Tuesday, September 29, 2009
A big storm is blowing in and I've been running around putting cushions and dog beds, rugs and baskets and garden tools in the shed. I still need to pick pears, cut my Pucchinis or Zumpkins, toss the vine. I have to pick a few more plums, put the ladder away, bag the debris and toss it in the garbage.
I grocery shopped earlier today and now need to reorganize my cupboards, clean the fridge. Anything to keep from thinking. I've cancelled scheduled dental work because I don't know how I'll afford it now that this diagnostic process goes forward. What looms on the near horizon is a bone marrow test. I've just had a couple of routine tests that are considered preventive and will be paid by Medicare which might be of interest in the search for solving the low platelet mystery. But none of the possibilities (and there are many) sound good to me.
I called my therapist to let him know that this morning it was clear to me I'm teetering on the abyss that is depression. I had no desire to get up today. I might have slept till noon or later, if Nick hadn't called and told me he was coming over in a half hour to pick plums. He's offered to be my medical trustee, to be he one with power of attorney to make sure my wishes are honored.
Ms M is talking about moving. This afternoon she's looking at a job as the maintenance person for an apartment building. There would be housing, but she has big Roscoe, a yellow lab who has spent most of his life here with a pack of dogs and a permanent baby sitter. He'll miss us and we'll miss him. And she won't have benefits. I hope she doesn't do this, but a landmark birthday looms and she's lived here a long time. Boredom is driving her now. Maybe a bit of fear as well.
I have no apatite for twitter now. I'm starting to look inward again. There's work to do. I am half way through a difficult rewrite on the novel. It is becoming a complex jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are here, what is missing is a frame to hold them in tight frightening suspension. I need to finish, give it my best shot and then move on. When you think you see the end looming you want to tidy up all the lose ends finding that one tiny missing piece.
Then again, when it's cold and raining hard, I may feel smug, snug and peachy. You never know.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Tomorrow at the crack of dawn I have to haul my ass out of bed to go get an ultra-sound of my liver and spleen. I have to do this fasting. This is tantamount to torture for me. No coffee with loads of milk and a bit of sugar? No dallying with the dogs? Out to pee and then breakfast for them and then I'm gone for most of the day. I have to drop my car off in the AM for safety inspection and to have it winterized. Then a friend is giving me a ride to the ophthalmologists for the appointment I should have made two years ago.
Again, I apologize for not visiting you at your blog to read and comment. I'm still rewriting the novel and tweeting. I've found that twitter is a powerful tool for lobbying politicians for healthcare reform. Now that I'm old and less inclined to do the boots on the ground work of real protesting, along comes twitter to make it possible to demonstrate online. It's a powerful tool. Not a social networking tool, but a power to the people network for societal change. I resist the "friending" thing. If I talk to you on twitter, your part of my network. You're all special to me, so "friending" seems silly to me. It is the friending aspect of FaceBook that turns me off, like high school cliques. Twitter is not like that. And I love the challenge of saying something meaningful in short bursts. I think in many ways this can only help with writing in general.
For the few of you who do still stop by, I thank you from the bottom of my shriveled little heart.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
You guessed it. I'm talking about Sarah Palin. Those words were used to describe her "speech" in Hong Kong by attendee Robert Fisk.
"There'll be one or two self-deprecating remarks, a reference to healthcare, taxation, out-of-control spending and a poorly told joke,"
To prove her shining Republicanism, Sarah quoted Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. She quoted Lincoln. She quoted Thomas Jefferson. History and common sense were not on the side of liberalism and "utopian pipe dreams". But there'd been progress. In the past, we had the "horse and buggy business", she said, then Ford came along with the motor car and the kids sat singing in the back, but now the kids have headsets. And what happened to the Reagan legacy? "Many Republicans in Washington gambled it away."
She talked, of course, about the infamous "death panels" – a big smirk here from Sarah – and "market-friendly responsible ideas" (this must have been the speech-writer) and offered slippery advice: "We can responsibly develop our resources without damaging the environment."
She spoke too fast. She gabbled her words. Scatty was the word for it. We slalomed between the fall of the Berlin Wall, the break-up of Yugoslavia and 9/11. Then it started. The war on "vicious terrorism", the war against "violent fanatics who wished to end our way of life", our battle against "radical Islamic extremists" with "twisted vision". This was not a clash of civilizations but "a war within Islam". We slalomed again. Asia – "what an amazing place!" – was at its best "when it was not dominated by a single power".
What on earth was happening? Had Sarah just looked up from her podium and seen China? Addressing what was surely the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party, she could not "turn a blind eye" to Chinese policies that created "uncertainty", which supported "questionable regimes" and "made a lot of people nervous". America wasn't going to impose its values on other countries, but America was going to have to "ramp up" its defence spending.
I would have run screaming from the room, blood pouring from my ears. But there is this last tidbit from Mr Fisk: "Then family again. "I have a husband," she said. "I think I could have used a wife. He's awesome." This really floored the Chinese. Poor Todd."
Thursday, September 24, 2009
This is the simplest recipe in the world. You need four medium peaches or three large peaches.
Peel and slice peaches
In a mixing bowl combine:
1 stick melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Mix well and pour contents into baking dish
Gently add sliced peaches evenly
Bake in 350 degree oven until golden brown.
(roughly 45 min, depending on oven)
Let cool on rack.
Serve warm with ice cream.
Cody_K I ate your serving and enjoyed it for you. Your hips will thank me. My hips will hate you next time I get weighed at the doctors office.
I have medicare, so all this yearly checking, is part of how we keep healthcare costs down. Private insurance companies are all about making money on your healthcare. They know they're going to dump you when you get really really sick and finally need them, so why do preventative tests to catch costly illnesses early? You need to start thinking about this industry whose primary duty is to shareholders, so you can assess how good a job they do taking care of you. You need to examine the books. How much do they pay top executives? How do they come up with record profits year after year? How much do you pay them to deny coverage for your medical needs? Is it worth it?
Medicare does a very good job taking care of me. I've never had better healthcare coverage, and my last experience was with United HealthCare. I was paying them $1,000 a month so they could refuse to cover the specialists I needed to see to stay out of the hospital. Insurance companies don't like the sick.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Ms M takes a photoshop class and uses my photographs to experiment with. I heartily approve. This is now my new twitter avatar. And I think I want this hair-do back. I still have the lipstick. Now if only everyone would wear the proper filter I'll look just like this.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
So she gives me an award called the Kreativ Blogger Award. Funny to me that I spent a good part of the evening talking about my bad spelling. I've tried so hard to learn the difference between bear and bare, between bate and bait. Why can't I remember these things? I so envy those of you who just know. Oh yes, I was taught somewhere along the line, but like most things that require certain kind of memory I just keep having to have them pointed out to me. I have blamed it on a type of dyslexia, but I'm not sure that's it. I know I'm not stupid, but those little errors mar my writing.
Anyway, to get back to the award, it comes to Menopausal Stoner from Liberality. I miss you Lib. I know, it's a two way street, but I have been neglectful of all of you, so don't take my absence as anything but preoccupation. I'm rewriting and wondering if I'll ever finish writing what was, last we talked about such things, Maggy. It is now, this month, The Narcissist. Is all this rewriting making it better or just an elaborate way to avoid writing a good query letter? Is all this talking just a way to avoid making a list? Oh who knows? Maybe I need the freedom to express myself in more than 140 characters. I have become a twitter junkie. Today I passed 700. A couple of weeks ago I had 349 followers, today 700. How addictive is that for a writer. Readers who converse with me about politic and other things, but mostly politics all day long. We are tweeting things before they've been reported in news stories. I am mastering the art of the retweet. Oh yes I am. Can't spell, but I can retweet.
Back to the list of things I love, but not about people. This should be a piece of cake.
I. I love cake. Dr Zaius and I have a special bond in our love of ice cream and cake. Also he comments on my poetry now and then. I especially love chocolate cake. I love devil's food cake. I love brownies with walnuts. And I always have ice cream in my freezer. The mark of a civilized woman is a well stocked bar plus cake and ice cream.
2. My dogs are the creatures I actually talk real spoken words to most days. They seem to understand me just fine. In fact I have better conversations and receive more appropriate responses with them than I did with any of my three husbands. The dogs are more honest.
3. My little house and the big house and the great yard. Yes, I bitch about them, but I love this sanctuary in the middle of the city. It's like a forest in here and very quite. And the minimal income I get from renting the big house makes it possible for me to eat. I do not have to leave home to toil for others. Don't hate me for this freedom. I earned it the hard way.
4. I love to hear the words "Payggy! Payggy! Can you come talk to us?" These words are spoken by the four year old and her twin brother who live next door. I know they are people, but still it's the little ritual we perform to keep in touch that I'm talking about, and so is really about words, my element. I have a fence that runs between our properties and just by my deck there is a tiny gate in the fence about two feet off the ground. It's like a window in the fence. They love it, and I listen to what they say as probably no other grown up does. They tell me things that someone needs to hear. So often parents and caregivers of small children get so tired and overwhelmed and overloaded that they don't really listen all that carefully. I'm like a grandmother who lives by herself, but can be summoned for a chat.
5. Twitter. Yes, I admit it, I love twitter. I love following 15 conversations at once. I was once quite good at a cocktail party. Only on twitter it's okay to talk about politic and religion. I saw TheMom there today. It's also easy to find any kind of network you desire: writers, agents, publishers. It's so easy.
6. I love blogging, though you wouldn't really know that lately. I'm not getting around much and twitter kind of ruined my comment style. I say it fast and in as few words as possible. I miss you. But blog reading is a real commitment. Twitter is a flirtation. Does this make me shallow? Perhaps, but I think Dr. Zaius would say anyone with cake and ice cream on hand all the time can't be that shallow.
7. I love the neighborhood I live in. It's quite chic for Salt Lake City. Good restaurants, an honest-to-god Art Theater. Nice shops. Good schools.
This next part is the hard part. I would like to give this to Freida, Dr Bee, but I'm not sure if it's okay to link to her. She's a bit undercover or was last I wasn't lost in twitter land. I'd also like to give it to Lisa, but she's too busy with real life at the moment. I'd like to give it to Vigilante but I've never seen him agree to this sort of self revelation. In fact most of you men think you're too serious to engage in memes. And since I've been absent as a visiter to most of your blogs I'd need to reintroduce myself. So I think I'll take this opportunity to give this to some the saints who follow my poetry with no encouragement at all. You can't imagine how surprised to find that I have followers on my poetry site.
1. I'm betting someone else got to Randal first, but if not, it's you Randal
2. Rusticana. I'm sorry it's take me this long to let you know how much I appreciate your interest in my poetry.
3. A.J., your site is gorgeous. It's a sensual feast. I highly recommend it.
4. Jang Chub-Ozer Who inspired a poem and has two of the most extraordinarily opposite blogs. Bogus Zen is my favorite, and that is the link here.
5. Kayleigh, who is going through hell right now and might enjoy a distraction.
6.Up4More who is one very incredible writer and who shows her inner world by showing us the real drama of the day to day.
7. Daryl is an artist who defies categories. She does a bit of everything and does it all with great style. You should follow her home.
8. EizzyK gave me one of my favorite awards--Humble Scrap. I loved it's workmanlike design. It's like a shingle I'd hang over my door. It came here from Uganda. I see it here and there in my travels, so it has fared well once passed from my hands.
9. JoJo is another woman I wrote a poem for but don't know how to contact except through my poetry. I'll try to contact her there. To my knowledge, she is not a blogger.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I apologize again for not visiting you. For the time being the muse is with me, and I need to take advantage the opportunity to work with her again. I'll be back. If not here, I'll see you on twitter. Don't be shy.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The first week it happens, it is only a couple of lucky, light afternoons--no heavy schedule of speaking engagements, no special deliveries, no celebrities in town with desperate requests, no mini-shows at the Biltmore. It's so easy. And I'm so very tired. It feels like the air becomes thick, resistant, oxygen depleted, as if someone else got here first, sucked out all the good stuff and left nothing but this thick, oily stuff like sludge behind. I sink like a stone. It is like losing consciousness, not simply falling asleep. And there is no waking from it. It becomes an Alice in Wonderland tunnel. Down, down, down I go.
As I'm leaving the store late on Thursday afternoon, a mere hour after my long nap, Maggy's waiting by my car. "Where have you been? I've been calling you for two weeks. I come to the store and they tell me you aren't around. Nobody can find you. I've left you messages at home and at work and you don't return my calls. I'm worried sick. I haven't seen you since I came back from UCSB to find a pool of vomit beside my table. How could you do that and not clean it up?"
"I'm sorry I didn't clean it up but I was too sick."
"Well, obviously. Have you been to a doctor?"
"Not yet. It must be a virus. I don't have a fever. But I'm fatigued." Now she worries about me, now that I'm in my forties she's worried about me. She treats me like I'm either her employee or a baby.
"That doesn't answer the question of why you don't return my calls."
"I'm not returning anyone's calls." What I leave unspoken is, I'm never returning your calls ever again.
"What the fuck's the matter with you!"
"I'm just so tired. I can't seem to wake up."
"Maybe you're sleeping too much. You used to do that when you were a kid. It drove me crazy. I thought you were the world's laziest child. And then you'd finally snap out of it." This is news to me. I have no idea I'd done this kind of thing before.
"Did you take me to a doctor?"
"Robert checked you out and he couldn't find anything wrong with you."
"How old was I when this happened?"
"Ten or twelve."
"And did I just get over it?"
"You'd go to school but come home and sleep after school until dinner time. You'd eat, wash the dishes, and then go back to bed. We finally sent you to Texas to visit your grandparents. I asked them if you slept all the time there and they said they couldn't get you to go to bed. But none of this answers the question of why you didn't clean up your vomit at my place."
"I was just too sick. It hit so fast I didn't have a chance to make it to the toilet until after the first time. Then I just kept vomiting until I had the dry heaves. I left after that. I stayed home from work one day, but turned off the ringer on my phone so I could sleep. Since then I haven't vomited again, but I just can't wake up."
"Why is your office door locked?"
"I always lock my office door if I go to the toilet or leave for a break or lunch. You must have just missed me."
"Well, I'm here to invite you to dinner at my place and we can finish organizing the photos."
"Actually I'm starting to remember things from way back then. I wanted to ask you about a couple of things."
"Okay, I'll meet you at Lucinda's."
I've been dreading seeing her. I have to ask her about my memory, but I'm afraid she'll tell me it didn't happen. And then I'll want to kill her because I know it did. When I pull into Lucinda's circular driveway Maggy's standing beside one of the palms, waiting for me with her hands on her hips. "I thought you were right behind me. What took you so long?"
"Must have been a red light or traffic. You drive like a bat out of hell. I just couldn't keep up."
"You used to."
"I was younger then, more reckless."
"I liked you better when you drove fast but were less thoughtless, less careless." I decide not to take this poisoned bate. I follow her down the path beside the main house and into the gardens at the back where Maggy's cottage is located near the pool house. The smell of chemicals hits my nose and nearly makes me gag. "What's that smell?"
"The pool guys drained and cleaned the pool today. It's fresh water and new chlorine."
"Doesn't it bother you?"
"No. And I've never known you to have a finicky nose."
"Must be this virus."
When we're seated at her table in her living room I find the little stack of pictures I want to ask her about. The one on top is of me in the swing on the porch. I pick it up and start to tremble. "You've got the shakes. Maybe you are sick."
For a moment I think, 'Let it be, don't ask,' and then my mouth opens and the words pour out, "I remember being raped by a friend of JR's when I was three. I remember you taking me to Lindsey Gardens for a picnic and having to pee. I remember you telling me, "That's what you get when you let boys do that to you." Do you remember this?
She blanches. I have never seen color drain from her face like this. For a moment I'm afraid she's going to have a stroke. She's starting to tear up. How I hate my mother's tears. I'm about to take it all back when she says, "Yes, I did tell you that. I wanted to empower you. I wanted you to be tough. It's a tough damn world. I wanted you to survive. But I never thought you would remember the molestation."
"That wasn't 'molestation.' That was rape. He didn't just fondle me. He raped me. He hurt me. And you gave me responsibility for it. How could you do that to a child? Did you tell Chuck? Did you call the police?"
"I didn't want to make a big deal about it because I thought that would just make it worse for you. I thought you were too little to remember." Now I wonder if my mother hasn't always been insane. How is it possible to know a nineteen-year-old raped your three year old and do nothing?
"Did you tell his parents?"
"If I'd told anyone in our family they'd have killed that boy. I couldn't tell his parents without telling JR. Everyone would have found out."
"Maybe he should have been killed. Did you take me to a doctor?"
"What for?" She says this with too much irritation as if I'm asking a really stupid question.
"I was injured." I'm trying very hard not to scream at her.
"No you weren't. It burned when you peed. That's all. It wasn't that bad. A doctor would have asked all sorts of questions."
"Like why I never had a real babysitter? This sounds like you were protecting yourself, Maggy."
"Your brothers were your babysitters. Don't you dare accuse me of neglecting you."
"And they were never around. I ran around that neighborhood alone at three years old. Nobody was with me. I remember some lady coming out on her porch and yelling at me because I was peeing on her lawn. I remember running off pulling my pants up. I remember hiding under my bed. I remember being left in that big house alone at night. I was terrified all the time. What was the matter with you? I remember you calling me and me running toward you, across a street and getting hit by a car. I remember getting a spanking for running in front of a car."
"I was so relieved you weren't hurt, I spanked you so you'd look next time."
"Jesus, how did I survive my childhood?"
"You were a tough little cookie."
"Holy Christ, you are insane." I grab a handful of photographs and stuff them in my purse as I push my chair back. I'm running as fast as I can for my car as I watch myself from a distance like I've split in two. Like I'm me and not me.
Monday, September 7, 2009
There are big chunks missing in my memory of those early years, the years I had brothers and we were a family of six. That seems like a large family to me, since I've always been called an "only child." I remember myself as an only child and always wished for siblings. Not necessarily brothers, not like I missed those brothers, but that I didn't really remember them. I only remember tiny bits, like snippets of film. And they are not all pleasant tiny bits.
When I get to Maggy's she's swimming, doing slow laps in a white Esther Williams style bathing suit I've never seen before. She looks lovely slicing through the water. There is a bit of slackness to the skin of her upper thighs and arms, but with her short white hair and lovely fluid stroke she could be a woman in her forties. She had her eyes done in her fifties and so her face has retained much of its youthfulness.
I sit at the patio table on the veranda of her cottage, watching her and smoking. When she's through she grabs a towel and heads toward me smiling, shaking water out of her ears. "Well, I'm a bit surprised to see you today. I have to work this afternoon."
"I just dropped in to see if I could go on looking through the photos. I think I'd like to have a few. I feel the baby book needs pictures of 'baby' and baby's family."
"I was planning on letting you pick some to keep. But I thought we were going to work on this together."
"We are. But is there any problem with my sitting in your quarters while you're with Caroline? I just want to set aside a few of the pictures we looked at Tuesday evening. I've been thinking about Jim and his run-in with the law. Now I wonder about his daughters. His wife kicked him out and got a restraining order. He did not get custody or visitation with his three daughters. Do you remember the charges?"
"I can't talk about all that now. I have to get ready. Caroline and I are going to UCSB to see an exhibition of student work. I'm going to help her pick a few promising artists for fellowships."
"So can I stay?"
"I guess so. Help yourself to tea or coke. But don't take the pictures you want with you. I want to see what you take."
I feel demeaned by her mistrust, her assumption that I will rip her off. She seems to think the whole world is out to rip her off. Is this just more of her Great Depression neurosis?
I stay on the veranda, smoking, while Maggy changes clothes. Before she leaves, she says to me, "And don't smoke inside!" She gives me a withering look. Since she quit smoking she is like a religious convert in her zeal to get me to quit. This pressure from the woman who taught me to smoke at five years old just makes me want to smoke more.
I make myself cozy in her main room at the table by the sliding glass doors. All the photos are there in stacks like we left them. I quickly find the first one I want. Its the one of Jim holding baby me under the arms as I dangle there, looking off to the side. Jim is wearing shorts and a camp shirt. He has a funny hat on, like a beany without a bill. We seem to be standing under the shade of a tree in a dirt field. It looks like an overgrazed pasture. I keep having this feeling that something terrible happened at the swimming pool. I set that one aside and reach for the one with all the boys and me. They wear swim trunks, have towels thrown over their shoulders and I wear a very baggy cloth diaper. Who took this picture? I put this photo with the first one. I'm starting to search for clues. Why did we leave Texas? Why are they, these missing brothers, in all these pictures yet I have no clear memory of us as a family? There are a few pictures of Maggy and Chuck together and they are usually quite romantic. They seem to always be nuzzling each other. They always seem to be alone. But someone took the pictures.
I look at the whole bunch of photographs of my first five years, trying to figure out who the photographer is. In all those pictures there are only a few of JR, my oldest brother. And then I feel a vivid sense of loss. It engulfs me in a tightening of my throat and the gathering of tears.
JR seemed likeliest to be the one who took most of the photos, based on his absence from so many of them. I bet he's the one who took the pictures of Maggy and Chuck in moments of affection with none of the rest of us around them except for one picture. In that one photo I am trying to get their attention. We're in what looks like a campground and the two of them are at a picnic table. I seem to be holding up a flower or weed to them as they kiss each other. They are oblivious to me, and I am but a tiny, insignificant supplicant. Maggy is wearing a white peasant blouse with short puffy sleeves and a wide gathered neckline, exposing a lot of lovely shoulder. Her long dark hair is parted in the middle and braided with the braids crossing across the top of her head. I have on shorts and a similar kind of blouse in plaid. I too have my hair in short pigtails that are pinned to my head. Chuck is a very handsome man. If it weren't for the Airstream trailer hitched to a 1942 Buick sedan in the background of this photo, I'd have thought we were on a day trip, but this is the family on the road.
It was Chuck's dream to spend years seeing the country. The boys probably thought it was great getting taken out of school to live like gypsies. Even Maggy was okay with the idea until the reality set in after a month of trying to feed us and keep us clean and from killing each other while driving from camp site to camp site.
I remember Maggy telling stories about the horrors of that year and a half on the road. All the trauma for her was a result of traveling with four kids. We were the problem that brought the perfect love to an end in Salt Lake City in the Autumn of 1946. We were the ones with the flu as they drove us across the Mojave the third time. We all had diarrhea and vomiting. We ran out of clothes that didn't smell like vomit or shit. I remember her telling me this story a long time ago. It didn't mean much to me then. But now I wish I could remember more of her stories about the past she so seldom talks about these days. She said she just couldn't take the monotony and hard work of living on the road anymore. They still had a lot of cash. The first day in that trailer park in Salt Lake when she was supposed to be doing laundry, she took the rest of the cash and put a hefty down payment on a big stone house on 9th Avenue. That was when the fighting started. I remember the fighting. Nobody has to tell me about the fighting. We've never really talked about that, but somehow I know she'll tell me it all revolved around me.
I have a photo in my hand. It's probably the last one JR took before he joined the Air Force in 1947 when I was three. This photo of me was taken on the front porch of the house on 9th Ave. I look like the child who symbolizes The Great Depression. In this picture I sag against one of the ropes of the wood slat swing at the west end of the porch, my head lolling on my shoulder, eyes staring vacantly down and off at an oblique angle. My face is filthy and the romper I have on is torn and dirty. My hair blows in stringy wisps across my cheeks which are streaked with dirt as if I’ve been crying. My arms and legs are tiny and fragile looking and as dirty as my face. Filthy bare feet dangling, toes turned inward. Limp, perfect, dirty little toddler feet.
As I look at this photo I have a flash of memory and my hands start shaking. I get a feeling like I just might die of grief right now and a scene starts unfolding as I try to avoid seeing it.
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 probably mid-spring. I know 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 names 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 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, 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 ok, 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. The 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!”
And then I'm back at Caroline Franzen's house on the lovely Riviera of Santa Barbara sitting at the table of my mother's cottage with the light glancing off the blue water of the swimming pool making little rippling movements on the surface of the table like dancing light. I lean over and vomit on the floor. I run to the bathroom and vomit again in the toilet. I can't stop. I'm on my knees having dry heaves, sobbing. I know without a doubt what I have just remembered is true. I feel it in my nerves, muscles, bones. I know it happened. And I know what comes next, but I don't want to remember it. Yet I can't stop the flood of images and sounds as if a film were playing and I can't leave the theatre. I'm helpless to stop the sounds in my mind. I have to get out of here.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
She'd call from Salt Lake and say, "Hi, I'm coming to see you. I'll be there next Thursday and I'll stay for a week." I'd be standing there with the phone clutched to my ear and my mouth hanging open, listening to a dial tone, heart thudding as adrenalin flooded my system. I could never beat her to the draw. She'd never been to Santa Barbara. We had room, didn't we? I could pick her up at 7:30 Thursday night. She knew how to entertain herself. She was a grown-up. Whenever I heard words like that from Maggy I could not help but roll my eyes.
Six months later Maggy has a great job and Charlie and I have separated. Now I have an apartment near Alice Keck Park on Garden St. And Maggy is living in a villa in the hills of the Riveria, looking down on me again.
She got a job as Caroline Franzen's companion. Caroline is a wealthy widow with an estate on the Riviera just above the Mission in old Santa Barbara. Now Maggy knows every art or film luminary living within a hundred miles of Caroline's house. There is a Salon every Wednesday evening. Maggy is in heaven. She has one of the cottages with a view of the pool and a place at the table of a world she has only dreamed about. Maggy had been a fine arts major and had been named Designer/Craftsman of the year when she graduated. She wore her Phi Beta Kappa key around her neck on a thin gold chain.
I went to her place every other day or so to keep her from dropping in on me. One of the things she been saying she wanted to do was organize the photographs she's kept over the years. I'd offered to help her put them in books. So on this balmy December afternoon we are sitting at her table with the light reflecting off the swimming pool with the photographs spread out into decades, starting from her childhood. And in seeing her life laid out like that, much of it in black and white, started her on a shocking trip down memory lane.
She had portraits I'd never seen of my grandmother Savage looking like a Mexican Madonna and a young, angular, serious Gramps standing stiffly next to her looking down on her as she gazes into the infant face of my Uncle Lindon. Without a doubt my grandmother was a woman whose ancestors had been on this continent many centuries longer than most. I look from this lovely portrait of mother, father, and child, to my mothers face. She has grown more to resemble her mother than I dare tell her. She looks like a blue eyed Eskimo. Her nose is flat across the bridge and her nostrels flare broader than mine. I have my father's, uncle's, grandfather's hawk nosed face. I share their high cheekbones, and angularity, but I have my mothers hairline, mouth, and voice. People often say we look alike, but I think it's that we talk alike. We are rather direct, sometimes our blunt, to the point speech seems rude. I try very hard to soften the edges of my deep strong voice.
Maggy was the the second child. Then came Lucinda, the real baby, and the only family member I look exactly like. Maggy often calls me Lucy. I wish she'd named me Lucy. I liked my aunt. In this picture, Sonny looks so slim and earnest. Lucy seems distracted by something to the side and off in the distance, but Maggy looks straight at the camera as if taking a dare. She is the fierce one of the Savage Women. You can see it in her face even as a six-year-old.
Maggy's been telling me stories of hardship and deprivation during the Great Depression all my life, so I expect to see a family in distress in these photos. I see photos of a family that looks well groomed and glossy, if a bit serious. They stand well dressed in front of a small house or in front of a car. Gramps was a Ford salesman. She has been saying things in a voice like someone narrating a film. But the moment she starts talking about her Daddy, my Gramps, her voice grows venomous. She says, "I tried to get that stupid bitch to leave him all my life." Her finger stabs at a snapshot of Grandmother as a young women wearing a printed shirt dress that comes just below her shins. She stares unsmiling into the camera. She's broad shouldered and slender. She's wearing lace up leather oxfords with stacked heels. Her hair is in a roll at the nape of her neck. She looks very stylish to me. And I never experienced my grandmother as a bitch. Mildly annoying, but the very antitheses of a bitch. My experience of her was of a sweet and generous woman who complained a bit too much. But the last time I saw her I was fifteen.
I stare at the table and realize that much of Maggy's life has been a secret, or rather a mystery to me. She's told stories, but these photos are the illustrations, the cast of characters. There is a snapshot of her in a nurses uniform and I've never seen it before. I look across the table at her and she says, "I dropped out to marry Chuck. It was war time. I met him at a dance and I was mad about him. I had brain fever for that man. He had a big house off base in Paris, and the boys seemed like an adventure, but you were a surprise." She's looking of the portrait photo of Chuck just before she married him and he is indeed a handsome man. He looks a bit like Clark Gable. He has dark hair and a slight dimple in his chin. He has a mustache and dark eyebrows and dark lashes. But there are no wedding photos, there are no snapshots of her pregnant wearing maternity smocks. I ask about this omission, and she tells me that it was one of the worst times of her life. She would have killed anyone who took a picture of her. Besides, nobody had the money for such luxuries as pictures all the time. There was rationing of everything during the war and for years after.
Then she says, out of the blue, "Chuck was involved with a smuggling ring. He sent me money. Lots of it. I hid it. He was a Supply Sergeant. He could get his hands on anything. I saved the baby dress he sent you. But remember my star sapphire ring?" I do. It's exactly the glacial blue of her eyes. "Chuck sent that to me. I have no idea how he came by it. It's set in platinum. I still have the baby dress too, along with your baby book."
"I had a baby book? Why haven't I ever seen it?"
"Because every time you get your hands on something I never see it again." I think she's projecting here, but decide not to get into it. The message is, I'm irresponsible. I try to lose interest in the baby book. But just as I move on she gets up from the table and goes to her closet. I watch her stretch to a top shelf and she pulls down a box. It holds my baby book. She proudly carries it to the table and hands it to me, saying, "You can have it now." I open the pristine book. I leaf through the empty pages and tears start to leak from my eye. I put my hand over my mouth. Maggy says, "What the hell are you crying about?"
It was entirely devoid of photos or mention about the “baby”. The only page that had anything written on it was the page about baby’s pets. Two Dobermans, Gin and Vermouth. No pictures, no writing anywhere except that page, just the breed and names of the dogs. I have kept it as evidence.
The next batch of photos is of my first year. For the first time the boys are not just lined up like stair steps. Now there is a baby being held by one or the other. They don't looked pleased to be pressed into service like this. There's one picture of Jim holding me. My youngest half brother is about six and I am probably three months. He has me under the arms and I dangle there, a long thin baby in a sagging diaper, my head turned to the side. His head is cocked slightly to toward his shoulder. We both look really uncomfortable, but game. And as I'm staring at that picture I have a vision of a swimming pool and a feeling of terror.
"Did the boys take me to a swimming pool?"
"Yes, they took you to the pool on base."
"Just the boys?"
"I don't know. How old was JR?"
"Sixteen. He was old enough to babysit you. Chuck and I needed time alone." I feel something like an electric shock run down my spine. The hair at the back of my neck prickles. I recognize panic creeping up on me.
"Here, look at this one." She hands me one of the two of us. "This was your first Christmas. You were six months old." She beams as she hands it to me and in the picture she is lovely, she has the glamourous good looks of a film star. Her hair is black and shiny, pulled back from her face exposing her widow's peak and the broad planes of her cheek bones. She has the most wonderful smile. She has full curved lips and even white teeth. Maggy was a gorgeous woman. She's still a very handsome woman. In the photograph we're looking at, she has me balanced on her knee, her face above mine and she leans into the light of an elaborately decorated and brightly lit Christmas tree. My eyes are glistening in the light from the tree. My wet lips are parted. She looks from the picture to me and says, "You have me to thanks for your good looks."
"Thank you Maggy."
"Too bad you don't have my temperament."
"You'd have been happiest with a clone, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, I think I would have."
"Why did you have me call you Maggy?" I can't believe I haven't asked this before. She hesitates for a moment and then says, "Because the boys called me Maggy and I didn't want you to feel different."
"Do you ever hear from them?"
"No, do you?"
"Not since Jim was arrested."
Friday, September 4, 2009
I've been lazy about writing posts lately. I have some terrible things going on in my little life--my friend Z, who has lung cancer (never been a smoker) has been having a terrible time. She finished chemo and radiation but seemed about to die of the treatment. Yesterday when I talked to her I realized that she might not have long to live, and whatever free time I have to spare should be spent with her. So today I'll be with her.
I do want to let you know that even in Utah, the reddest little theocracy in the Union, with only four days preparation and a very loose network of MoveOn members and this little tweeter we managed to get 350 people together for a demonstration in favor of a public option for healthcare reform. Those of you who know me well, know how I hate to go out in public. It's been years, probably three or four years, since I went out after 5 PM. I think of myself as someone who pretty much hates "people" and likes to avoid them as much as possible. But this crowd was part of my networking and we are in the same boat, so to speak. We are progressives in a state full of reactionaries. The Utah State Capitol is a gorgeous building in a lovely setting. And it was on the Capitol steps where we had our demonstration. I took my camera and have a few photos that aren't blurry to prove that we had a big crowd with homemade signs and little kids, old folks (even older than I) people in wheelchairs and on crutches and walkers, as well as young adults. I loved every one of them. I loved them for their commitment to healthcare reform and their willingness to make their commitment visible.
Twitter is an amazing place if you're trying to pull people together. Word passes from network to network like wildfire on twitter. I'm followed by 600 people there as well a Utah news source. So by tweeting for three days to Utah Progressive and Utah News we had a big crowd and news coverage on KSL, the most Mormon of the local news outlets, as well as Fox news the most reactionary news source. It didn't hurt that I called all four local news channels just before Nick picked me up. If you are not a member of MoveOn.org, might I suggest that you join. It's a very good organization.
I'm loosing readers as fast as Z is loosing pounds. She's over 5' 7" and weights 100 lbs. Please know that at some point I'll be back to writing posts on an obsessive basis, but for now, Z gets my time, and you get crumbs here. When not with Z, I'll be trying to salvage my book. But just because I'm not making the rounds to visit all of you, doesn't mean I'm not thinking about you and wondering what I'm missing.
I might tweet for a minute or two, but that doesn't mean I don't love you best. I'd love to combine both worlds--all you bloggers would make great tweeters, but so far most of you haven't taken to it in a big way. I see La Belette Rouge now and then. Darkblack tweets once in awhile. Liberality is out there tweeting what she's listening to on blip. Where are the rest of you? I probably know what Randal's doing--watching sports and/or pleasuring his wife one way or another. But most of you started tweeting and them gave up on it. For some odd reason, I think of it as Facebook for grown-ups. I love it. I can find networks of politicos, reporters, other writers, literary agents, and publishers. It's one of the rare places I feel completely at home and in my element.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I've been writing stories about the years that are missing from the book. These stories are written in the third person and have been a lot easier to write. They cover the marriages and the relationships with men that are mostly missing from The Narcissist. My friend Nick has wanted to know why I married the kind of men I did. Why did I choose such assholes to live with? It's a good question and in my exploration of these relationships I might find the answer that will satisfy Nick. I know why. The real answer is found in the early years of my life. But that's not enough. Plenty of us have had awful lives as children in crazy families, yet managed to find love and marry and have children. Why couldn't I? Why has living alone been the happiest time of my life? Maybe we'll find out.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know. The page, the page, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.