Marlo and me

One of my less marketable skills is the uncanny ability to create new lyrics to pre-existing songs. It came in quite handy at summer camp, where I never tired of making up team songs to the Fame theme song or “I’d like to Teach the World to Sing,” or, on one memorable occasion, George Michael’s “Faith.”

Today, I find I find that the same skill serves me quite well as a parent. Rachel just stares at me and shakes her head as I come up with nifty little rhyming ditties about brushing teeth and putting toys away, all set to Sound of Music and Beatles melodies. But the kids like it, and I swear it keeps my mind younger. Never mind that I can’t remember anything that happened last week.

So when I read Lesbian Dad’s recent “Baba’s Day” post, wherein they take their kids to a Pride-sponsored screening of Free to Be You and Me — in San Francisco’s Castro, no less — I was, in addition to being insanely jealous, also immediately taken back in time to my seventh-grade production of FTB. It was 1983. I was in a class of ten girls, with my first teacher who went by “Ms.” and didn’t shave her armpits. You could say it was my feminist awakening. While I could relate to the relevance of “William’s Doll,” I also felt that it needed a girl-specific corollary. A couple of classmates and I got together, and “Gillian’s Ball” was born.

Without further ado:

Gillian’s ball

When my friend Gillian was five years old
She wanted a ball to bounce and throw.
“A ball,” said Gillian, “is something that
“I could use to learn to bat.
“A ball to catch and throw all day —
“Baseball and football I could play!
“And when it’s time to go to bed,
I’d put my ball away,” my friend Jill said.

[CHORUS] A ball! A ball! Gillian wants a ball!
“Don’t be a tomboy,” her best friend said.

Why should a girl want to play with a ball?
“That stuff’s for boys,” said her cousin Meg.
“Don’t be a jerk,” said her older brother.
“I know what to do,” to her father said her mother.

So her mother bought her a Barbie doll,
A baking set, and that’s not all:
Some knitting needles, a crayon set,
A baby doll that really wet.

And Jill loved all of her new games,
Enjoyed them all but all the same,
When Jilly’s mother praised her skill,
“Can I please have a ball now?” said my friend Jill.

A ball! A ball! Gillian wants a ball!
A ball! A ball! Gillian wants a ball!

Then Gillian’s grandma arrived one day
And wanted to know what she liked to play.
And Jill said, “Barbie’s my favorite game.
“I like to play, but all the same,
“I’d give up all of my new toys
“to go play baseball with the boys.”

“How very wise,” her grandma said.
Said Jill: “but everyone says this instead:

A ball! A ball! Gillian wants a ball!
A ball! A ball! Gillian wants a ball!

So Gillian’s grandma, as I’ve been told
bought Gillian a ball to bounce and throw.
When Gillian’s mother began to frown
Grandma smiled and calmed her down, explaining:

“Gillian wants a ball
“So when she’s on a Little League team,
“She’ll know how to bat and to run and to throw,
“And to field left and right and to pitch high and low.
“And maybe one day, Gillian will score the winning run!”

Gillian has a ball! Gillian has a ball!
'Cause she’s gonna play baseball and have a lot... of... fun!

Okay, I admit that I got just a wee bit choked up writing that down.

Yes, of course I remember all the lyrics, another slightly more marketable skill being a semi-photographic memory, especially for Trivia Relating to My Own Life, particularly the preteen years. Actually, I can quote the entire FTB soundtrack from memory (not to mention The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof) and, yes, I do, whenever we put the CD on, inspiring yet more eye-rolling from Rachel. I’m always up for a resounding chorus of “Housework.” My version, however, is inspired not so much by Carol Channing’s rendition as by the Russian-accented version of my seventh grade classmate, Lina, who had recently immigrated from the USSR: “You KNOW, there are TYMZZZES when you HAPPEN to be, just SEE-TING there, KWI-etly, watching TEE-VEE...”

It only just occurred to me now that maybe William grew up to have three kids with his husband, Steve, and that Gillian was a budding baby-dyke who’d grow up to be a human-rights lawyer and pitch for her Rainbow-league softball team. You never know — but you know they were free to do whatever made them happy. Whether you’re in San Francisco or northern Ontario or anywhere in between or beyond, Happy Pride!