Not Any Balcony

The Bal
The Balcony in Verona

I, Friar Laurence, almost knew, even then, that this balcony would become famous after the story of the two star-crossed lovers became widely known. The families were reconciled by their children’s death and had agreed to end their violent feud but at a tremendous human cost.

The Montague and Capulet families had a long history of despising each other. But the turning point was that damn ball at the Capulet house. Romeo, in an effort to cure his depression over Rosaline, one of Capulet’s nieces, crashes the party. A relationship between a Montague’s son and a Capulet niece does not bode well. But Romeo compounds this shaky ground by meeting and immediately falling in love with Juliet.

I told Romeo there could be dire consequences from a meeting like this. Why stir the pot? Let the families work out their differences without you adding fuel to this toxic environment. But did he listen to me? No! Bastard fool that he is. Then he slinks into the Capulet’s orchard and guess what he finds there? You guessed it–Juliet! In spite of her family’s hatred for the Montagues she is wailing like a little girl from that balcony about how she loves him! The fool can’t just hide in the bushes in the orchard and watch from afar, no he has to jump out and proposes marriage to her. And she agrees!

Both Romeo and Juliet appear at my doorstep and ask me to marry them. I had only hoped to reconcile the two families through their union and I did secretly marry them the next day.

In just a couple of weeks Juliet comes to me for help after relating what has happened since I married her to Romeo. After hearing her story I was in a different community within this providence of Verona. After all, as a Frier I have been called to live the evangelical counsels (vows of poverty, chastity and obedience) in service to a community and after hearing Juliet’s story I wish I had not got involved in this mess.

She tells a story of Romeo being challenged to a duel, refusing to fight, someone accepting the duel on Romeo’s behalf, Romeo killing Tybalt, who is Juliet’s cousin. Romeo being exiled from Verona, with the threat of execution upon his return. Romeo consummating their marriage. Her father Capulet ordering her to marry someone else. When she refuses her mother rejects her.

Lord in your mercy, here my prayer! What advice can I, a lowly Frier, give her? Ah…I have a solution. I will give her a drug that will put her into a deathlike coma for just under two days and I will send a messenger to inform Romeo of the plan and then he can rejoin her when she awakens. We agree on the plan.

That’s the last time I saw Juliet.

I have since learned that not everything went according to our plan. The damn messenger does not reach Romeo to inform him of the plan. Instead Romeo learns of Juliet’s apparent death from his servant. Then Romeo does a very stupid thing, not the first stupid thing but the most damning. The fool goes to the drug store and buys some poison. And this is where (if not before) it gets really weird. Romeo drinks the poison (silly fool) and then Juliet awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his dagger.

This will be my last look at that balcony before I head to my new providence in Milan. Hopefully a much quieter one. Rest in peace Romeo and Juliet.

Untold Stories

The Horton Clan
The Horton Clan

One of my favorite songs from days past was Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.” I think the above photo has quite a few stories it could tell. The gentleman top row third from the left is my Grandfather Herman Horton. surrounding him are his brothers and sisters. Those were hard times but their appearance betrays that fact. To me they look almost prosperous. Most of the Horton Clan had moved north to Michigan from Missouri to take advantage of the jobs in the automotive industry. From farmers to labors. My Grandmother told me stories of how she would throw food through the windows of the General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan. In 1937 the workers went on a “Sit Down Strike.” In a sit-down strike, the workers physically occupy the plant, keeping management and others out. By remaining inside the factory rather than picketing outside of it, striking workers prevented owners from hiring strike breakers┬áto take their jobs and resume production.

That was one of the few stories I remember. I did some research and found out that one of my relatives committed suicide, and I found a birth certificate of an Uncle I never knew I had. These were some of the stories that no one would talk about. I remember asking my dad some family related questions that I knew the answer was not pretty or even legal. His response….”We don’t talk about those things.”

I wish all these people were alive today as I would have a thousand questions for them. Growing up I was not interested in the past only in the present and future. Stupid me.

My father passed away a few years ago and I found a box of letters, hundreds of letters, that he wrote to my mom while he was in the service during WWII. I asked him about his experiences in France and Germany and true to form his response was, as expected, “We don’t talk about those things.”

If you want to know some more of my family’s untold stories I would like to help but “I don’t talk about those things.”