322. Girl of Many Talents

Happy 24th birthday, Arden Tenjou (formerly Gwendolyn “Gwen” Taylor). We’re just lucky she has only two names, because she has several personas.

She started out as a regular baby: exceedingly beautiful, talented and intelligent – you know the drill.  As her grandmother, I was so smitten that one day I recorded her on video doing nothing but jumping up and down for forty minutes in a jumping jack. I don’t know why.  Even the baby got bored.

I kept hoping that she would remain in arrested development because except for her inability to sleep anywhere except in her own crib at the family’s farm, she was a very successful baby.

Next came her dancing career.  From a little tyke through high school she tapped, balleted, and Irish danced her way across dozens of stages.  She was terrific.  I was sure that dancing would become her career.  But it was not to be. (At least, not so far.)

Here’s a photo with her little sister Colleen with lots to giggle about.

The girls were raised and home-schooled at their family’s farm outside Auburn, Washington. In spite of what should have been a somewhat cloistered life, both became experienced world travelers and sophisticated patrons of the arts.  Their parents – my daughter and son-in-law – Judy and Gary Taylor saw to that!

During middle school and high school, Arden began learning cello and the bass viol.  She was honored with a seat in the Tacoma Youth Symphony which she held until she graduated from high school.  By then, I was pretty sure a wonderful career in music lay ahead of her.  But what does a doting grandmother know?  Zilch. (At least, not so far.)

By the time she was sixteen, she discovered her voice in writing and was so prolific that by the time she was sixteen years old, she had written a trilogy of three full-length novels.  I was – you guessed it – positive that this budding author would make her career in the literary field writing the long-awaited Great American Novel.  Wrong, again. (At least, not so far.)

Arden had always had a beautiful singing voice, but it wasn’t until high school and college that anybody found out about it. Even birds are jealous when they hear her lovely voice. This is a song she sang from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”.  I started imagining how she’d be received at Carnegie Hall. But alas, that doesn’t seem to be her aim in life. (At least, not so far.)

During college and working her master’s degree, Arden majored in Japanese and linguistics. I’m hoping that she’ll stumble into a career as a Japanese translator. There may not be many hundreds of those positions available, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Whatever career this talented young woman decides on, I’m sure she’ll make her mark, and I’ll be egging her on from the wings. 

So will her dog, Lenore.  Lenore is a giant Great Dane who thinks she’s a chihuahua and whom everybody (except stubborn landlords) would like to adopt. Arden is moving into an apartment at the end of the month, and so far, due to “discriminatory” renting practices, Lenore has been exiled to stay on the family farm with Judy and Gary.

Arden did a lot a acting in her short young life, and she comes from a theater family, but she’s never had any interest on going “on the boards” full time. Her very first role as an actress was at six months old when she appeared as Baby Collette in Roosevelt High School’s production of “Les Miserables”.  (She easily won the audition because her mama Judy Taylor was the show’s director, and her dad Gary Taylor designed the sets and staging.)

Thinking about her role in that show reminded me of one of the most thrilling scenes I’ve ever seen on TV.  For a birthday gift for Arden, and for all of us, I’m going to embed it here. It was the extraordinary finale of the 10th Anniversary Concert version of the musical Les Miserables in 1995. Colm Wilkinson, the Irish tenor, played the role of Jean Valjean.

At the end of that breathtaking concert, just when we thought we had experienced the best show ever to be on television, came this awesome and unforgettable finale.  Seventeen tenors who had played the role of Valjean in their respective countries marched in and, in their own language, each sang a few measures from “Do You Hear the People Sing”.

Even if you’ve heard it before, I hope you’ll sit back as a proud citizen of the world and be inspired by this passionate anthem.

So there you go, Arden – Dancer, Singer, Writer, Actor, Painter, Translator. So much talent and so many choices!   Happy birthday to all of your personas!

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3 Responses to 322. Girl of Many Talents

  1. Gary T. says:

    Thank you, Pat, for Arden’s birthday message.
    I’d like to add to it, if I may, and hope that my birthday wish is not unwelcome–deep apologies if it is.
    When Arden was a toddler of 3 or so, she and her sister hugged, ‘rode’, lolled upon, and cavorted with a giant white unicorn, nearly as large as the two girls put together. It was stuffed, of course, made of soft fuzzy stuff, and inanimate… or, maybe, not so lifeless as the naked adult eye might have beheld…. The magical beast hung around and hung around, comforting and cherished for years, and then languishing in one of the upstairs cubbies for many more years…, and then surfaced into their active lives again as “The Last Unicorn”, when they were, I’d guess, 7 or 8. And once again the pure white creature dazzled and entranced the young imaginations for some time after they viewed her in that compelling little film.
    Some years later, as we four were visiting Paris, on the eve of Arden’s 21st birthday, it happened that on this day Colleen and I went to the Museum d’ Orsay, to marvel at the Impressionists, while Judy and Arden explored the wonderful unicorn tapestries, at the Medieval Museum–just a coincidence perhaps, but surely emblematic for each of the four of us.
    Josephine Bradley wrote: “…Into the world came the unicorn, first and last flying on wings of milky glass, landing like a satin ghost on the rocky promontories of creation. It stands erect in the predawn wind, waiting for the earthrise. Around it blow silent winds, while meteors and comets hurl their fire, and dragon clouds collide.”
    I’ve often thought of Arden in just these terms–as one who wanders like the unicorn among the clouds and the glimmering pools of misty forests, and who can carry us more earthbound creatures away, to visit those magical places–those of you who have read her stories know full well that feeling of being transported.
    Keats wrote, “What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth.”
    And Albert Einstein thought that, “Imagination encircles the world.” …On the back of a unicorn, he might have added.
    If dreams are indeed the playground of unicorns, then my birthday wish for Arden is that she be allowed to dream on…, and on…, and on….

  2. fourfords says:

    Happy Birthda,y Arden and many more! It is nice to meet you and I hope we can visit more the next time. I am amazed that you are a Japanese translator and would like to learn more from you about this. You may or may not know but I used to live in Japan when I was very small. I also know the American Sign Language and little Spanish.

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