I wake up in the morning to hear frogs, owls, and hippos singing outside. This is odd. I’m used to waking up and having three cats staring at me, and I’m wearing my sock monkey pajamas. However, I'm wearing a white nightgown, and oh yeah, my hair is long. It also has a nice light blue ribbon tied up in a neat bow. What the hell? Never in my life have I managed a neat bow around my hair. Plus where are all my books? Where’s my stereo? My laptop?
I wander around the house, putting on a bathrobe. This isn’t my coffee-stained bathrobe. This is a nice pink bathrobe! Must get dressed. Where are my jeans? Where’s my Charley and Humphrey T-shirt? My clothes are all neat in my closet, and color-coded to boot. I put on a purple sweater and white pants, hoping I don’t spill on the pants because the stain will never come out. I look for my tennis shoes, no luck. Where are my Birkenstocks? I find purple Mary Janes. Those are good enough. Plus I’m color-coordinated! This is all very strange.
I walk outside. Only this isn’t my outside. I’m walking out of a yellow house. In front of me is a tree house that’s also yellow, with a white elevator. Nearby is a pond. A pond! And there’s a green thing near the pond. The green thing is getting up! He’s running towards me! “Emmy Jo!” he yelled. “Emmy Jo!”
Dear Lord, it’s a frog! He gives me a hug. A frog is hugging me! “Do I know you?” I ask.
“It’s me! Freddie!”
I look at him. “Wait a minute… Freddie the Frog? From New Zoo Revue?”
“Yeah!” He started jumping up and down. “You slept really late, Emmy Jo! I’m going to tell! Charlie! Henrietta! Emmy Jo is awake!”
A hippo comes out, wearing a green dress and carrying a pink hankie. I debate telling her that the colors didn’t match, but before I can, she says: “My stars and gardens Emmy Jo! You woke up!”
“Yeah, I guess I did. Where’s Charlie the Owl!”
“Here I am!” Charlie comes out, feathers flying everywhere. “Well well well, Emmy Jo! You finally decided to get up, didn’t you?”
“Look,” I say, nearing the end of my patience, “I’m not Emmy Jo. I’m Jennifer Kathleen Elizabeth Gibbons. I live in Lafayette California…”
“No you don’t!” Freddie yell, “you live in the New Zoo Revue!”
“Hell no I don’t!”
They all gasp. “You swore!” Charlie shrieks.
“I don’t like swearing!” Henrietta exclaims.
“Emmy Jo, what’s going on?” Freddie asks.
“When did I become Emmy Jo?” I snap. “When? Okay, when I was a kid I always wanted to be in TV, because on TV everything seemed so perfect. I grew up though!”
“Don’t you want to be with us?” Charlie says.
I look at them, at the yellow house. Oh, it was comforting to be there. To sit in my living room or my grandmother’s living room on Jones Road and watch how they all sang and danced around the square. There was no death, no bad days at school, no unemployment, no Sept.11th, no Hurricane Katrina. There was singing and dancing, and Emmy Jo always looked good in her clothes by Miss Pat. I could stay. I didn’t have to worry about bills, my cat Felix’s possible epilepsy, the fact that Karl Rove will be published before me. It would be a good life, dancing with the animals, teaching them a Very Special Lesson everyday.
However, I know it isn’t my life. My life is messy and complicated, but it's mine. Although I wish I could keep Emmy Jo’s clothes, I have to go back.
I look at the animals. “Look, this isn’t for me.”
“Emmy Jo, what’s the matter with you?” Charlie says, stomping his foot. “You’re supposed to be helping us learning things…”
“Oh shove it owl. Look, I’m not Emmy Jo. It’s not the '70s anymore. It’s 2010, a African American is president, and okay, I'm mad at him for cutting money for school libraries, but I'm still hopeful! A woman is the Speaker of the House…”
“A woman is Speaker of the House?” Henrietta says. “My goodness!”
“It’s not perfect, but it’s my world. I have nieces and nephews to help raise and books to write. I want to help other people with their writing. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I have to keep putting one foot in front of another, don’t I?”
The three of them stand there for a minute. “That’s our lesson, isn’t it?” Freddie asks.
I smile. “Yeah, I guess it is.” I hug Freddie. “Be good, pal.”
“Don’t leave, Emmy… I mean Jennifer,” Charlie says. “You’re fun.”
“I have to Charlie. I’m sorry I snapped before,” I say, giving him a hug.
“It’s okay, I deserved it,” he says.
“Well I don’t like this!” Henrietta cries. “I don’t like good-byes.”
“I don’t either, Henrietta,” I say, giving her a hug. “But don’t worry. I’ll see you on YouTube.”
“What’s a YouTube?” she asks.
“You’ll see. Good-bye everyone, say hi to Doug for me,” I say as I go back in the yellow house.
“Good-bye! Good-Bye!” they all say as I go back in.
I put on the perfect pink nightgown and go back to bed. I closed my eyes. I wake up to KPFA on the radio and Felix giving me a scratch on my cheek. I’m wearing my sock monkey pajamas. It’s a new day.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries