happened that I discovered a special event to share with her to help celebrate her special day. The North Carolina Stage Company located here in Asheville, NC, presented a special performance of a play in the process of being created about a famous native of Asheville, the author Thomas Wolfe, who first became famous on the publication of his novel Look Homeward Angel. And, ironically, it was being presented on the 117th anniversary of Wolfe’s birth, October 3, therefore making him my daughter’s birthday-twin.
The original boarding house from Look Homeward Angel, now a state historic site here in Asheville.
This play-in-work was co-written by a local guy from my own community whom I went to elementary and high school with. Back in the day, after I got my first guitar, he even showed me a few tricks to get me started in my wannabe rock-&-roll career, which didn’t get very far, unfortunately. Ironically, though, after graduation from high school, I hadn’t seen him at all, until last night at the play.
Last night’s presentation was actually just a reading of the play. All the characters were sitting on the stage with stands in front of them having placards with the name of their character on it. Thing is, all these characters were real people, members of the Wolfe family and other individuals that had interactions with Thomas Wolfe during his tumultuous life. I can’t help but say that I was mesmerized by the presentation, especially since I had just read O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life, the unabridged version of Look Homeward Angel. O Lost was the original title Wolfe had given it and when published, 66,000 words were edited by Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins, omitted for reasons of propriety and publishing economics. But having read the original thoughts of Wolfe gave even more effect to seeing the future play.
The opening lines of Look Homeward Angel have always haunted me, and I’ve always felt they were the best beginning of any book ever: “…a stone, a leaf; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces…O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.” The perfect beginning to put your mind in the proper frame to appreciate the rest of the novel.
I send my thanks to my high school acquaintance for his wonderful work and I can hardly wait to see the play when it’s finally presented. And a final Happy Birthday greeting to my daughter. Aren’t we so lucky to have such famous birthday twins?