Cindy-Lou Who?

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, December 23, 2012

Michelle Curry Wright: Are you kidding, I’m thrilled you called me! But, I mean, wow. Cindy Lou Who.  Just. So. Surprised.

Cindy Lou Who: I’ve never given an interview — not in years and years; and back then it was, you know, the local Whoville press wondering how I liked being a star. Fifty five years later, I’m done. Done with being two.  You’re in your fifties — I figured you might understand.

MCW: Yes. Yes, of course.

CLW: And also – with the house burning down to the ground and all… [sighs]  I thought, why not just come clean and start fresh.

MCW: The house that was–

CLW: Yes, the house in the book. Our house. The first one the Grinch visits.  On page 49 of the Whoville Historic Registry.

MCW: You lived there all these years?

CLW: Yes. But it’s not uncommon for entire Who families simply to add on to their parents and grandparents homes. I never did marry, though.  And with mom and dad both gone and now the fire… well, everything is crazy again. [pauses] Only this time I’m not drinking.

MCW:  Whos drink?

CLW: Um, yeah? You thought we didn’t have bad habits? Dr. Seuss created our Who-topia, but he didn’t deny us free will.  No good writer does that. I’ve been sober eleven years two months and three days.  Very proud of that. And grateful to my sponsor.

MCW: I feel like I should just let you talk instead of interviewing. What do I know, anyway?

CLW: [pauses] I like the questions, actually, and hearing your voice.  I do want people to consider how much their collective belief over the years has affected me, though, and you probably weren’t about to ask that question. I mean yes, I am two in the book and in the TV show, and two every time it’s read or watched. But things unfold. Lives happen. We don’t hold hands and sing in a big circle anymore, for instance.

MCW: [stupefied by this] You mean, no “Fah who foraze, Dah who dor-“

CLW: [plugs her ears] Stop it! We haven’t done that since Grinch died.

MCW: The Grinch… died?

CLW: In ‘97. Got an official Whoville burial on account of his being mayor for three terms, then running the Pudding Kitchen as if he were on a mission from god.

MCW: The Pudding Kitchen?

CLW: The Who-Pudding Kitchen for the Poor, Tired and Huddled.  Who pudding seems to bring everyone back to their senses —  at least temporarily. Rich, [reminiscing], comforting, nutritious. Buttery vanilla, but not too sweet.

MCW:  Mmmm.

CLW: We’ve even learned to make it with coconut milk now.

MCW: But. I mean, Whos still do the whole Christmas thing, right? Nobody can stop it from coming, like it says in the book.

CLW: Oh it comes, the little ones make sure of that. Grinch would always see to it the Whoville lights were better than the year before. [pauses to reflect] You know, the color completely drained from him when he passed. His fur turned pure white all at once. Like Christmas snow. [sharply taking a breath in]

MCW: You were close, obviously.

CLW: Uh, more than close. Another part of the story no one out there knows. Even here, it was like, “How can you love a Grinch?” and “He’s not one of us, Cin.” But he was more one of us than we were. [openly crying] You know? I mean I’m sure for him I represented his heart opening and all the goodness he made himself available to receive after our seminal first meeting. For me, he was just… all the sweeter for having been gruff. Plus he actually wooed me.  Or Whoed me, as we say here.

MCW:  [swallows, says sadly] Wow. I mean, who knew?

CLW: This Who knew. [giggles once] Anywho, I feel lighter. Thank you.

MCW: I didn’t do much except listen.

CLW: Which I needed … You know in Whoville in the spring, the electric blue and yellow flowers we call Turleegluts bloom all at once and last a single day. We celebrate new life and practice gratitude for all the things we have. I don’t know why this comes to mind now. But it’s as if they all wake up together, and then decide that one perfect moment is worth a lifetime. It’s a beautiful thing. A beautiful thing. [laughs like pealing bells, then sighs] Anyway. Merry Christmas to you. Thanks for picking up the phone – from a blocked number.

MCW: Merry Christmas to you, Cindy Lou Who. One never knows who might be calling.

CLW: Nope. One never does.

Christmas tattoo

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dear Santa,

It’s three in the morning, if that tells you anything.

I’ve tried every one of my sleep remedies except the self-hypnosis CD, which… well, too bad you can’t just slap it in and let someone lull you down, but you have to learn the routine and I haven’t gotten there yet. Generally, I start with a passionflower tincture. Then if that doesn’t work, a valerian cap.  Then Calms-Forte. Then I go into deep breathing and shoulder dropping and relaxing my eyeballs out of that text-reading position and into the far-horizon one, as if staring out over snow or sand or spume just as far as closed eyes can see.

My last resort is always the same: I tell myself that sleep doesn’t matter that much, so it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get enough of it some nights. Eventually, though, human beings do need rest and rapid eye movements; so, then, I think briefly about tossing back half a Valium with a squirt of St. John’s wort… but generally don’t. Tonight, as the stars throb and gleam in their deep vacuum of space, I’m writing you instead.

You’d think I was asking for sleep for Christmas or something, after all that! Seems a bit rude to me — like asking for a blindfold during the Nutcracker of life. But, yes, on a side note, if you can slip me some fairy dust every once in a while to knock me out, I’d be grateful. Oh, and more dreams like that recent one where Richard Gere has a note delivered to me (with a key in a Ziploc) about meeting him at Hotel Valencia for the one night he’ll be there. Gosh, that might be all I ever need, really.  Next time, I’d like not to wake up in the middle of furiously texting him back from the Thunderdome. As a matter of face, let’s eliminate the Thunderdome completely, however much I like the idea of Richard Gere in my post-apocalyptic world.

Anyway, you know this, of course, about my childhood: three in the morning is about the time, on Christmas eve, that I would pop awake for a brief spell and pad down to see if the cookies and milk I’d set out for you were gone. At the same time, it was as if my whole head was sprouting ears – instant chia seed antennae — for hearing even the faintest, most distant and mellifluous sound of your sleigh bells. Ching, ching, ching.

All those years dreaming of a cheerful ribbon of northern lights, reindeer air-galloping, pulling your mysterious Swedish-fish-and-loaves, ever replenishing version of a sled, loaded down with every conceivable elf-made toy, from Twister to Creepy Crawlers and Picadoo, two coveted items you would have had to have been around in the 60s to appreciate. Consisting of little aluminum molds out of which were made spiders and quilt-like squares with something called Plastigoop. From Mattel. We cooked plastic in aluminum squares, without ventilation, for fun. And you let us!

In those years of waking up to a black sky and imagining a rainbow of sparkle hoof prints and sleigh contrails so vividly, it was like a permanent swipe had been tattooed across my heart. A banner reading, “Believe or die.”

Naturally, it was the anticipation of Christmas I internalized – sealed with carols, and cookies, and crafts, and the smell of pine — this idea that normal life had been suspended and compressed into a five-sense present moment. In the waiting-hoping place, everything was, on a quantum level, different in my brain and heart. Like glass, it was neither liquid nor solid but some soft, sweet, stretchy, magnanimous in-between state. One of possibility.

What is this place, where anticipation has not yet allowed expectation to turn it from sweet cream to sour milk?  Where hope floats instead of blindly groping for the life ring? Where the plasticity of our faculties and talents — and of life itself — become self-evident, like Silly Putty in our hands?

Whatever it is, can you pipe in a little from my childhood this Christmas?  Just get me started. Let me jump on the trampoline of make-believe and bounce until I’m high enough to feel that moment of suspension, that sustained moment where everything – absolutely everything — of great importance happens.