Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Self-Portrait Tuesday--Introduce Yourself
Who said you can't go home again! Here am I rocking on the front porch of Thomas Wolfe's home in Asheville, NC. I went back once to look for my old home in the California Mojave desert one summer, with my mother. We laughed all the way to the airport, ate peanuts and drank Cokes on the jet. The day we drove out there the desert was hot. Most of the wildflowers were gone. The town is still there, but our house was gone. Vanished. Where it should have been was a small square foundation, a lizard, a few weeds. Vanished. Like Grandpa and Nannie, and Nannie's yellow cat called "Pinky." Like my brother's black dog Sparky. Like Daddy. And Mama. Daddy was a miner. Mama said my father was always one shovelful away from the glory hole that would've made us rich.
OK. So, maybe you can't go home again. But words are magic! In 1939, Mother's Day came on a Sunday, May 14th. I was born the day after. They said Daddy leaped the fence like an Olympic hurdler to tell my Nannie and Grandpa, "It's a girl!" The newspaper headlines that day announced that Premier Mussolini gave his views on the question of war in Europe: "There are not enough problems big enough...to justify a war," he said. So, he was wrong. That day Bob Feller, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, saw his mother in the stands hit by a stray ball. Sophie Tucker, Katherine Cornell, Tallulah Bankhead, and Katherine Hepburn played on Broadway the night I was born. I was a shy kid. I told my husband I spent my childhood reading Plato and Aristotle. I lied. I wasted a lot of time under the fig tree in our back yard floating ants on boats made of leaves. I practiced flying off the swings, sure that if I wished hard enough and kept practicing, one day I would take off like a bird, and never come back.
I decided I'd be an artist. I majored in art all thru High School. Then I decided I'd be a great actress (like Katherine Hepburn), and went to the Pasadena Playhouse. I spent about a year travelling with a road repertory company, and we played seven different shows across the U.S. and Canada. I did mostly little girls and old ladies. I got tired of living in hotels and suitcases, so I left the road and enrolled at the University of Utah. My dearest friend decided I was going to wind up an old maid because I hardly ever went out. I spent much of my time in the music library listening to Palestrina Masses. At any rate, I graduated in '64 with BFA and got married a couple of weeks later. And had five sons. And no money. I survived that. I survived melanoma, and wrote a book about it, called CHRYSALIS (out-of-print now, but several copies are still floating around on Amazon.com). I taught writing for several years, had a poetry textbook and a book of poetry published, IN WILLY'S HOUSE. I love to write, but have kind of gotten out of the habit. Maybe this will inspire me again.
Now that I am--almost--sixty-seven, and closing in on an ending that may be a beginning, or a continuation, I know that it's all about change. Susan Griffin, in "A Chorus of Stones," says: The body remembers who we are supposed to be. And in this there is grief.
I think sometimes I am supposed to be about four, read to, sung to, rocked to sleep in the wicker rocker on our vanished front porch, wearing my small thin body, without this unfamiliar heaviness, these strange wrinkles, this loose flesh. Last night I dreamed I was in my Grandmother's house. My mother was there. I was ecstatic. My father came past the window and looked in, and then came into the room where we were all gathered. I threw my arms around him and gave him a kiss. Then the dog woke me up wanting to go outside.
H.G. Wells said that "Man must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment of his life is a miracle and a mystery." My life so far has been a miracle and a mystery. As all of our lives are. Isn't it grand! Almost like going home.