There are days when I wake up and the words race to the page before my fingers realize they are typing. Those are the best days, when I can write 10 poems before 10 in the morning. I love to write. I get my ideas from things I see or read or trip over. The dogs don’t mind those mornings, they get put out and I stand on my deck to see the day while they look for turtles to retrieve for me. Lucky for the turtles, I’m quicker than the dogs when it comes to letting them in.
There are moments when the world crashes in flames around my simple soul. I sit motionless, letting crises after crises take me in sorrow or anger. Raging against injustice is as natural as breathing to me. I’ve been doing it since high school. That’s a long time. The world moves in circles, or perhaps on a pendulum. I’ve been accused of thinking with my heart and not my head, but I use both. You should be glad I do. In my lifetime I’ve seen amazing things. I ponder about my mother whose world has changed even more. She was five years old when WW2 started for the U.S. She remembers sitting around the radio as if it were a television on the seventh of December, 1941. Her grandmother was afraid for the young men whose lives would never be the same. Her mother was worried that her husband would have to go to war. He said he wanted to go, but his telephone company job couldn’t spare him. My mother says she sat watching the adults talk about the evils of Hitler and understood the needed to be stopped.
My memories started with my vision of course, a few flurries of blurred moments. I remember the Cuba incident, the assassination of the heroes of the 60s, transistor radios and the movies. I remember when we got our first TV. I remember when I was 2 and saw Peter Pan on my grandparents black and white tv. We started by sitting on the floor and ended up in laps and on the sofa when the crocodile turned up. I remember Vietnam and my father moving to the other room for his dinner as he watched the news. Walter Cronkite was the man of the hour and told the news as he saw it. Censorship abounded in the 60s. I remember riding on buses. I put together ideas that seemed old as time itself, but in truth were new to my parents too.
When the first man walked upon the moon, I dreamed that someday I would travel to the stars. I dreamed that I would fly upon an airplane over the tossing seas and see parts of the world that were different from my world. In high school, I got the opportunity to fly to Germany. It was very different from the U.S. I think the trip to Dachau was the worst part of the trip and still can’t get the images out of my head. I took one picture. It was sunny and spring. Tulips flowered along the wire fences. The guard towers were empty, but I could imagine the guns aimed in at us. The picture didn’t come out that way. In fact, none of the pictures on that roll of film turned out. There was one picture though. It was night, there were spotlights crossing the yard. A figure knelt by the wire fence. There was a fog. Spooky, yes? It could have been an exposure problem. It probably was, but I was stricken by the idea that emotional turmoil could be held in a place and never really released from it.
Money turned out to be important when having friends. I had very little, my parents investing in books to stimulate our minds and not in junk or stuff. I had enough toys, you can always tell when a child has enough. The floor is covered with things that don’t have a place. So, without the trappings of nice clothes that matched everyone else’s clothes, without the money for hanging out or beer, I found my self in a unique place. I was weird. You all know that of course. I don’t hide the fact. I found myself looking for something I believed in. Music was my passion at the time, but I wanted something different. I wanted to know I had helped the world be a better place.
I argued with my father about his use of the n word. I won. I told him it was unacceptable to call names, even in the car while dealing with incompetents. I explained the history of the world and the significance of the trauma that black Americans faced. I explained how it changed their perspective on the world, one that we as whites could think about but never fully understand. He never used the word again. Mom told me she had a similar fight with Grandma over Brazil nuts. She had done the same thing I did. Mom was in the car for my lecture to dad, my indignant sixteen year old sense of duty and honor offended. I’m sure she smiled while she had her head turned out the window. We were raised to be circumspect and obedient. Raising our voices to our parents was frowned upon, but sometimes, I think my parents were glad to know we were thinking of more than ourselves. It took me in great stead as I grew.
I wasn’t religious. I wasn’t raised within the confines of a religion. When I was twelve, I thought a lot about God. People did weird things in his name. I was like most kids, I would pray for something trivial “Please bring my dog home, he’s run away” and hoped that there was a greater power than mankind. I looked for fervor in my world. What I learned was that there were mysteries we didn’t understand yet, and science admitted it. So I stayed on the outside looking in jealously. I wanted my life to fill that void within me. I could never find it. Where others heard the voice of God, I heard Walter Cronkite. Where others felt at home and comfortable not asking questions, I was still the four year old asking why. What was worse was asking who, what , where, when, and more whys. I never have gotten an answer. The sisters at the College of St. Benedict told me that was okay, that someone needed to ask the questions about faith so that others would think about their own. Lovely women, the sisters. They would talk about things that I needed to talk about. They terrified me. I was shocked the first time I saw a nun in a bathroom. I had never thought about their humanity before. It was their humanity that bolstered the teachings my parents had given me. In the college, there was an air of safety. In the real world, there was again the issue of money. Money seemed to control everything. I vowed I would never substitute money for needed, clean and tidy. Silly me, the world revolves around money.
What was the most important thing I have ever done? I taught. I taught kids of all ages and loved every single one, except one. I don’t know why I couldn’t get along with that child. He seemed to have everything a child should have. Loving parents, good clothes, friends, but he kept ramming people into the water fountain and I had to deal with bloody lips and tears. He kept hitting, for no reason except he was taller and faster than the small kids. Didn’t matter what I said to him, we couldn’t get into a rhythm of learning. I had a wise boss who transferred him to another class where the teacher understood something I didn’t at the time. Bullies need to learn that they can’t bully. Her students took care of it on the playground, she was turned away at the time. But I watched because I was facing her. It solved the problem and the child did really well in her class. His bullying others was symptomatic of a society that had been oppressed and parents that told him it was okay to hit. They meant in self defense, but kids don’t always hear your whole sentence.
I loved teaching. Finding a creative way to do anything was a lovely challenge and my cluttered but organized brain understood a child’s need for tactile, visual, audio, and other stimulations. I hope that the kids remember learning something from me that is important in their daily lives. I wanted them to love learning. I hope they do.
Transistor radios, then high fi systems, and records and tapes becoming discs, the rise of the computers and success of Apple, HP, Dell, IBM all new to me and new to my children at the time. there is a cartoon of a three year old holding a phone and smacking his forehead. The caption reads, “Grandma, it doesn’t matter which finger you use to push the button on your computer, just click on it.” Technology. I never thought I would meet people online from Iran, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Germany, France, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden China, Japan and the rest of the world. I have people I read that live in South Africa, Australia and in the Philippines. I have friends in Mexico. My daughter married a young man that I introduced her to because I met him in a video game called Everquest. I went to a ball called the Labyrinth with her, and he was willing to come meet her in person.
I’ve been greeted coming off a cruise ship with a sign that said, “Hissistor of the Horde.” That’s my nickname, I still use it when I’m gaming. Most of the gamers in the world fall into the category of 40-70 year old women. It’s an escape. We all need an escape.
I wonder what the next thirty years will be like, I’d like to be here to see it. I hope I will, medical advances may keep me around a lot longer than previously predicted. I’m a shut in now that the heat of the summer is here. Virginia is hot, humid and rather unpleasant. My brain reacts badly to heat. My thought processes show, my physical abilities become unpredictable. But in air conditioning, I continue to make rather good progress. So I’m inside until the rains cool things down. I promised the dogs I’d start walking them again when it cools off, they aren’t happy at having just backyard privileges. How many turtles can you find in a backyard, after all? At least no snakes this summer so far.
The world is changing. We’ll change with it and be amazed we do. I hope your day is full of pleasant new discoveries and that all is well in your world.