Ode to Alex: on following our dreams – and encouraging our kids to follow theirs…


To my “buddies,” Mike & Lisa, whose son Alex strives to be a professional poet: Congratulations!

Did I ever tell you about my Mom’s best girlhood friend, Lee? As a kid, I used to go to Lee’s house with my parents every Thanksgiving. Often her then-twentyish son David would show up there with some of his ”kooky theatre friends” in tow. “Kooky” is a quote from the predictable conversation between my parents on the long ride home afterwards, every year.

While we kids listened silently from the back seat, Dad and Mom would discuss with the best of intentions what a shame it was that such a bright young man as David had embarked on the misdirected road to becoming a playwright, when in fact he was so smart and talented that he could enjoy real success as a doctor or lawyer.

We all know that theatre is a tough career road. And that the concerns of my folks were probably legit… the odds of success were totally against the guy. But it was his dream, and he was following it. Later it became apparent to us as teens that David was enjoying some modicum of success when he began an association with Chicago’s Second City Theatre, which my parents were not familiar with at the time. Still, those late-night discussions continued every year in the car. Eventually, however, they stopped, and with good reason.

Have you ever heard of David Mamet? He’s arguably the most successful living American playwright… has written numerous hugely successful plays like American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross, along with screenplays for many major films like The Verdict, and Hannibal. David Mamet is Lee’s son. The childhood memories of those auto rides home, and the outcome of their subject have totally shaped my perceptions of the validity of people’s dreams.

Every time I hear of an aspiring young person like Alex, I return to the long-ago back seat of that ’63 Lincoln, and savor the possibilities. As we have from the long-distant past, society is going to revere poetry far into the future. May Alex achieve fame, success, and most importantly, personal satisfaction as a poet – no, make that the poet of our time. Kudos to you, Mike and Lisa, for standing firmly behind him. Put me on the list to buy Alex’s first book! ©2010 Gregory N. Brown

2 Responses to “Ode to Alex: on following our dreams – and encouraging our kids to follow theirs…”

  1. Greg,

    You are right on with this blog post. We have all heard our parent’s voices when we set out to do something. We know in our heads what they already think because we have heard the same discussions as you did by our parents regarding other peoples kids. It is a big hurdle to overcome if we choose a path we think that our parents won’t approve.

    It wasn’t too long ago that we had a couple in to purchase a used vehicle. It was a very nice vehicle with very low miles that our detail person had taken care to do a great job preparing the vehicle for sale., she takes pride in her work and does it well. The couple tore the vehicle’s exterior appearance to shreds with the wife at one point down on her hands and knees pointing out some rock chips on the lower portion below the doors. There weren’t many, but some. Next they moved onto the interior and commented that an 8 year old could’ve done a better job on the interior than our cleanup person. There were two scuff marks on the plastic as you enter the vehicle that were probably put there by their own shoes from the test drive and would easily be removed by a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (detailing cleanup tip)

    My husband stopped them at that point after nearly an hour and a half of criticism and told them they were free to purchase their vehicle anywhere they wished but he was going to give them some advice. He asked them to step inside out of the earshot of their two sons aged 8 & 10 and told them that their overly critical evaluation of the vehicle and other things would someday stiffle their sons in their future pursuits. They will hear your voices in their heads and come to the conclusion that no matter what they will do it will never be good enough for Mom and Dad.

    They didn’t buy the car but perhaps they left with some food for thought regarding their sons. It is such a delight watching our four children branch out into different areas of interest and excel in their jobs and educations. Jeanne

    • What a rich and incredible story, Jeanne! Dean has not only wisdom, but courage in the truest sense of the word. Wow!

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