As cute as a bug's ear, Suzanne was never a Mouseketeer, as far as I know, but could have played one on TV. Maybe not Annette – who could pull that off – but certainly Doreen, Sharon or Sherry. There's something so atavistic and perfectly nostalgic about her old school picture that I was drawn to it immediately and have kept the rumpled snapshot close to hand for twenty-five years. Perfectly coiffed and starched, beaming out from the bygone, every unseen seam is straight, each skirt-pleat sharp, each sandal polished, the snow-white Bobby socks turned down exactly half an inch. Only that iconic, black and bulbous tiara is missing, together with the casting call that might have brought her beyond my own devotion and into the hearts and imaginations of a generation of adoring fans.
One long-gone Saturday afternoon my brother and I are prone before the Zenith, soaking up the last of the Mouse Club in the fading, filtered sunlight of my father's study. The ebullient Jimmie and the vaguely threatening Roy are leading the gang into the celebrated finale and we're singing along, belting out “See ya real soon” at the top of our lungs and ignoring Dad's demands from across the room that we pipe down and shut that damned thing off. He's on the phone with Pan Am, trying to book a flight above the din, and none of us is aware of the wrench old Mickey's thrown in the works in the madness of that moment as my father impatiently spells his name out for the agent on the other end of the line. “M. A.C”, he bellows, “F. A. D” - so far, so good - “M.O.U.S.E!” He roars into the receiver as we reach the crescendo in a shrieking tangle of nuggies, knees and elbows on the study floor.
“Makes no difference who you are,” the clerk at the airport might have said to my father some days later. “This seat is booked for a Mr. MacFadmouse and, unless you are Mr. MacFadmouse, Sir, this ticket is not for you.” We can only imagine the scene - and by today's standards he'd have been hauled off and flown to Guantanamo instead of Cincinnati - but no amount of apoplectic threat or patient explanation would budge the minor functionary at the desk. Was he forced to buy another ticket at the gate? Did he miss his flight? The details of the denouement are lost, but it's a safe bet that we were barred from the tube-glow for at least a week, a standard consequence for the times that had little effect as we were already banned from the box on weeknights.
Recently I woke in the wee hours to the familiar, green and blinking glow of some electronic device at the far corner of the bedroom. As the fog of sleep abated I found myself counting the regulated intervals between flashes and slowly came to the realization that there were, in fact, no electronics in the room. Step out into the living room or kitchen and the place is lit up in the neon rainbow of electroluminescence we've all come to take for granted, but I had nothing charging in the bedroom, no phone or clock or screen in stand-by mode. Could I have plugged something in over there earlier in the day and completely forgotten? Whatever it was, it certainly hadn't been there the night before. I got out of bed and slowly crossed the room in the pitch dark, aided by the coruscating, chartreuse flicker. As I neared the corner the light went out; I groped about for a device, confused, and turned away, only to see the steady flash begin anew. I turned again and, standing stock-still, naked in the night, the glow appeared at the center of my chest now, just below the sternum, in perfect cadence with the beating of my heart. Turning on the overhead at last, the harsh light revealed a tiny firefly at rest in the hollow of my chest. I haven't seen a firefly in years.