- Words Like Arrows
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The curtains parted and a heavy man pulled a cart across the stage. He stopped to marvel at the precariously perched fiddler playing bittersweet minor modes.
It was not remarkable to me that this fiddler would be standing on a painted roof in the painted little town of Anatevke. This fiddler, born into the Lummi tribe and thrust as an unwilling child into a white household, was a practiced culture jumper. The boy I once knew as Richard Marshall had journeyed back as a man to his Northwest Indian roots and revived the music of his people. And, I thought with a wry smile, he still enjoys jamming with the Jews.
"I saw your fiddler friend," my husband Shawn whispered, pushing our sons into their seats and then sliding down next to me in the darkened theatre as the overture wobbled to an end. "He was in the men's room when I went in there with the boys.
"I guessed who it was from what you'd told me so I said 'Hi, I'm Lovey Marcus' husband. I think you know her from high school.' He got all excited, saying he was honored that you were at the show, that you were the first person that ever told him he had any talent."
"Ssssh," hissed someone behind us.
"He really wants to see you afterwards," Shawn mouthed in my ear. I sheepishly smiled at our young sons and turned to the stage of the historic Lincoln Theatre in Mt. Vernon, Washington.
The closing night crowd flowed noisily onto the sidewalk where cast members received a small town adulation. The lobby couldn't hold everyone. Parents hugged their costumed, kerchiefed daughters. Young beaus [End Page 100] holding red roses stood idly next to their actress girlfriends, who gave out kisses and hugs and cries of recognition to audience members. Teyve, a real dairy farmer when not portraying a dairyman, and who needed no padding for the part, complained that his cheeks were hurting too much for him to smile anymore.
Standing next to Teyve was Richard Marshall, the fiddler. The program listed him as Swil Kanum.
I beamed at him, pushing my way through the crush. He caught sight of me and swept me into a giant bear hug. Because my head was pinned against his big chest, I could feel the jerking sobs before I heard them. I was, of course, crying now, too. Not at all what I had planned.
Tears ran through his make-up as he shouted above the crowd, "Hey everybody, this is Lovey!" Heads turned. People smiled and nodded indulgently as if to say, This is a small town, we have plenty of room for another.
"I don't know how to say your name," I mumbled into his coat.
"Swil Kanum, like swill kay-num, it's Lummi. 'Swil' is stroking with the paddle in your canoe and you're so tired you can't do it for another minute but you force yourself and 'Kanum' means coming back to the people," he explained.
"Well, you've come back to your people and to my people, heck, all peoples," I laughed, wiping away my tears.
* * *
Our boys danced their way toward the car across the wet, empty street. They leaned dangerously over a railing and threw whatever was little and handy into the dark waters of the Skagit River off to one side of the parking lot. The river gave Mt. Vernon water for its cows and tulips. After sitting in a theatre for so long, nine-year-old Cary and Lev, six, needed to fling their arms and legs about before being stuffed back into a confining space. Home was a two-hour drive south to Seattle.
Shawn heard my plaintive sigh...