Posts Tagged With: love

It’s About Death

Both my mother and brother died on Dec. 13th, three decades apart. He had not reconciled with our mother and I have had a hunch that it was his way of honoring her at last.  I dunno, I’m just built that way:  life (and death) have meanings.   This year it is Corrie, my Dutch friend who married an old boyfriend of mine.  I’d passed him on to Annie who was so mean to him – but then we were Just Seventeen then and stupid.  It freed him up to eventually take a holiday to Amsterdam, where certain vegetation could be purchased with no hassles.  I’m not saying he found Corrie there, doing that.. but they both were known for dam heavy smoking and whiskey neat.

It was a godsend that Patrick was in Holland when my world collapsed in Sudan.  The kids and spent the better part of three months in Den Haag, waiting to see what the political outcome would be in Khartoum.  Pat is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and he had a beautiful life with an incredibly intelligent, funny and loving woman.  They were married over 30 years.

Corrie passed on New Years Day after nearly a decade of fighting brain and lung cancers.  During those years she was in and out of hospital, and when she was strong she and Patrick took off to various parts of the world to continue their lifelong devotion to improving the world.  They worked on fresh water and farming in Africa, built schools in the Greek Islands andSouth America. Where there is need the Dutch always roll up their sleeves and literally “dig in”.  They came to me a year ago last summer, and we held a wonderful party for them in our back yard when it still looked beautiful.  Food and drink and old folks:  we reminisced about our teenage years when we were young, silly and excited about everything – even an event in San Francisco I’d blocked out:  a “Horse Potato” fight in Golden Gate Park.  Disgusting but fun.

Most of us have relatives and friends who seem to choose the Annual Party Time: starting with Halloween, through Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year.  I am of the opinion that they choose their departure deliberately, they have some say in the event and it is not to bring sorrow to the celebrations, it’s their way of participating annually ~ perhaps even looking in on us???  Anyway, that’s my own take. I promise to make a post to my blog if I find out if I’m right after I make my own transition.  That should be Thanksgiving.   I will no doubt be hovering near your stove because I love to be warm!

In our wonderful online world, I found a distant relative living in the North of England and began a correspondence with her regarding a mysterious island in the freezing depths of the North Sea just off Scotland.  We did some research then she finally cracked her own “mystery” of the ancient isle of Ates.  During the course of searching I decided I really MUST visit the coastal islands of the UK, soon.  It’s the Isle of Man that has my attention as I once met a fellow who said he was Manx, so I asked if he was from the Isle of Man and he said yes, the residents call themselves Manx, and in answer to my unspoken query he added “Like the Cat. The breed is native there.”

I can only wonder how and why a tail-less breed of cat mutated only on this one small island.  It’s my understanding that cats were first civilized in Egypt.  Now how does this work?  In this paragraph one can see how my mind works and I probably should feel shame but I don’t.

I hope all have enjoyed your tour through my brain above.  Off we go to my letter from Hilda, and how the family celebrated the death of her husband Frank during the Holidays.  (While you read, I think I’ll post and move on to find out what the Barnardos Homes are. Perhaps foster care or orphanage…)

 

Happy New Year Melanie,

 I had a LOVELY Xmas, despite everything.  My grandson James sat in Franks usual place at the dinner table, and said all the things ‘Grumpy’ usually said on such occasions. It was fun.  His funeral service was beautiful.  He asked for “the cheapest funeral we could get “, and absolutely no religion”. He lost what faith he had when the cancer got him. We granted him his wish.  We had a ‘Humanist’ service. Some of his favorite songs, and a female officiate called Val.  She stood and told his life story. (he was brought up in foster care, starting with Barnardos  Homes.  About 12 of his old work mates turned up. I was delighted. I had only ever met one of them, and it was him who got the rest there.  He remained a loyal friend to Frank, and visited regular when he was ill. We are so very grateful to him.  

We played Ketty Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ to go into the chapel, ( we started out as pen-pals while he was in the army) Kenny Rogers / Dolly Partons  ‘Islands in the Stream’ , for the quiet thoughtful, quiet period half way through, and the very irreligious ‘Another one bites the the Dust’ by Queen, when we were leaving the chapel. (He was cremated) That was his specific request. He would have been laughing.  

 I have had a bit of a struggle with the arthritis  lately. the weather hear is weird at the moment. We have VERY strong winds at moment. I hate them. Makes me tense and head-achy.  Anyway, will finish now. Watching ‘Ben Hur’ for the umpteenth time, as tele  has been pathetic over the holidays. Very few adult programmes, all repeats, and nearly all childrens programmes, even in the evenings. They get there licence fee for nothing these days.  Bye for now melanie. get well soon.

Your friend Hilda.

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HOLIDAY LAMENT:

I got no turkey, no dressing, no gravy this year!

No family and friends filled my house

That wet, cold  4th Thursday.

I roasted two Game Hens,

Baked one pumpkin pie,

Then drowned it in whipped crème,

And remembered days gone by.

Those store-bought-whip-crème wars

With our next generation – or two

When everyone is a kid again,

And if you are not I’ll sure squirt you!

We leaned back, then, to honor time

With Remember Whens:

“Remember when she grabbed a

Bag of powdered sugar sat next to the stove

When she was making our gray-vee?”

“Just think, next year will be Olive Hands on these tiny new fingers!”

We always inculcate our new generations

Into holiday-only bad manners!

The following Friday is the kick-off to Christmas:

Rain or shine we got a tree

And two be-ribboned fresh door-wreaths.

It hasn’t happened yet.

In our window in front of the tree should be

Three carved and glittered wood blocks in

red, blue and green :  “Peace”, “Love” and “Lulu.”

White icicle lights should shine elegant and bright

From our roof and invite

Family, and friends to stop by.

Sigh.

Commercial entities preach

All day and all night

To buyers who obey

as Eloy’s

In this new Time Machine:

“You will be seen

Swiping your card

In the mouth of

Our Money Machine.”

Melanie Wood

10 Dec. 2014

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Family

History, that pile of dirt
First swept clean then
Deliberately mangled
Presented as truth.
We believe we know
Who we are until
The stranger comes to
Drop her bomb.
Now sift through debris
Of that which never was
Find a nugget of gold
Just one nugget
That is all I need.

M. Alcorn Wood
1 Sept 2014

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WARM COFFEE

 

Done sleeping at 4:45

I kicked off my covers and

Went to the kitchen to make

Warm Coffee.

Warm Coffee is a cuppa

With a lot of milk

And little sugar.

Has to be made before

The sun comes up

While it’s still dark and

Today is unclear.

Sixty years ago

When my dad came to visit

Mom let him stay on weekends.

I was in grade school

Thrilled to have my Daddy home,

Hopeful he might stay this time.

I woke early, listened for his morning sounds:

The flushed toilet, sink water running,

Daddy going to the kitchen

While it was still dark outside! Yay!

I saw the light under my bedroom door

And crawled from my covers.

Wrapping my blanket around me

Listening to the percolating percolator

In the chair next to the window

With the perfect view of sunrise.

Hi Skeeziks he said

With a big smile and a cigarette clenched

Between his teeth.

He patted the chair next to his:

Come sit down with me.

I have the pot on and

We will wait for morning

And have some Warm Coffee.

(Warm coffee is just enough coffee

In a mug of warm milk, good for kids

With their dads in the early morning.)

We talked in whispers, my dad and me,

As if we might scare morning away:

Did you sleep well?  Me too.

And what do you think of your teacher this year

And are you going to plant a garden in spring?

Then  we grew silent

 Waiting, watching, listening

For the song of the first morning bird:

Who would hear it first?

The blackness of the star-studded sky

Faded  to deep blue

 and we whispered about school,

Who was I gonna be when I grew up?

I see big things for you,  Funny Face!

We stopped talking and turned

To the sun rising in the window.

The bird sang!

Daddy squeezed me

 “I heard it first, Sad Sack!”

I woke in his lap, with his arms around me

Sunbeams falling through our window.

And the mockingbird sang about

 Our perfect morning.

 

 

 

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Another Today

I’m in  Pensive Mode today.  I’ve found new friends in unexpected ways –some on-line, one through some lost mail I was given dating back to WWII.  I’ve found bunches of relatives, and a bunch more have found me prowling the records of Ancestry.com.  That’s been a riot, having lived my first 60 years clueless that there was “anyone” out there.

I’m grateful, very grateful, that I developed survival skills at a tender age; and grateful for the flip side:  I haven’t needed them for many  decades.   In a dream I wrapped an imaginary ribbon around those memories and left them beneath an old sprawling live oak tree in the park I played in as a child.

I’m sitting high watch on a young family member who is going through a very painful metamorphosis that has cost everyone many sleepless nights, especially him.  I was the last one he clung to as he began the crazed business of trying to get comfortable in his life, and finally I too became too much for him and ran away again:  he found I’d been” tracking” him.  He doesn’t understand this is part of my nature, Nancy Drew and all that.   Intrestingly, he sort of set it up long ago by introducing me to his friends, asked me to take him to their homes.  Well, hellyeah I knew who to contact and where they llived when I needed info.  But I came a little too close,  I got Z-listed, just like his parents.

I sat back on my heels, let the old earth take a couple of spins and a wonderful calm came over me:  I understood he was going to be alright.  I recalled my own words:   the child you see at the age of five or six is the person who emerges from the cocoon as an adult.  They cannot hide from themselves.

I decided to call him once weekly, understanding he would not answer when he saw my phone number pop up!  My plan was to leave a very brief, up-beat message of caring and love.  I was very surprised when, after a few weeks, he answered my call on the first ring.  We talked a few times, and I’ve not suggested we get together, that will be his job.

Then he asked if I could take him to the Junior College to turn in some assignments.  Of course I said I would.    And when he is ready to talk, I will listen.  Just Listen.  And if he asks for an opinion I will give an opinion, emphasizing it is mine.

This close to Home & Heart experience really got my attention.   I’m thinking our lives, unbeknownst to us, are driven by trying to get what we need, even as we believe we pursue what we want. This was covered once in an old country-western song, many other times throughout the ages and their cultures.

Here we are in the new millineum and for eighty years generations of Americans have chased money in order to purchase excitement and exhilaration, respect and love.

I say “chasing money” because for so many decades we two-leggers of The First World have been groomed to consume this, wear that and drive these, as carefully as a pedophile targets his prey. We have become worker-bees, and forgot about where we live, relax and gain sustenance.

So where is that Honey who asks “How was your day?” and wants to hear about it. She won’t get off work for another two hours.

Where is the time to go sit down and share time with husband, with wife, with youngsters:  Sorry, I promised I’d show up for the “BlaBla Association” lecture tonight.  We can talk then.

And are we really so busy we can’t reach out and brush a cheek, give a pat on the head, or say “I love you” and not say why?

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A Complicated Question

A COMPLICATED QUESTION

Jazzbo was about seven, apparently in a romantic mood:

 “Mama, did Gigi get down on his knees and ask you to marry him?”

“No, he didn’t Jazz”

“Well how did you get married?” his face puckered.

“In the surf On Virgin Gorda. The British West Indies.  Barefoot.”

“No. Mama! Did he ask you first before you got married?”

“No.  I asked him.”

His face un-puckered as his eyes widened,

and one of his eyebrows shot straight up.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“What about Grampa, did he ask you?”

“No.  And we went to Reno, got married in

Golden Wedding Bell Chapel  Number 2.

Number 1 was booked up”.

“Mama! Did anyone ever ask you to marry them?”

My grandson seemed a little desperate.

“Yes, Jazz.”

“Who?”

“Well, there was a Sea Captain named John in Portland,

And an Englishman named Stephen in the English Channel,”

I paused, lingering in the hall of incomplete marital memories.

“WELL?  Did you marry ANY of them?”

“No, Jazz, I was already married.”

“Well, how am I supposed to do it then?”

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Single Digit Romance

A COMPLICATED QUESTION

Jazzbo was about seven, apparently in a romantic mood:

 “Mama, did Gigi get down on his knees and ask you to marry him?”

“No, he didn’t Jazz”

“Well how did you get married?” his face puckered.

“In the surf On Virgin Gorda. In The British West Indies.  Barefoot.”

“No. Mama! Did he ask you first before you got married?”

“No.  I asked him.”

His face un-puckered as his eyes widened,

and one of his eyebrows shot straight up.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“What about Grampa, did he ask you?”

“No.  And we went to Reno, got married in

Golden Wedding Bell Chapel  Number 2.

Number 1 was booked up”.

“Mama! Did anyone ever ask you to marry them?”

My grandson seemed a little desperate.

“Yes, Jazz.”

“Who?”

“Well, there was a Sea Captain named John in Portland,

And an Englishman named Stephen in the English Channel,”

I paused, lingering in the hall of incomplete marital memories.

“WELL?  Did you marry ANY of them?”

“No, Jazz, I was already married.”

“Well, how am I supposed to do it then?”

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Alex and Andy, 1988

Sonoma County is about 55 miles North of San Francisco and to a large degree it remains a farming community which has never provided a lot of support for it’s mostly middle income workers. Many residents commute South to the more moneyed counties of Marin and San Francisco in order to afford to live in Sonoma County.

It is bordered to the South by Marin County, the haven of San Francisco executives who commute to work by ferry and their families with their attendant up-scale shopping malls.
Napa County, renowned for world class wines, hot springs and spas lies to the East.

To the North is Mendocino County, well known for the lovely little oceanside village of Mendocino, where lived the imaginary author in the television program “Murder She Wrote”. It is just as famous for wide open spaces, mountains, valleys and pocket canyons that hide acres of marijuana farms. This beautiful county remains enmeshed in a triangular struggle between the law, local pot-growers, and the cartels who want to take over these businesses.

I live in a little town in Sonoma County, a bedroom community that provides Marin and San Francisco Counties with many “drone” employees. The salary disparity is commanding and keeps many of us on Highway 101 for hours every day.

I was an Escrow Officer at ABC title company, hired by the office manager and soon to be dear friend, Gwen. I had a private office, and one morning our secretary knocked at my door to see if I could take some clients. I was free and told her to bring them in.

Two youngish men came into my office one Spring day. Both wore neatly pressed blue jeans. Alex, tall and handsome with deep blue eyes wore a long sleeved blue checked shirt tucked neatly in. Andy’ grey eyes were behind wire-rim spectacles. He was a little shorter, a little edgier, very slender, almost fragile. He wore a white long sleeved shirt beneath his grey knit vest.

I figured they were around my age, maybe younger, in their late thirties. They were bright-eyed and expectant as they told me they were moving from San Francisco and wanted to open an escrow on a beautiful cottage in West Sonoma County, in the hamlet of Graton. They were obviously a couple, and they chose the right place. West County to this day remains known for welcoming men and women of different ages, cultures and persuasions. Alex and Andy would fit right in.

In the eighties Graton was rustic, worn and welcoming but a little beat up here and there, not yet “charming”. That would come later.

The real estate boom of the 1980s was in full bloom, and newcomers sold homes in Southern California migrating north to become gentlemen vintners on private estates where they often constructed enormous and architecturally stunning homes. And they entertained old friends who generally followed their lead to live in “The Wine Country”.

West County, historically a haven with artists, writers, sculptors, hangers-on, pot-heads, architects, environmentalists, lesbians, gays, transgenders, and slackers: a hodge-podge of welfare families, dopers; artists and wealthy business retirees of all ages creating a culture as welcoming as it was stimulating.

Entrepreneurs established new businesses of specialty bakeries, commercial vineyards for their new “vintner” status, and cottage industries of weaving, making candles and Panama Hats, beekeeping, honey sprang up. Alex and Andy were going to be very happy in their new home.

During the course of their purchase escrow they drove up from The City for weekends, and stopped to visit with me and Gwen. They always brought a little something: sometimes pastries, sometimes flowers, and if we had the time, they just sat and visited with us. They told us how welcome they felt in their little village of Graton, how Sonoma County in general felt like a personal Shang-ri La .

They held a housewarming party when escrow closed, and invited Gwen and me to join them. It was a lively party, a mix of their old friends from San Francisco and their new neighbors, the “Gratonites”.

Over the next year or so, “the boys” as Gwen and I came to call them, continued to drop in for a quick chat, sometimes with friend, usually straight. I never quit got it until Gwen, safely married, explained that they were bringing in suitable swains for me: I was single, and she suspected Alex and Andy were trying to introduce the “single mom”, to a manly “someone nice”.

 

One day Alex and Andy stopped by the office with their Perpetual Powers of Attorney. My heart sank as I looked at them, suddenly aware of the weight loss, deep purple shadows under Alex’s eyes, how Andy’s hand shook. Alex  answered my unspoken question. It was Aids and they didn’t know how long Andy was going to last. There were new drugs to try. He wanted his PPA done too, one never knew.

They both said they were grateful they found their way to Sonoma County. Here they found an extended family of friends from all walks of life. He said they both included Gwen and me in that family.

I filled in the document dates, signed and stamped their final documents in a daze.

But Andy was not the first to go, it was the younger and more robust, the beautiful Alex.  A  shock to everyone;   a disaster for Andy.

I was devastated, could not imagine life without those bright blue eyes, that playful fun-loving spirit of Alex. I could not imagine Andy going on without him. The boys were a part of our lives now.

Andy and their many friends held a celebration of Alex at the cottage. Friends and neighbors brought a banquet of foods, barrels of wine and flowers.  Someone brought a Japanese Maple, Alex’s favorite tree, and several men got busy getting it planted .

So many people gathered that they spilled out of the boy’s garden, overflowing into neighbors gardens. And the neighbors quickly put out chairs and tables for the over-flow.

I was rather conspicuous in my work clothes: suit, heels, pantyhose, full makeup and probably hair-spray on my hair. I milled around introducing myself to strangers. We shared how we knew the boys, how we were going to miss Alex, and how friends had already aligned to support Andy.

A tall man in a dark suit slowly smoked a cigarette in a corner of the the boys living room, observing this gathering. This had to be Alex’s father, so tall and handsome.  He looked my way and his brilliant blue eyes proved it.

I approached him and introduced myself. He wiped tears with the back of one hand, took a deep draw on his cigarette with the other. Exhaling, his words came out a little high-pitched, in staccato bursts.

“I didn’t know he had friends – like you, you know. People, people like me. I thought he was someone to be ashamed of.” He paused, then said “I ran my son off!”

A thick silence rose between us. I was at a loss witnessing such raw agony from a stranger. I breathed in his pain and ammonia shot up my nostrils, cauterizing them, leaving a dull ache behind my eyes. When he finally spoke again his voice was angry and condemning,  raspy with held-back tears.

“I never gave my Alexander a chance! I never got to know him, the real him. He will never know how sorry I am right now”

I needed fresh air. I asked him if he would like to go out to the garden, so we could sit in a place that Alex dearly loved. Before he could answer I grabbed his arm.

 I might have jerked him outside.

In the warmth of sunshine and the fragrance of Alex’s flowers I told him just how happy Alex had been. I told him how full of hell he was, that he was a prankster and continually pissed Andy off, that Andy grew to enjoy this.  I told him  I thought Alex was searching amongst his straight friends for men to match me up with.

I told him he was the spitting image of his handsome father, and that he surely had a heart as big as the heart his Dad was showing me now.

He listened when I said Alex spoke of him often, sometimes sadly, And I told him Andy’s version of stories from his childhood: how Dad taught him to ride his bike and  they both ended up in the swimming pool, and Mom captured it all on film!

I told him Alex loved that memory and always roared telling it!   Alex was okay with who he was and accepted the way his father was:  “They didn’t understand homosexuality:  they thought this was choice and choice is always reversible,”

 “In the end, all is okay, all as it should be: you are born, you live, you grow, you love, you lose, you die, but not necessarily in that order. And sometimes in your dying, you make others grow again.”

He looked at me strangely and wiping his eyes asked “How do you know all that?”

I stood up and felt my face turn red, embarrassed by my audacity to spill such weighty words to a grieving stranger. But before I could reply, he stood up and gathered me in his arms, He hugged me tight, then held my face and kissed me on the forehead, like a daughter.

“Thank you, my dear. Thank you for letting me know he doesn’t hate me.  My Alexander had no hate in him, bless him,” With a sob he let me go and excused himself.

“I really must speak with Andy now. He has been such an important part of my son’s life for a very long time. I need to let him know I to be there for him if he needs me.But more, I need to tell him that I thank him for loving my son so well.”

He strode purposefully back into the cottage, an executive on the move to straighten out a glitch in his system.

I sat back down, exhausted in Alex’s garden and thought about my pre-teen daughter and eight year old son. I prayed we would never have such an estrangement.

Thank the stars I couldn’t see what lay ahead.

 

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Elisabeth II

I slowed down as I approached the landing at our apartment.  Mom was a tall woman and I was small for my age, and now I wished I could shrink into a piece of nothing and disappear.

“What in hell do you think you are doing, Miss Priss?”  Mom’s voice was low and dangerous. I had no idea of what she was thinking.  I only knew I did something wrong, very wrong. 

She grabbed me by my shoulder and snatched the butterfly dress out of my arms.  Her cup and saucer fell to the floor and shattered.   The white patent shoes landed on the parquet floor with two thuds and my heart slammed still with a third, as she shoved me into the living room, which was really just a corner of our large kitchen/dining/living area. 

Mom pushed me back into the sofa and I sat and watched, frozen with fear, as she took the beautiful dress and tore it apart.  She shredded the puff sleeves, and ripped the skirt off.  Then she wadded it into a ball, marched across the room and shoved everything into the kitchen trashcan and grabbed the dustpan and broom and came back for the shattered cup and saucer.  She swept the broken pottery up, then let me have it.

“I heard you had gone with that woman to the rummage sale!  I suppose you know who’s princess shoes these are, don’t you?”  I looked at her trying to guess whose shoes these might have been.

“These belonged to that little smartass Brenda!  If you wear such fancy shoes our family will be the laughing stock of the whole goddam town!

She stopped sweeping and glared down at me.  My mother was so tall and so scary when she was mad.  I prayed I wouldn’t wet myself.

“I forbid you to wear those shoes!  We will give them to charity.  And you are never to go shopping at a goddam rummage sale again!  Ever!”

Mom grabbed my braids and told me to go to bed with no dinner.

 I went into the room I shared with my brother and laid down on my bed and began to cry. After a while, I heard Bill come home, hungry, asking what was for dinner.

 

“Well, it’s pretty near the end of the month, so we are stuck with Graveyard Stew. Let’s hope the milk holds up.”

“I hate Graveyard Stew!  Why can’t we have hotdogs or tuna casserole like other people?” 

I heard her suck her breath in, heard the slap across his face and he ran into our room and shoved his bed against the door and threw himself face down on his bed. 

Bill and I went to bed early again.  We listened to our mother pacing and muttering to herself about that Jewess, about pride, about not needing somebody’s damned castoffs.

“What’s a Jewess, Billy?”  Bill turned over; his cheek was still red, but no tears.

“I don’t know, Sis, I never heard of one before.”  He turned away and sighed, “Maybe it’s someone who sells jewelry.”

I crawled into bed with him and he patted me on the head and turned away.  We both waited for sleep to hurry up and come before the growling in our stomachs began.  If we could get to sleep quickly we would not feel the pangs.

The next morning we woke up early and spoke in whispers about whether our mother was over being mad.  We decided to wait until she woke up, and listen to how her feet sounded on the floor.  If she was still mad she stomped, and eventually we would hear her slam the door as she left to walk off her madness.  If she was quiet she was probably crying.  It was safer if she was crying.

We listened and didn’t hear anything.  We dressed quickly, hoping she had already left.  We grabbed our shoes and opened our door. 

Mom was lying on her back on the sofa, one foot resting on the floor, one arm flung over her eyes.  The ashtray was balanced on her belly and it moved a little each time she snored in and let out.  My brother and I tip-toed quietly out the front door.

We reached the bottom step we sat down to put our shoes on.  When I stood up I could see by my shadow on the sidewalk that we weren’t anywhere near noon.  I hoped Elisabeth would bring a lot of food for lunch.  

Billy said he was going over to Al’s house.  They were helping his dad work on an old truck.  Al’s family was Italian and they always had big lunches with pasta and sandwiches.  They fed everybody who was working worked in the garage, paid or not; and anyone who just stopped by to say hello.  I headed down to the swimming pool and see if any kids were there.  They were pretty good about letting us swim for free if we behaved ourselves and helped some with picking up trash that the tourists threw around.  We could usually count on a hot dog in return for keeping the area clean.

Nobody was at the pool yet so I went around back and climbed over the cyclone fence, and dropped softly down on the patch of grass the sunbathers used.  I sat way back in the corner where the fence met the beige stucco wall of the dressing rooms, where nobody could see me, and felt the sun comfort me with warmth. I prayed the rest of the day would please be better.  I imagined my special time with Elisabeth, down at the creek and eating lunch with her.  Meanwhile I leaned against the stucco, feeling cozy in the warmth of the sun and dozed off.

I jumped awake and stood straight up.  Elisabeth!  It was time because my shadow was getting short, so I walked down to the cottages and knocked on the door of Cottage No. 14.  Nobody answered.  So I knocked a little louder. 

The door opened and a chubby grey-haired old lady wearing a blue dress with white daisies said hello to me.  When I asked for Elisabeth, she said she was sorry, but Elisabeth was ill.  She would be leaving for San Francisco once she woke up.

“Aaah, you must be Mellie?”  She smiled down at me when I nodded my head.  “I’m Miss Anna, Elisabeth’s friend.  I know all about you from Elisabeth, and also from Miss Lilly.  Miss Lilly says you are a very brave and a very smart young lady, did you know that?”  I nodded my head yes. 

“Miss Lilly always tells me that.  She says it is the most important thing I need to remember, that I’m very brave and very smart.”

Miss Anna patted my cheek, “So!  You must wake up each morning with this as your very first thought!  Then when you go to sleep each night you must let it be your last thought.  Do this and you will have a very fine life, Mellie, I promise!”

She leaned down and gave me a little hug and a pat on the head. 

“Now run along now and play with your friends.  I think that Elisabeth will be coming back later in the summer.”

I turned and started to walk away.  Then I stopped and looked back at Miss Anna.  She had a hanky in her hand, was wiping her eyes as she turned around and went back in the cottage.  She closed the door.

I ran down Washington Street and took the path down to the creek, and waded in waist deep water out to the logs under the bridge, where the turtle family lived.  I climbed out of the water and hid in the pilings listening to frogs croaking and the sizzle of tires on the bridge above me.  I wiped tears from my cheek as I hoped that everything would be okay when the sun went down and I went home.

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Blabbin’ da Book Part I

Over the past two years of blogging on three different sites I worked up a few chapters into a memoir. According to persons more experienced, I should blog my book, as a memoir.  According to other writers, instructors, editors (as well as my personal not-yet-for-profit Copy Editor) I’m working my writing: I have “voice”.

For decades it has made me feel uncomfortable to go public with what I want to say.  Yesterday I read in an article on writing that when we finally set ourselves to do something, we either keep it secret or we never stop talking and doing that something.   I’m ready to blab.

I shook down the content of my past and finally got a feel for how it brought me to the life I am in, the one I believed in, and eventually created.  I like my journey.  I am happy with me remaining a works in progress, hopefully to my last breath.

As a child I annoyed my mother by saying “I just can’t wait!” and her weary reply was “You are just wishing your life away, Miss Priss.”  

As I move on down the line of life, gaining new “retrospectives”, then this is indeed the larger, juiciest part, I think.  It’s about gaining new perspectives;  releasing others.

My early years, were fairly ghastly until the day I threw my mother across the room.  I was sixteen and I don’t remember what set her off, other than something to do with my sassy mouth, and for the last time she laid her hands on me. 

Mom broke a thick wooden coat hanger over my head, and with blood spurting from my scalp I lifted her up by the elbows and sent her flying across the room.   We had our “special bonding moment” with my stunned mother sprawled in the armchair staring at the blood streaming down my face.  Did she tend to my wound?  Probably.  Mom always showed a remarkably generous and tender side when nursing Bill, me, neighbors or friends when we were down with a flu or other condition.  She had a wonderful way with her hands.  Her touch was gentle, warm and healing.

Mom finally respected me and we became friends, and once we became friends, a playful little bratty part of me appeared, one that others have commented on and seem to enjoy:  I began to sneak up behind my mother when she was least expecting and gave her a big hug.  Her body always stiffened, like I was hugging a telephone pole.  

I hoped against hope to  feel relaxation in her body, some warmth, some pleasure.  It never happened.  So I just kissed her on the cheek and “let her go”.   As soon as I broke touch with her she giggled and blushed like a delighted two year old.

So I ask, dear reader, dear copy editor, can that into a useful book?  Can I format broken histories without making my readers think “Okay, we get it, Would-Be Author, we see you as a survivor, and we will believe you, molestations, hardship, violence and all!  It makes a sorry sense that when your Mom found out about the pre-teen sexual abuse, she beat you not only with the belt, but perhaps more with her own feelings of failure.”

Well, I have never been hesitant to follow hunches and my hunch is telling me I have bits of information to share, methods to pass along regarding learning to live with the kind of wounds that won’t disappear.  My wounds no longer obstruct my life, in fact they remain present and real as information now, neither good nor bad, but a permanent part of me, showing up only as just another memory.

When I started my Genealogical Safari I had no awareness of living family with the exception of  an 87 year old half brother I’d met when I was about 23 and a couple of half-nephews my age.  We send Christmas Cards every year without fail. 

Minutes into my initial genealogical searching I “found family’ on both maternal and paternal sides’ right here in Northern California, a few of which were within hollerin’ distance.   An hour later I discovered a Family Tree with my name in it.

That piece floored me.  It was difficult to grasp that somebody knew we all existed:  me, my brother, our parents.  I wondered uneasily if my parents ever knew  of them.  The family tree took me immediately back to our first paternal Scot-Irish Immigrant, who arrived in Pennsylvania around 1720, Revolutionary Soldiers and all that. 

During the first two years I unearthed stories of my parents lives, and their ancestors lives in census, newspaper articles and in obituaries. I learned how  both Mom and Dad felt their parents deserted them, abandoned them. 

It’s a fact that Dad, abandoned by his natural father, lived only occasionally with his natural mother; a sadder fact that Mom was sent to be reared by maternal grandparents around the age of thirteen months.  And, she had an older brother I hadn’t known about who was sent to the paternal grandparents when he was just two.

Lost Children always find each other. The shame is that in their neediness they didn’t know what to do with or for each other.  My parents had no way of passing nurturing love on down to little kids.

Sometimes I hear thuds and shouts in the middle of the night, see the flashing lights of a squad car.  Their relationship was all about who wasn’t staying in the guidelines of the other partner’s idea of “What You Would Do if You Really Truly Loved Me!”

I’ve reared two children of my own, imperfectly, but always lovingly.  I wish I could have raised my own dear, deceased, middle-aged-kid-parents.

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