Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Since last Tuesday I have been over scheduling and my body is paying for it. I ache everywhere. On Thursday painters were coming to repaint the ceiling. The interior of the little house is basically a square and the ceiling is basically the inside of a pyramid with two porthole skylights. On the west facing side is a large round glass skylight and on the west facing side is a small recessed glass skylight. When the roof was replaced a year and a half ago, the roofers left a tiny pin prick hole at the base of the larger of the two skylights. So the slow seep from that hole left a line on the inside of the steeply sloping panel of the west side.
The owner of the roofing company came by to check out the damage and then we scheduled the painting of one of the four sides of the ceiling. (Now the other three are slightly less brightly white). At the base of that portion of the ceiling is a camel colored wall that is twenty feet long. Against that wall was a a lot of art work and one very valuable single piece of hand crafted Stickley furniture--a hall chair, tall backed with a beveled mirror top center of the back and hooks on either side. The chair seat lifts up and could contain a chamber pot. But I keep winter hats and gloves in it. In the Winter I use it for coats, scarves and hats, as well as tucking winter boots under it. I have kept it in the little house for sentimental reasons, but it's too crowded in here as it is, and there is no way to appreciate its beauty when it's hidden under coats and dripping scarves. So I finally got smart enough to let Ms M use it in the main house. She has always coveted it anyway. Now it's back where it looks best. But it is oddly heavy. So I started the moving with that piece of furniture.
My two favorite book cases are also on that wall filled with a few hundred of my favorite books. The taller of the two book cases has a glass door with a lock. But I wanted to turn the glass to the wall to protect it from accidental bumping. And in order to turn it, I had to empty it and move all the books into the greenhouse. The other bookcase is also glass fronted but can be moved in four pieces. As one solid piece of furniture I would not be able to turn it. So I remove the top--a lovely lid of oak, and then empty the top glass fronted piece of its books move them to the greenhouse and lift that section and move it to the greenhouse. And so on. I have no idea how many pounds of books I moved on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Wednesday I had to move my two ton couch. I wanted to get the Persian rugs up and out of the room. This involved a lot of vacuuming and the lifting furniture to uncover every inch of rug. I stacked all the rugs, rolled them up together and leaned the round tower of rugs against a corner of the greenhouse. Now the greenhouse is completely filled. There are more books than I can pack into the space in the greenhouse so I start putting them on the couch. And once all this is done, I have to drape most everything with plastic, including the red leather club chair I got from my grandfather's office in the Judge building. It was built locally in the 1920's by a local furniture company. It's the only thing I own from my father's side of the family. I move it and drape it.
It's tricky, but I manage to move the TV to my bedside chest of drawers. I have to tent it in plastic, but I cannot go an entire day with no TV. It's on MSNBC all day and I'm taping news programs I can't watch all at the same time. Then there is Cyrus, who thinks the space between my bed and the closet is a fancy kennel. He has a very large dog bed and another smaller round dog bed rolled up as a barricading pillow. He's fine with the guys, but the taping of plastic on the walls to protect the camel colored wall beneath the ceiling unnerves him a little. A portion of my bed is draped in plastic.
I had a great time with the two hispanic painters. Omar is the crew boss for the roofers and the fix-up boss for repairs. I thought Omar would be alone on Thursday but he has a helper named Ricardo. They are careful taping and draping. While they work I'm watching Hillary in Mexico talk about the drug wars. She talks about our responsibility for this war--our insatiable apatite for drugs, and our assault weapons going to the drug cartels. So now I want to talk to the Mexicans who are working in my house. It is a fascinating conversation. What would have been a couple of hours work max, turns into four plus. I especially like the new guy, Ricardo. And in talking with him I discover that he is a handyman. I ask him what he can fix. His answer is "everything." I like him even more. And he's so obviously smart. He's thirty one or two and very nice looking. His manners are lovely as is his English. By the time they're through I have his phone number. I have many things that need fixing between this house and the main house.
After the guys are gone, I have a large expanse of painted concrete floor and it needs mopping. So the mopping begins. Once dried, I shift furniture from the north side of the house to the west side of the house. Oh my aching back. I know from past experience with a year of sciatica, that I'm getting close to doing more serious damage to my lower back. Two things are verboten for those with sciatica or even a propensity for sciatica--vacuuming and mopping. Once the floor is dry I begin the rearranging of my big room. And back come the books, now in need of alphabetizing by author's last name. There is nothing worse than wanting to find a book and not being able to locate it. Well obviously that's a bit of hyperbole, but you librarians know what I mean.
And so it goes with the rehanging of paintings, the rearranging of furniture, the filling of the two big bookcases. I'm exhausted just writing about it.
Friday I start preparing for dinner with L. And you know all about that. I do one nice thing and seem to have to negate it with nit picking about literature. What the fuck is wrong with me?
Saturday, I am nearly paralyzed with muscle pain and fatigue and too much guilt. Do I call him and apologize? No. I do not. Why? I'm not sure. At least I didn't poison him.
Sunday I'm worse than exhausted. Due to the Warfarin I take to keep my blood from being too thick and therefore too clotty, I'm covered in bruises.
Monday I get a call from the owner of the roofing country. He says Ricardo wants to paint the other three sides of the ceiling. I say I can't spend money on anything until I finish paying my property taxes. He says, "He's making you an offer you can't refuse. Can I put him on? " "Sure, why not?" Turns out he likes my company and wants to be my handyman. But first he plans to paint the other three sides of the ceiling for free. Can't beat that. But I will pay him something. It won't be what he's worth, but it will be more than he planned on getting. Is it me or is it the glimpse of Ms M, when she came home from school on Thursday? It is Ms M. And if he hopes to court Ms M, he will need my advise. And only I know how long he will have to work here before they can first become respectful friends. It may take a decade for her to find out he is the love of her life, or not. But I will enjoy the story no matter how it turns out, and now I have a handyman. And he has a fantasy future grandmother-in-law to talk politics with.
Tomorrow I had a doctor appointment, vet visit for Cyrus, and the belated birthday date with Nick. I rescheduled the doctor appointment, but Cyrus is almost out of pain meds and needs to have blood drawn for another liver check. And Nick will wait until we're through here. Then it's lunch in a nice restaurant and the movie of his choice.
The next round of painting starts Friday, mid-morning. Thank god I only have twenty cook books or so.
Monday, March 30, 2009
In my humble opinion the CEO's and other top executives of every financial institution in need of public tax payer money should be asked to resign without compensation. Do not start at the bottom and start cutting salaries. Since when were the workers responsible for the direction a company takes and for all the bad mistakes it's made over the last eight or ten or thirty years? No, it's the rot at the top that got us here. And nothing Rush or Bill O, or Coultergist or Rupert or any right wing politician says can make that come out differently. But what really baffles me is the oodles of time they're given to make that case on any network news show on any channel other than Fox. Why must we always give the Republicans and their right wing operatives the time of day to frame that failed argument? They have the entire Murdock empire to do that.
And what do we expect President Obama to have done by now to fix it all? How many days has he been in office? How hard has he worked? Seems to me it's night and day. He is reaching out to us, he is taking questions and making an effort to inform us directly about what he's doing. He is taking questions from us. I know how much that must piss off all the pundits, but I like it.
What I don't like is to read the same kind of criticism from the progressive bloggers out there. Patience people, please. Yes, I'd like him to legalize pot. But I'm not yet ready to crucify him because he has more pressing problems to deal with in this first six months. Maybe next year.
In the meantime I'm getting depressed. I may take a day or two or three off. I have been avoiding the political because there is just too much of it to focus on one thing. So I talk about the personal instead. I'm always paying attention to the political. Obama laughs at the overwhelming number of crisis situations he's dealing with on a daily basis, and the pundits fall all over themselves criticizing him for the inappropriate laughter. Oh get a grip you morons. If he can't laugh now and then when the sky is falling, then the rest of us just might as well kill ourselves now, and get it over with.
My mother was many things. She was foul mouthed and confrontational. But of course she kept her abuse of me a secret from her friends. To her friends she claimed to love me, but was baffled at what a mess I'd made of my life. To my mother's friends I was a fuck-up and her cross to bear. To her friends she was a fabulous creature. She was beautiful and fierce. She was a pioneering feminist. She was unafraid of power and willing to stand and face the powerful and in a full throated blast call the powerful out as the frauds she believed them to be. She started the Utah Chapter of the National Organization for Women. She started the Utah Chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus. She won awards for her contributions on behalf of women. She was fearless and shocking in her confrontations with Utah politicians running for state or national office. She was a fierce advocate and champion for the Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution. What she could not see was that I was a woman too.
Though I was proud of her stature, and supported her causes, I kept my distance. She was on the board of directors of the ACLU. I was always a supporter of the ACLU, but avoided the board meetings, and tried to keep out of her way, which made me seem like a woman without a strong commitment to social justice and civil rights. Some of her friends tried to befriend me, but from past experience, I knew that my mother would see that as competition and betrayal, so I kept my distance.
It's easy to admire a parent with such stature, but hard to love one who claimed to have never had a maternal feeling and believed the concept of maternal instinct to be one more oppressive way men kept women down. I knew too well the way a child feels to hear her mother claim to feel no maternal feeling. It is devastating. It makes you feel profoundly unlovable, for if your own mother never loved you the way a mother loves her child, you feel responsible and internalize her assessment that you are not a child worth loving.
My mother always had me call her Maggy. To her the word mother was a diminishment, an insult. So she was always Maggy to me. And with my close friends, especially the friends I grew up with, she was a cold and dismissive bitch or she was competitive with them as well as me.
You would think my history with a mother I thought of as a political powerhouse and a bitch I'd do almost anything to avoid, would make me a sweet and gentle woman, uninterested in the political. But it hasn't. There are moments I fear I've been possessed by her malignant spirit. I am not gentle, nor sweet. I am not soft, I'm fierce. I do not treat the few men in my life well, though I'm glad I know a man or two who still speak to me, but I don't think I really deserve their attention.
I looked forward to L's visit and worked hard enough the week before to make every muscle and joint sore from the exertion. It was important to me to feed him a nice meal. He is a man who had a friendship with Maggy independent of his relationship with me. I think I still hold that against him a little. But one on one, I'm truly not much gentler or kinder or nicer than Maggy. My mother was competitive. Well so am I. My only saving grace was that I did not have children.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
We're having a blizzard. I just took Cyrus out for his morning pee and we have about 2 inches thus far and it's sticking. My car is covered, the cafe table in front of the greenhouse has a couple of inches on it. Yesterday was warmish and sunny. Today the snow is falling fast enough to cover the green that's emerging. The buds on the pear tree are white with snow. I hate this shit.
L and I had a lovely evening, but I fear my bulldozer approach to conversation leaves much to be desired for a man of his scholarly disposition. He is a philosophy professor, retired but still teaching a couple of classes a year. He loves teaching and will probably keep teaching until he dies. But I'm nobody's student. I've read as much or more than he, and we don't value the same writers in the same way. He teaches literature as philosophy. If I were a student of his, I would be one very argumentative and opinionated student, challenging his taste and conclusions at every turn. I don't think he enjoys this much, this intellectual bully I've become. And I realize as I write this, that, like a younger sister, I am always pushing back, always trying to prove myself his intellectual equal. We disagree about one of the writers he teaches, Penelope Lively. "I think her prose is thin and her characters a bit boring." I realize when I said that, I was poking him with the sharp stick of my many years of glutenous reading. Why? Why do I do that? He is a lovely man--kind, sweet, warm. Why am I so competitive with him? Odd that even when I was twelve and he was almost sixteen we were intellectually competitive. It was important to me even then that he know I was no light weight in the reading department. I had read Lolita, he hadn't. One up for me. He had read Thomas Hardy, I had not. On up for him. Let the battle of the minds begin. And yet I do still love him. I always have and I always will.
I did find out one thing about his "new" wife that made me think I would like her--she's a fan of fart humor.
And I did not poison him with my cooking. The meal was delicious. But I'm pretty sure I spent my sleeping hours farting. I wonder if Cyrus, my old dog, notices.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
I am wrong about a lot of things. But still I persist in telling you how I feel. These are merely my observations and opinions, clouded by long experience, and my own skewed view point. Still, I knew his last wife and loved her. It really pissed me off when they got divorced. It was her choice, but still, since I am female, I assume he had something to do with letting her get away. He's a good man, a smart man, an interesting man. I have always loved him, but more like a little sister grown old who is fierce in needing some attention to the first man she fell in love with. I was only 12. He was almost 16. We were babies. And we never had intercourse or even really tried. Though we had plenty of touching and tasting and feeling.
He came to my sixteenth birthday party and I asked him for one thing. One thing that wouldn't cost him anything. I wanted him to have sex with me for my birthday. He gave me a Nat King Cole album. Unforgettable, was one of the songs. It was after that I asked Cal for the same gift. It seemed for a long time like getting deflowered by a boy was out of reach for me.
So, Larry is coming to dinner. I'm fixing stuffed roast chicken, steamed asparagus, cole slaw, cantaloupe, and cocktails --not exactly in that order. I have chocolate from France and chocolate ice cream. If all else fails I have peach pie. And we have much to talk about. We haven't seen each other face to face in so many years I've lost track.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Your result for True Colors Test - A Self Inventory...
NT - Scholar (Green)
Congratulations! You are the SCHOLAR.
First, the bad news. On any given bad day you're most likely to be perceived as cold, arrogant, know-it-all. At times you are closed off and independent, seemingly absentminded, and have probably been told that you've got your head in the clouds. You get lost in thought easily, and sometimes you leave people back on Earth when you go off on a reverie. All of this means that you can come off as aloof and unappreciative of other peoples opinions. You know better, you're probably just smarter than them.
Now that we've got that out of the way, on to the good news. You are a critical thinker and an innovator. A lifetime learner, your passion and thirst for knowledge will entertain you throughout your lifetime. You are the "ideas" person that people come to for solutions. To hell with implementing the ideas, you'll leave that for someone else to figure out. In the meantime, you're probably always eager to share solutions and wisdom with those who seek it. You're good at being alone, and probably need alone time periodically to recharge and just be in your head. You're a visionary, mentally tough, analytical and capable of meting out judgment. You are highly knowledgeable and people seek that out in you. Try not to let that get to your head.
- Calm and patient
- Sees the big picture
- Insightful and intellectual
- Can never know enough
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
The big Ape thinks of me now and then. I can die happy now knowing that. Yes I know I am a blog slut, but it's very safe sex because it's all in my mind. Okay, here goes.
1. I should be writing a book about the farting behavior of Americans. It's very strange. I'm not willing to give you details here, since you might try to scoop me, snigger, snigger.
(Well, one little tidbit). There is a huge Asian market for women farting. Honest to god, it's true. I know this because on one of Tom's overly long visits, he spent a great deal of time looking at either "Natural and Hairy Eastern European Naked Women" or Asian women farting. I thought the farting site was hilarious. I could laugh endlessly knowing that guys were getting off on the sound and sight of mooning farting Japanese women, probably due to a cultural tabu that keeps most women from ever farting in, say, Japan, for instance. Ring any bells with any of you repressed American women? Did you know that we all fart in our sleep? That should make you cringe if you are so repressed that farting is not part of the fun of your animal life. This is a bit horrifying, but in looking for fart sites, Utah Savage is right up there on top of the fart sites for Google.
2. I have trouble reading when I'm working on my own writing. But I am gluttonously, obscenely well read. There have been so many prolonged periods when I did nothing else but read, as if it were my job. I used to complain that there should be a professional career path for the obsessive reader. And I'm a literary snob. I admit it. There are certain writers I will not read unless I absolutely must. Like Stephen King, for instance. I hate his writing. I once had a small part in The Stand. I had to read that one. It was gawd awful.
3. The Unconventional Conventionist and I have a close personal relationship and we sometimes talk on the phone for hours. He was my first real blog crush. What do we talk about? I'll never tell.
4. My first boyfriend and I are still close. I was twelve and he was almost sixteen when I fell in love with him. We never had sex. He is coming to Salt Lake soon, like maybe this week end and we will see each other. Last time I saw him was just before I moved back to Salt Lake from Santa Barbara. I drove to Portland to see him. I stayed with him and my favorite of his wives. He and I played backgammon for hours. I was on a winning streak. He considers himself a very good player and continued to tell me that my last move was a mistake even though I was four or five games ahead of him. I went off on him. I though his insistence that I was not as skilled a player as he was terribly arrogant and condescending. Then I spent the next day and a half sobbing and unable to talk about why. It was a kind of epic grief and I haven't quite lived down the embarrassment of not being able to stop crying or explain why.
5. I worked for a professional gambler when I was putting the third husband through graduate school. The professional gambler was the one who taught me to play backgammon. I'm a pretty good player. Not great, but pretty good. Take that Larry.
6. I've mentioned this in passing, but I have a girlfriend who grew up in a Polygamist family. So I know details about the polygamists portrayed in the HBO Special Big Love which is based on the Colorado City group and it's Prophet, Warren Jeffs. Some of the shit they believe is hilarious. It's material for me, so I'm not talking about details now. Oh the hilarity of it all. And the generational cost, psychologically speaking. It is rich material. Magic underpants is the least of it.
So I now tag 1. Lady F, 2. Wee Mousie, 3. MRMacrum, 4. TheMom, 5. Bubs, 6. Sunshine
I'm thinking MRMacrum is a teacher, or university professor. I know he's a damn fine writer, but the quality and detail of his efforts on my behalf are extraordinary. And so far I haven't found a suggestion or correction I'm not taking. What he's given me is a very carefully detailed map to every problem in those first three chapters and the solution to fixing the problem. Thank you MRMacrum. Now I have a mad blog crush on you. I hope this doesn't embarrass you. I know you're married, and a lucky woman she is. So I won't travel to Main to track you down. But I can't imagine how much time this took you. Not only did he give me a map to fixing what's wrong, make great suggestions, and correct my shitty punctuation, he did it so carefully, so meticulously, I will simply follow his directions.
It is my belief that every writer of long fiction needs an editor. If you are good enough or lucky enough to publish something that leads to publication of your novel, the publisher assigns an editor to you. It least that's how it used to be. I have a friend who has published two books, and the minute her manuscript was accepted, she was assigned an editor. Such luxury. However, I can't imagine a better editor anywhere than MRMacrum.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Thanks Ghost, MySpace won't have me. I hope this is better.
Monday, March 23, 2009
I was a lover of Henry Miller's writing and didn't know the man painted until I was in my forties and living in Santa Barbara. My mother was the companion to a very wealthy and intersting woman who was an artist herself and a patron of the visual arts. Her name was Aida Siff. She was a remarkable woman. And through Aida, my mother met Henry Miller's last wife. I met her too, but only briefly. She was a very attractive woman in her sixties or seventies when I met her, and though I don't remember her first name, or even if she remarried, her fame was that she was Henry Miller's last wife. She had a great many of his original paintings, and gave my mother a collection of small reproductions of Henry's paintings. My mother was never a fan of Henry Miller, "that old misogynist," but she knew I was, so she gave me the prints. I never thought of Henry Miller as a misogynist, but I did think Norman Mailer was and not only that, he was a really shitty writer. I mention the two men in the same sentence because that's the way I read them. I must have been plowing through the M's or something. But Henry Miller led me to Anais Nin, where as Norman Mailer led me no place at all. (At least no place I remember). Henry Miller took me to Paris and a lot of other great writers. Henry Miller was a real artist. Norman Mailer was a bully and like all bullies, he probably had a tiny dick.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I used to have this problem with myself. I do not eat if I'm not hungry. So that gives me clues about the food thing. But the pill thing is always the same. I take the same pills or thereabouts at roughly the same time every day morning and night. And sometimes I think I took them but might not have. It is a mindless routine. Finally I had to start putting them in pill minders for a week at a time. Now I can know for sure if I took them or not. Sometimes I still forget to take them. I will eventually discover the error. But I never double dose myself like I used to. I have no daily pill dispenser with morning and evening measured out for Cyrus. Am I finally losing it? Do I even deserve to have a dog? So in guilt I fed him just in case. But I might have dosed him twice. That's bad. And in guilt I probably won't tell the House Call Vet.
I've taken some very good advise on the first chapter edit from MRMacrum, a very fine writer and generous reader/editor.
La Belette Rouge reminded me that the "show don't tell" rule is a good one to follow. So all history of how this family came to be has been cut from chapter 2. I now begin it with the rape of the child, Judy.
Chapter 3 is very short and is the scene in which the Maggy takes Judy in the middle of the night and runs for it. So far, there have been no edits on chapter 3
Friday, March 20, 2009
Gifts from Maggy
Lucy, my dog, sprawls across my bed and I'm nearly swallowed by a small mountain of down pillows. I'm waking up, sipping my second mug of espresso with two tablespoons of sugar and hot milk and having my first bong hit of the day. Not exactly the breakfast of champions but I like it. The Young and the Restless is on TV and Nick Newman is thinking of sleeping with his slutty secretary, Grace, when Lucy springs up.
She comes to full alert all at once, from a snoozing dog to a tall standing, hackles up, silent attack dog. There's a slight rocking of the bed and the delicate tinkle of her various dog tags. I lean over and look out the second story window of my bedroom to the yard, sidewalk, and street below. Nothing. No dog walking by, no mailman, car, or pedestrian. Then, before I settle back into the pillows and take my second bong hit, I hear the unmistakable sound of the UPS truck's slight screech as it rounds the corner and pulls to a stop in front of the house. The minute it rounds the corner, Lucy is off the bed, down the stairs, at the door and waiting when the UPS guy hits the porch. The second his hand touches the screen door she barks once--deep, loud and with authority. He still has to open the screen door, cross an enclosed porch, ring the bell, and all the time Lucy growls and barks ferociously. It's the confident barking of a very competent watchdog. Both participants know this ritual. She acts tough. He believes her, drops his package, hits the bell, and runs like hell. It's always the same.
I have a cold that's gone bad. I dial my doctor's office and get a busy signal. Hit off. Redial. A commercial comes on and I go down to retrieve the box. It's a big one. I heft it to my hip and grab a knife from the kitchen on the way back upstairs.
I know the package is from Maggy. She sends at least two a month. Thanks to Maggy, Lucy and the UPS guy get to play their ritualized game. Now I have to play the same sort of game with Maggy--different rules, different players, but no less ritualized. After I open the package and sort through the treasures I will have to call her and comment on each piece with interest and enthusiasm, but most importantly my gratitude will have to sound real to her finely tuned ear. I have the rest of the day to prepare my remarks. I'll definitely bathe and change clothes today.
Today's boxes are better than most. These are her rejects from this past weekend's garage sale purchases. It's her obsession. There are five cashmere sweaters. I probably have fifty or sixty cashmere sweaters. I keep the best and pass on the rest of them to friends. This box also contains a pair of Gianni Versace beige suede pants, size 4 (I'm currently an 8 but one of my model friends will be able to wear them) a beaver top hat, some glitzy clip-on earrings, and two pairs of shoes size 7 1⁄2, (her size, not mine). The top hat is my favorite item in this box. I can work up some genuine enthusiasm over a beaver top hat. Who knows, I might want to dress-up like Marlene Dietrich some night.
She's always had the power to wipe me out--mistress as she is of the eviscerating tongue-lash. I know she's just an old woman, opinionated and imperious, alone and hardly much of a threat to me, really. Without me she has no single, aging daughter. Without me she’ll have no one to take care of her when she can't take care of herself. Because of her I have no child of any sex to love me or hate me. Without her I'm home free.
A lifetime of expensive psychotherapy has taught me I can give her the power to hurt me, or not. All the rationality in the world can't make me not fear her, though I still wish it were so simple, since it's hard to love someone you fear. And I do love her. I love her most satisfactorily at a distance. The greater the distance, the more I love her. Once or twice a year I wish her dead with about as much success as I wish I could love her in an uncomplicated way. Not painfully dead, but dead nonetheless.
I'd like to outlive her long enough to know what it is to be free of the need to suppress my rage and be nice, bite my tongue, keep my feelings to myself. I’m so tired of being told I stink and I talk too loud. She has always expected me to share her passions and her prejudices. (She hates fat people and feels entitled to berate them for their food choices in line at the grocery store, while I try to pretend I don't know her.) In person, she requires my undivided, adoring attention. If I don't get that just right it ends in her extravagant crocodile tears and recriminations. I must endure her long rambling critique of everything wrong with me--from my fiscal irresponsibility to my poor housekeeping skills. When I object, whatever the tone of my voice, she says, "Please don't yell, your voice hurts my ears." It's often the only thing she says, but waiting, in case I open my mouth and suck in air, as if to speak, there is the next thrust, "Why must we always talk about the past? You'll never be a grown-up if you can't stop living in the past. Get over it. Move on."
Last time she came to Salt Lake to visit me, my first impulse was to kill myself. Instead I called the therapist I keep in touch with for just such emergencies. It cost four hundred dollars in therapy sessions, canceled bookings (and a pissed off agent), doctor's visits and a new anti-depressant. I spent a month in bed recovering after she left. Usually I can anticipate her impulse to drop in on me and beat her to the draw by scheduling a short visit to Santa Barbara. I can stay in Yankee Farm with my friend Jack.
I'm not proud of this pathetic fear of my own mother; it's such a loathsome admission, and not entirely the truth. What I feel for Maggy has never been simple fear and it's certainly not uncomplicated. Maggy has never been just my mother. We've been rivals since my conception. I worship and fear her as only a powerless rival can. To most people she's a fabulous creature. She was to me too before I got to know her.
In the Beginning
It had to be a weekend day because Maggy was home. The boys had come and gone during the morning and early afternoon. It was warm enough that I was wearing a short-sleeved dress. It was before my fourth birthday. I was playing on the front porch when a man came up the stairs and rang the doorbell. The door was open but the screen was closed. Maggy yelled from the kitchen, "Come on in, the door's open."
He was looking at me and smiling. "Hi. Remember me? I'm a friend of your big brother's. My name’s Clark, remember? I used to live up the street with my family, remember? What's your name? I forgot."
Maggy had come to the screen and was listening to him. "Clark, how are you? I heard you enlisted in the Air Force. How're you liking it?"
"Fine, just fine, Ma'am. Is J.R. around? I've got a couple of days in town to visit family, and then who knows where?"
"J.R. should be back any minute. I was just going to run to the market, would you mind watching Judy while you wait for J.R.? I won't be long." She turned to me. "You remember Clark, don't you? I'll be right back."
"Can I go?"
"No, you slow me down."
"I can carry."
"No you can't. I'll just have to end up carrying you. Stop this! Clark will stay with you until J.R. gets home and besides I won't be gone more than a half an hour. That's nothing."
Clark looked at me and said, "I can do magic tricks." He kneeled down and looked over his shoulder at Maggy as she started down the steps. I watched her, too. Her hair was in a ponytail, and she wore a white sleeveless blouse. She had a small white purse in her hand. She didn't look back.
Then he stood up and walked to the southeast corner of the porch. He leaned against the stone and concrete pillar supporting the roof and said. "Wanna see something?"
I backed up toward the house and leaned against its river-stone wall and rolled from shoulder to shoulder feeling the bumpy surface. I stuck my thumb in my mouth and stared at him.
"I've got a surprise in my pocket and if you can reach it, it's all yours."
"You'll have to reach in to find out."
I looked from his pants pocket to his face. He was smiling and his arms were spread wide, palms turned up. He whistled tunelessly and looked around. He shrugged his shoulders and looked down from pocket to pocket.
I inched my way around the porch from the front window to the east side of the house, edging closer until I faced him in the corner. I reached my hand up but could barely grab hold of his pocket with my fingers.
He said, "Here, let me give you a boost." He put his hands around my waist and slid me up his leg until I could slip my arm down into the depths of his pocket. I felt around. There was a crusty wadded up hankie, a piece of paper, and a coin. I closed my fingers on the coin and pulled out my fist. He said, "Let's see what you got," and set me down. I opened my hand and found a coin smaller than a penny and a few bits of lint. The coin was shiny and silver. I looked up and said, "It's not a penny."
"No, it's better than a penny, it's worth ten pennies."
"I want a penny."
"I've got something else that's better than a penny."
"It's a little animal."
"Better than a kitty. Come on and I'll show you."
I took a couple of steps toward him and he reached out and pulled me closer. Then he picked me up and moved a little to the right until his butt was resting on the ledge, one foot on the floor and the other dangling. He sat me on his lap and held me with his right arm. With his left hand he stroked his left leg, high up on the thigh. A bump wiggled there. He said, "That's my little animal, wanna touch it?"
I shook my head no.
He said, "Look, I can make it jump. He ran the flat of his hand down the length of it and it jumped.
I leaned back in his right arm and laughed.
He said, "It won't hurt you. Honestly, you can touch it. Here, I'll put you down. You get right in front of me and reach up. It won't bite."
He gently slid me down so that I was positioned right in front of him. That lumpy, jumpy animal was above my face. He said, "Go ahead and touch it."
I reached out my finger and poked it gently. Nothing happened. "Why don't you try petting it like you would a kitty?"
I patted it softly and it jumped. I pulled my hand back and he said, "That's okay, you can pet it, he likes that." So I reached up and rubbed it. It moved again and it was warm. He said. "Wanna see it?"
I looked up at his smiling face, his eyebrows raised in anticipation of showing me his animal. I shook my head up and down. He said, "I can't take it out on the porch, I'm afraid it'll run away. Let's go inside." He took me by the hand and led me to the screen door, opened it and gently pushed me in before him.
He told me to lie down on the rug in front of the sofa. Then he kneeled down at my feet and unzipped his pants. He said, "Here, move your legs a little so I can get him closer to you. I don't want him to get lost in here. Now close your eyes. He's shy." He moved forward on his knees, bent down, reached up and pulled my panties down around my ankles where they got hung up on my shoes. He got them off one leg, and then he put something very warm and smooth on my tummy and wiggled it back and forth. I was nervous with my eyes closed, but it didn't hurt. Then he pushed it at my peepee and it hurt. I opened my eyes and said, "Ow, that hurt!" I tried to scoot away from him, but he pulled me toward his animal and tried to push it in my peepee. I screamed, and he put his hand over my mouth and tried to put his animal in my bum. Then the back door screen slammed. And he was running. And the front door screen slammed. And he was gone.
Maggy came into the living room after setting her package on the kitchen table. She said, "Judy, what the hell are you bawling about?"
I was curled up facing the sofa, blubbering. Snot and tears streaked my face. My dress was bunched up under my arms and my panties wadded around one ankle. I just kept sobbing. She came around the sofa, sat down and looked at me for a minute. Then she said, "I know what will make you feel better. We'll go on a picnic at Lindsey Gardens. I'll make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Now put your panties on and come help me. We'll wash your hands and face and you can put the jelly on."
I don't remember fixing sandwiches or walking to Lindsey Gardens, but I do remember having to pee. She said, "Just go over there behind that bush, no one will see you. Don't pee on your shoes."
I don't remember the bush or the picnic blanket, or anything else, but I do remember the burning. There was fire in my pee. I screamed and hobbled over to her, pulling my panties up and crying. She said, "That's what happens when you let boys do things like that. Don't ever let a boy do that to you again!"
I don't think Maggy told anyone about what happened to me. I do remember listening to screaming arguments between Maggy and Chuck about my behavior. I was afraid to be left alone, unless I was securely locked in the upstairs bathroom, and even though I could unlock the door, I wouldn't. Not for anyone. They kept a ladder on the west side of the house and left the bathroom window unlocked, which was too high for me to reach. Then my brothers told me that the Boogieman lived in the toilet. I found another hiding place, and started to wet my bed.
This bad behavior of mine ignited tempers in the adults. I became a problem for everyone. All I wanted to do was hide. But even late at night there was no hiding from fighting. It would simmer at the dinner table until I made some kind of mess. I might drop peas in my lap, or knock over my milk, and my father would swear, shout, and send me from the table. This dinner event would set the tone for the rest of the evening, until finally, exhausted, they all gave up bickering, went to bed, and silence would descend on the house. It was then, in the quiet of the night, with everyone at home, that I felt safe. But it was a rare night when we were all at home together at the same time. Most times JR and Pat went out after dinner.
Things got quiet for a little while after the big boys left. John spent his evenings at home in his room working on airplane models, and I was not allowed to bother him, but I wouldn't have anyway. All the boys had made it clear to me I wasn't welcome in their rooms. They had been mean to me in so many ways; I had long since stopped pestering them for attention. Chuck went out almost every night. His leaving was almost always accompanied by a lot of yelling. And if Maggy went out too, I was, in the core of my small self, alone in the house. John might actually be in the house with me, but even so, I was alone. It scared me so much to be alone in that big house with the boogieman in the toilet, and mean men outside who could just walk in the door and hurt me with their animals any way they wanted to, and it would be my fault.
One night, late, after all the boys had gone to bed, and the house was calm and quiet, Chuck came home and started shouting the minute he opened the front door. He yelled, "Maggy! Get your ass down here and fix me something to eat." In the silence that followed it sounded like everyone was holding their breath. Then he shouted, "Bitch!" And I heard his heavy clomping as he stomped up the stairs. I could hear his voice, but not the words. Then I heard her voice, loud and angry. "Shut up! You'll wake everybody." There was more indistinct shouting and then the sound of scuffling as they progressed down the hall, with curses back and forth. Then the noise of them coming down the stairs--his shoes loud on the hardwood, her voice saying, "No, stop it! You bastard! You're hurting me! Stop it!" Then a crashing sound and he said, "Get up, you stupid bitch!" By the time they entered the kitchen, one thin wall from my bed, I was trembling, thumb jammed into my mouth, eyes shut tight. I could hear her bare feet like little slaps walk to the table, a chair scrape across the floor. I heard him walk to the fridge and the door yanked open, then the sound of one bowl after another hit the floor. I heard breaking glass and a wet, squishy sound as the contents of the fridge were emptied onto the kitchen floor. She would say, "Shit," or "Stop this," but I was sure she was just sitting at the kitchen table smoking, while he dumped everything on the floor. He screamed, "Get up, you fucking bitch," and I heard the chair topple and her knees hit the floor. There were sounds of wrestling on the floor, like something the boys would do. She says, "No" over and over. He calls her names like, "Stupid fucking cow," and "bitch" over and over. Then he shouts, "Clean up this mess you worthless cunt!" and I hear his hard shoes stomp out of the kitchen and across the dinning room and then clomp, clomp, up the stairs, down the hall, and their bedroom door slams.
Then the only sounds are the quiet ones Maggy makes as she runs water in a bucket. The soft grating sounds as she scrapes the gobs of wet food off the floor and slops it in the trash. The soft muffled sound of a cloth swishing back and forth. Water gurgles down the drain. She picks up the chair and sits down. I hear her Zippo click, hear her intake of breath, a pause, her exhale. I hear my own heart beating. If she were not so fierce, I would want to comfort her. I know how to comfort. You put your arms around the one you love and say, "There, there. It'll be okay. I love you." I cannot tell you how I know this. It has never happened in our house.
In the fall of 1948, Maggy found me a nursery school for disturbed children.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The night before we ran away, Daddy came home late, long after I had gone to bed. He slammed the front door when he came in the house. That woke me up, and I listened as he stomped up the stairs to the second floor. He slammed the door to their bedroom so I couldn't hear what he was saying, but it was loud. I must have gone back to sleep because the next thing I knew Maggy was shaking me awake, and telling me to hurry and get up. She told me to get dressed, quick!
She combed my hair hard, yanking tangles out. I didn't say a word. She said, "Run to the living room, get your coat and hat and wait for me. The house was quiet. I stood by the front door with my coat and hat on, elastic tight under my chin, listening. She came from the kitchen, high heels clicking on the hardwood floor, with her coat on, and the strap of her handbag over her arm. She was dressed like everyday, for work. But we were leaving way too early, and we hadn't even eaten breakfast. As she crossed the hardwood floor of the dining room, she slipped and hit the back of a chair with her handbag, which fell with a loud crash in the dark, quiet house. She stood, frozen, slightly bent over as if she was going to reach for the chair and pick it up, but she didn't. I saw him at the top of the stairs. She stopped when she saw my head turn and my eyes look up, and then she ran towards me, opening the door with one hand as she grabbed my arm with the other. She pushed me out onto the porch, and I heard him scream "Bitch!", and a great thumping as he took the stairs in three leaps. She lunged forward to pull the door behind her, but he got there too soon, and grabbed her by the wrist. He yanked her back into the house and slammed the door on her other hand. The keys fell on the porch and I grabbed them.
I could hear him yelling at her "Bitch! You fucking bitch. Where are you sneaking off to, you worthless piece of shit." He must have fallen, or else she pushed him, because she opened the door, and I saw him scrambling to his feet, and she slammed the door, and we ran away.
We ran in the dark, up the sidewalk and across the street and down the hill, so fast that once I fell. I skidded on my hands and knees on the steep slope of E Street. I looked up and saw her ahead of me, then I looked at my palms which were skinned and gritty and starting to bleed. I felt the sharp sting of my knees. She stopped, turned, and said, firmly, "Get up, hurry!" She stretched out her arm and when I reached her, she grabbed my hand and we ran and ran. She kept looking over her shoulder until we got to Sixth Ave. The last thing I remember about that day was leaning against her on a seat in the empty bus. It was just the driver and us. The lights were on inside the bus, and we were going down the Avenues on E. Street in the dark of early dawn.
So give me a little feed back here, please. Before I post those chapters one at a time, I'd like to know how you feel about a collaboration.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I walk around the house listening, and find myself saying, "Lying motherfucker!" or "You stupid shit!" And things like that. I listen carefully and then hear such utter crap out of Mr. Libby's or Liddy's mouth, I say, "You moron! How fucking stupid are you? Who appointed you?" "Which administration?
Did I say I opened the windows today? Oh yes, I could be working outside. I have neighbors who might be able to hear me. I'm going outside to trim mint.
Too late--the words about Geitner catch me and then as I reach for a cigarette on the dresser by the open window, I hear something and shout, "Off with your head Geitner!" There are young children playing in the back yard who can no doubt hear me. I back away from the TV and head outside with the mint trimmers.
In for water, Hardball is in full swing. And he's interviewing Chris Dodd, wo turns out to be the one person who signed off on the AIG Bonus bullshit. At the end of the interview I scream, "Ever hear of Quid Pro Quo you prick, Dodd??!!!? "Pay to Play ring a bell bucko????
Either I've shrugged off yesterdays disappointment or I'm taking it out on my neighbor's kids or the dog walkers in the alley. But all this work and screaming seems quite cathartic. And just might be useful for the kids. The dogs find it interesting and can always tell when I'm screaming at them or the TV. I never scream at them.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Any of you who read the first hundred pages or so of my novel, know that I had a very strange childhood. I won't get into that here, but it did have a big influence on what I read, and my reaction to my reading.
Once past my Dick and Jane reader, I took to the reading life with a passion. I'm not sure how these books found their way into my hands--maybe at my Grandparent's cabin, or while spending boring Sundays at my Grandparent's house. But the first books I remember reading were "children's" books, but probably a bit too advanced for my young skills--this might account for my reading them over and over. First was Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson. I can still work up some tears when I think of that faithful friend and protector. The second of the children's books was The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnen Rawlings.
These two children's books were so emotionally powerful for me that I read them over and over. And it was with my experience of great sobbing emotional catharsis come to by reading that I developed a critical eye to the making of movies from very good books. Neither movie was as good for me as the books. It wasn't satisfying to find my imagination's involvement with characters and place were at odds with the film maker's interpretation of my beloved book. It is a criticism that has only been reinforced over and over. While reading a book, I could escape my own dreadful reality, but savor another's life and experience, hate another's parents. You can see where this is going I'm sure, and I could probably end this right here. But I take these memes very seriously.
It was during one of our last years in small town Oregon, while my dad had his high school teaching misadventures, that I overheard parents talking about two books. They were the play The Children's Hour, and the novel The Bad Seed. Neither book was appropriate for a ten year old, but that never stopped me. My dad had been fired from his first high school teaching job because of something I had said to a girlfriend of mine, which she reported to her older sisters and mother, and I got in a lot of trouble and he got fired.
We spent my 12th Spring and Summer back in Salt Lake living at my grandmother's farm. She had a library there and during that summer I read The Birds and other stories of Daphne du Maurier, and the several of the novels of W Somerset Maugham, and in this time a trend in my reading was established. Read writers, not books.
I read Nabokov's brilliant Great American Novel, Lolita when I was 12. Though this was highly inappropriate, and a book far beyond my childish understanding, I did get it. Oh, I misread a word like loins for lions, but it didn't harm the prose or the meaning for me. We had friends who smuggled the book into the country from France. The book had been banned in Boston, which increased tourist revenue for France, and guaranteed Lolita's success in the good old puritanical USA. And the fact that I heard all the adults in my parent's circle talking about it, made me determined to find the hidden book and read it. I have by now probably read it twenty times.
At twelve I fell for my first big crush. I thought it was a great deal more than just a crush. At twelve I looked at least my 16 year old boy friend's age, so before he knew exactly how old I was, he took me seriously and we traded reading suggestions. He'd read the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy. I caught up fast. Then Dickens. Oh yes, I could relate to Dickens' children. I could relate to Hardy's Bathsheba, and then Tess. I could see myself as Cathy with her doomed and tragic love for Heathcliff. And these books lead to an obsession with literature with a capital L.
Then I began reading as if I were gorging on literature. And I guess I was. I did read so gluttonously that I had always already read the books required in school. I gobbled all the great Southern Writers, from Faulkner to Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers. I found a writer I loved and then read everything I could get my hands on, which often led me to another writer of the era and area. I noticed the major themes, the common local. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, led me to Truman Capote, who led me to Tennessee Williams and so on. You can see how this goes.
Read one great Russian writer, read them all--From Dostoevsky to Bulgakov. France from Sarte, to Celine, to Leduc and Genet and more. I move across the world gobbling writers. It is a wonder I had time to marry, travel, to mate again, to work and earn a living, to take classes whenever I could since I had Proust, and Flaubert, and then Hermann Hesse, and Gunter Grass and Thomas Mann.
Whew! I am now in my late twenties, and though I haven't listed all the authors I'd plowed through by then, I plan to continue this at another time, since we need not know just what one read to get to one's writing style and content, we need to see it develop. But I have the start here, the background, the technique of reading all of one author before moving on. Now I have to take a break or I will go to Cincinnati and throttle Randal Graves.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I Visited DK Read yesterday and found she has become a Super Hero. Border Explorer gave her the link to The Hero Factory.
I always looked down my literary nose at the notion of the Super Hero as literature or any genre writing, for that matter. I read Literature with a capitol L. I hope I write literature. Yes, on this I am a bit of a snob. Despite the previous post, I am a very well read woman. And the comic book has never been on my reading agenda. I saw Barbarella in Italy. I went with Nino Cerruti. He liked it. I didn't. But I liked him, and so I was disingenuous about my feelings for the film, my thoughts about it as "art."
And yet I have always had fantasies of myself as a tough cookie. A broad not to be messed with. A woman with no fear. Honest to a fault, thus strong. I see the error in this. Often kindness works better at achieving ones goals than brutal honesty, but brutality has a place in my life and I did learn much from my brutal mother. It is very hard to escape the things we were taught very early and for a real long time. So when recently confronted with a bully, I found myself afraid and horrified that I reacted in fear. The fantasies of buying a shotgun and scaring some imagined intruder took hold in my mind. But now I'm more inclined to visit the extraordinary Germaine Gregorias and purchase a lovely pink Glock.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I'm also a fan of the fart machine. Especially the fart machine with a remote control.
My longtime and recurring Ex and I used to take the fart machine to the Symphony. I would slip it in my elegant Armani pants pocket and he would use the remote control. You might think this sexist--giving him all the power, but I beg to disagree. The farter is always the one with the real power. The one with the remote just gives the farter the power at the moment of maximum discomfort for the people around the farter, thus bestowing great comedic power on the farter. Innocence feigned is best in situations like that. The elegantly dressed female farter going round the nosh table at intermission in the important peoples room, the big contributors room at intermission of the symphony is one of my favorite comedic moments. I lean in next to a women who is more than likeley wearing magic underwear and has her Temple Recommend in good order and Tom hits the button on the remote control and out comes a two or three tone blast of a sound that is none other than a fart. I slit my eyes at the matron in the gold lame and quickly look away and her face turns scarlet. My eyes are watering with suppressed laughter. I put two fingers to my nose and pinch it gently. I roll my watering eyes at the man behind me as I slit my eyes toward the unfortunate matron ahead of me. He smiles involuntarily. And I leave the table with a couple of cookies on a napkin to take to Tom.
We sit for a second and laugh decorously. A man sits next to me after we regain our composure and Tom gives the remote control two hits of the button. One long bleating fart and then a very loud single note blast. Tom and I move two seats away from the man and then we lean out to look at him. He turns his head away in shame. And so it goes. I do one trip completely around the table farting gayly every time I reach for something. I stuff my face and giggle as I fart my way around the table. I'm amazed no one ever had to do the Heimlich maneuver on me. Then the bell rings and intermission is over. I am doubled over with laughter as we take our seats for the second act.
I have so many heinous stories of farting this will have to become a series. Tom once smacked me for farting most foul in the bed. He started it, so my retaliation seemed quite reasonable to me. I did not cotton to the double standard. His smacking me hard on the ass for a particularly silent and stinky fart was such a grievous breaking of the rules of fair play that it resulted in my leaving him. Oh yes. There are rules of fair play when it comes to farting.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Today I woke up just like usual about 10 AM. I had my two lattes. One of my girlfriends came over. I had a brief visit with the youngest daughter and at 3 PM I took a little nap. I just woke up at 8 PM. This could very well be me.
But I was lying down with this.
I had big plans to visit you all and make witty comments. But then I might be up all night, so the witty comment thing is still a possibility.
Orin has been following Boehner's lead on the Mantan. He looks to be catching up with Boehner. By Summer they'll both be blacker than Obama. I've sent Orin a few hundred emails and he always answers with a letter telling me what he's doing that I don't like is what he's doing anyway. It's a form letter, I'm sure. I'd almost rather he just emailed me back with a cheery "Go Fuck Yourself!"
Orin used to be a pasty faced slight man with a lisping manner of speech. Now the lisping speech is just a bit manlier. Is this more of the Boehner influence? "Man Up!" Orin has even bulked up a bit.
I used to have fantasies that Orin would be discovered buggering a very underaged male page. A woman can dream, can't she. I'm almost certain that Orin is a very repressed and in the closet gay man, but we'll probably never know for sure.
I just watched Orin be interviewed by Andrea Mitchell about the budget. He was talking about how this taxing of "small" businesses would drive them overseas. Then he gave the example of one of his buddies with a pharmaceutical company getting ready to move to Switzerland. Did you say small businesses? Orin you are so full of shit. Everytime you open your mouth on TV you embarrass the whole state of Utah. Too bad the whole state of Utah doesn't know it.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Thank You DK Read for finding her for me. And I did look at the moon tonight. These images of Donyale are exactly as I remember her. I had an erotic dream about her at the house in Zemi where a group of artists and I hung out on weekends. The house belonged to the sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. He was my best friend during my year in Italy. I knew his brother, Gio, too.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Thanks Amos, this is just the piece of music I needed to end the story of my middle daughter's marriage.
Your result for The Ultimate Shakespearean Romance Test...
Sentimental (47%) and Low Infatuation
"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, all losses are restored and sorrows end."
Your romance quotient is 47% and you have a low propensity for infatuation. You're someone who can enjoy the finer points of a relationship, but you're also happy to spend quality time without romantic distraction. A quiet evening at home with someone you love is rewarding and fulfilling. Since you tend not to become infatuated, you make more sensible choices and are quite likely to appreciate a long-term, steady commitment.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
When she and I were alone, I asked her about the husband and heard things that worried me. I listened to her words and the tone of her voice as she denied being bothered by his spending days and nights and days and nights at his studio. He was experiencing a burst of creativity and had a deadline. Okay. I will not pry. If she's okay with it, why shouldn't I be? I'm that kind of mother. If you're ready to talk, I'm ready to listen. But I will not pry.
The third time I saw them was a little more than a year ago. I was trying to find a way to have my daughters near and to get my teeth fixed. Both the youngest and the middle daughter have expressed interest in owning the front house. It would make it possible for me to live out my life in the little house while not having the burden of the main house to deal with--no more taxes, no more insurance, no more repairs. Plus a bit of income and security. I liked the idea, but in talking with the middle daughter with the husband present she seemed worried about my long term care. He brother was one of her partners. I had no problem with that, but I didn't know the husband that well, and I suspected that he would be a problem. I'm not sure why. It was then I asked him to install a programable thermostat in the main house. He took it, said he'd read the instructions and get back to me. I never heard from him again.
Then I got an invitation to my middle daughter's graduation for getting her Masters Degree two days before the event. It came during a mild case of agoraphobia. I didn't go. But I did send her $50. in cash in a happy graduation card. It was the least I could do, and I knew it wasn't half good enough. I'd have liked to send her roundtrip first class tickets to anywhere she wanted with the partner of her choice. But I couldn't. And in my shame of not being able to do my best, I didn't do enough.
Friday she called me. She sounded good. She was at work. She asked if she could drop by afterwork. I said, "Of course." When I hung up I began to panic. The day before, one of my girlfriends had asked about her. When I told her how long it had been since I'd seen her, we speculated about the possible failure of her marriage. I also worried about her health and then her parent's health. So I went into a cleaning frenzy. I shopped. I tried to throw together a meal I thought she might like. When the youngest daughter came home I told her I was nervous. She said, "Don't be nervous. She knows how you live." I thought that was a little insulting, but recognized it as the truth and said nothing.
Four came and went, then five. The phone rang. It was my friend Z who is a real mother of grown children. I told her about my anxiety, and she said, "We're already on our way." "Who are you coming with?" "Queen Esther and Ms Miller." Two other friends who are real mothers of grown children. I was so relieved. Backup. And backup that was at least a couple of hours away since Queen Esther is always late.
When my middle daughter arrived I was alone. The youngest had removed the lock from the gate, had turned the outside lights on and taken Roscoe in her house. So my middle daughter could walk back here unmolested without having to call for help with the lock. See? I have very sweet children. She arrived carrying dinner. Pita sandwiches of ground lamb and greens and herbs. A huge order of fries. We hugged. She sat on the couch and started moving things off the coffee table so we could get to eating. It was delicious. But I had the feeling we were just getting something out of the way so we could get to the something important.
She has been living with a secret sneaky alcoholic who sleeps all day and stays at his studio all night. He has stolen a large bottle of the oxycontin she takes to manage the pain she lives with. Huge street value, so we speculate as to his reason for the theft. To sell or to take, that is the question. She says she talked to her father about the marriage and he said, "Go and get him and bring him home." I groan. I look her in the eyes and say, "Oh god no." She says, "I feel so guilty," and starts to cry. I take her in my arms and say, "You have nothing to feel guilty about. Your father is speaking from his cultural tradition. It's a knee jerk reaction. What did your mother say?"
This brings on more tears. "My mother had a heart attack. I had to fly home." Again I hug her and wait. "I left him with money to pay the bills before I left, I told him when to pay which bill. He didn't pay any of them. My mother's heart muscle was damaged. She will never be the same. You know she always smoked." Pregnant pause, arched eyebrow. "Yes, I know. She and I are alike in that." "They've moved into the new house. They finally got it built. And my Mom has to live in the garage because she can't live in her house." For a moment I'm confused. Which mom is she talking about and then I realize it's me. Then she tells me that the Palestinian women are so strong. When the women heard about her situation they said to divorce the bastard. And finally her father came around. But when she got back to Salt Lake she discovered that they are two months behind in the rent. He did not pay the bills. The prick she's married to has put her living space in jeopardy. The landlord is irate, but not crazy. She pays the back rent. She tries to get her fucked up husband to sit down and prepare taxes. It makes him anxious. But she does convince him to go to couples therapy. This surprises me.
The therapist tells him he must go to AA. He claims not to have a problem he can't control. He stole her fucking oxycontin. I'm thinking he should be prosecuted. He doesn't need help? So divorce him. Do it quickly. My middle daughter says, "I'm going to file the taxes and then I'm going to file for divorce." I think we're making progress here. She says he still comes and goes. I say, "Change the lock." "But his clothes are there." "Bag them and give him a call to tell him they will be in the entry." "I'm afraid he'll kill himself." "Has he threatened it?" "Not exactly, but he wrote me a poem and there was blood on it." "He's a blackmailing prick. It's a manipulation." He's a con. "He's self medicating, he works for days on end on an artistic endeavor. I'm thinking he might be bipolar." I always go there. If a child lived in the household I'd probably think he was a pedophile. I project male bad behavior to crazy, pathological men.
Then the "mothers" arrive. After the hugs and greetings, I give them the cliff's notes on middle daughter's marriage situation. And we settle in to examining this marriage. We want to give her the best advise possible. It is unanimous--the bastard must go. Then we talk about our own marital mistakes and how long it took us to admit the mistake we made in marrying at all. We call this time of staying, once you know you have no idea who the person you thought you'd married really is, the wasted years. My middle daughter has stayed with this man three years. She's done her best under the circumstances. Time to cut her losses.
Then we mothers entertain ourselves with stories of acid trips past. One story was told during this part of the evening that will turn itself into a short story soon. Someone was shot in Berlin at the Dead Goat. Trust me, it's hilarious.
The youngest and middle daughter made plans to get together, exchanged phone numbers and the middle daughter left around eleven. I think she's going to be fine. The next evening she called the youngest daughter to get together at a bar to meet a couple of male friends of middle daughter's. The daughters unite. There is work yet to do on getting disentangled from the bad husband. But she's now looking forward, not back at the mistake that started it all. I blame it all on the cultural notion that a woman must marry or she isn't complete. It is rooted in Religion and the universal suppression of the female that is at the heart of all religions, and that's political. Everything's political.
I continued to see her at parties the rest of that summer. By the end of the sumer we had talked enough for me to know that she was a student with a job at the U. None of the rest of her family lived in Utah. I know I asked her "Why Utah?" but I can't remember the answer to that question. She has an older brother who lives in the Eastern US--maybe Michigan or Illinois, and two sisters in the Middle East. Her real mother and father live in Jordan.
She came to parties at my house, and always brought interesting men. She seemed to have a posse of great looking very fun gay men--mostly North African or Lebanese. All the people I met through her were multi-lingual, multi-cultural and charming. As I grew more and more reclusive over the years (bipolar disorder gets worse as you get older) she brought the party to me. And then I saw less and less of her.
One day the doorbell rang and when I answered the door, there stood a woman who looked familiar standing with two men I knew through my daughter. When the woman spoke I realized it was my daughter. The changes in her appearance were the result of Cushing's Disease. I knew nothing about Cushing's Disease, but over the years of her life with Cushing's Disease have come to know a great deal about it. She was getting ready for her first surgery at the Mayo Clinic at that time.
The next time I saw her she showed me her scars and she looked like someone who'd had open heart surgery and a hysterectomy or appendectomy or a C Section. The scars started at the base of her neck and ended at her pelvic girdle. I have never seen scars like that. But she was beginning to look like herself again. The physical beauty was returning. She was now taking all the drugs her missing endocrine system was supposed to produce if working properly.
I was still modeling throughout this time. Tom and I were still friendly, though he was living in Costa Rica. I was living alone in the big house and was renting the cottage to a female friend. One day I got a call from my daughter asking me if she could rent my spare room. I said, "Of course." She insisted on paying rent, and for almost a year we lived together. She has always been more sociable than I, so we had a few parties, but I would often hang out in my rooms reading. It was one of the times in the cycles of my illness that I was teetering on the brink of a big depression. So when not actually working, I read. My daughter comes from a culture where family members have roles that they perform seamlessly as is their duty. I lived with a daughter dealing with a life-threatening illness who went to school, worked, had a social life, cooked and cleaned, while I worked once or twice a week and read. I like it cool in the house and she was always cold. I lived with a dog and a cat in the house and she comes from a culture where animals are not invited into the house and especially not to sleep with you on your bed. One day she came home especially tired and hungry and I was lying in bed reading. The house was not spotless and nothing was in the oven. It is possible to leave ones culture behind, to liberate oneself from the strictures of a lifetime of one's families expectations. Like I said, I'm a mother who neither expects nor responds to strictures of duty or obligation. If asked, I will probably say yes, and I will probably haul my ass out of bed and comply. But without the request, I will not realize that I'm not living up to your expectations. I'm not the world's best mother, but I will never invade your life. If you ask for something and it is within my power to give it to you, I will. It's wasn't long before she moved into an apartment.
Over the years I have met her real parents many times. I adore them. I feel related to them. The call me her American Mom. She calls me Mom. Sometimes we go years and do not talk, but if she calls me and wants anything I'm capable of providing, I comply, happily. One day she called and told me she was getting married, and wanted to have her wedding at my house. I asked when, and she said in a date not far off in February. That is the ugliest time of the year here and I have a lovely big yard. I suggested May. She said, "No, the date is set, and everyone is coming for February." Fine. Done.
By this time my youngest daughter, Ms M is living with me. So we grew excited about having a traditional Palestinian wedding in my house. My middle daughter's best friend was taking care of the planning. All I had to do was provide the location. Middle daughter had family coming from all over. It was very exciting. But I had not met the groom. I met him once before the wedding, briefly, and was very surprised by her choice. He was a man from a Mormon background who had left the Mormon Church when he was in his late twenties. His parents were assisting with the preparation. This is all I knew of the groom: His late rejection of his religious heritage, his interest in the Middle East, his travels there, his leaning of Arabic, and last, but not least he was an artist--he does metal sculpture and has a studio. I asked my daughter if he made a living as an artist and was told he supplemented his income by doing construction work. If she loved him, who am I to tell her I have misgivings? I'm her American Mom. Maybe I should have told her, but the wedding preparations were in full swing. It's too late to throw cold water on her happiness. Her real parents have met him and haven't objected, so who am I to object?
We had live music. We had a Palestinian religious leader called a Sheikh. We had much ululation and dancing. The food was great. The bride was gorgeous in a traditional Western style wedding dress. The groom wore a kilt and played bagpipes. It was gorgeous and very moving.
Everyone smokes in Palestinian culture, so the men stood outside into the night in the middle of my Slat Lake neighborhood and smoked, laughed, and gossiped in Arabic. The women smoked in the house. One of the striking things about Palestinian women is their style and beauty. They go all out--hair, make-up, jewelry and gorgeous clothes. The men wear suits and ties and nice shoes. They all have lovely manners and are charming. They know how to party.
To be continued...