Dreams. Who can understand them? Why do they come in convoluted frames, none of which make any sense?
I woke up to a scene of me kissing Keith at a taco stand. Not the Keith of today, but the Keith I knew over 50 years ago. I was 19 then.
There is this unfulfilled longing so deep inside me, I can’t explain it.
In my dream, before that, I’d been in a room, perhaps a hotel room. We had two rooms. Two keys. We, being my husband and I. There was a small girl and a boy with us. The boy was older, a teen, I feel like I should know him. The girl, a small child, is it Tina? I’m not sure. In any case, she’s in the other room alone. Why? I don’t know. Why wasn’t the boy in there and not her?
All of a sudden I felt my husband groping for me, wanting to make love, but there was someone else in the bed with us. It was my sister Sandy! I push her out and him away insisting, “we can’t there are too many people in the room”. The boy is on a cot watching. Sandy is now at a desk writing, but facing us. He is writhing like an uncontrollable beast, I want him too and tell him we have another room.
I search for the key and the little girl, while he continues to urgently paw at me irritatingly oblivious to anyone else in the room. Something is nagging at my brain, I don’t know what. I try to get away.
Suddenly, I’m at this taco stand and Keith is there. It is small. He is dickering with the people there or perhaps just talking. He sees me and comes toward me as though he’d been expecting me. I kiss him and just look at him, then kiss him some more. I want to keep kissing him. His breath and his face feel so good to me. The dimple in his smile lights me up like I remembered it. He was so good to look at.
He gives me this shit eating grin of his and hands me a taco. I take a bite. A carnita’s street taco. Yum! It’s good, then I continue to melt into him again, just kissing him. I sense my sister, like a conjoined twin, hanging nearby. Is the little girl there too?
He smugly asks, as if he is sure of the answer, “Are you coming?”
I continue to kiss him but momentarily pull back and sweetly say “No”.
He asks, “What do you want?”
I think for a moment and say, “I don’t know”.
Or, do I?
What do I want? What is missing?
But, I do know. I think.
In my brain, I’m thinking “I want security. I want to feel safe. I want to know you’ll be there for me. You can’t give me that.” But the words don’t come out.
I think of my husband, he’s like Keith.
But who’s the boy?
I’m guessing he’s my husband, who will forever be the little boy who will never grow up.
I know he loves me but I need more than passion. I need an illusive more.
I thought of Jesus’ self sacrificing love. Love that knew no bounds. Love til death.
Is that it? Do I want to know he’d die for me?
My sister Sandy? Growing up, she was my shadow, only 13 months younger and always in my way, yet me always feeling responsible for her. Does she need me now? She has her two boys, but does she need me and won’t say? I don’t know.
My husband keeps telling me I need to quit worrying about my siblings, they have other family members to care for them, just as I have my kids. He knows my kids will care and look over me when the time comes. Hmmmm?
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet in honor of all the women in my family who’ve reinvented them self late in life.
First, I salute my sister Diana.
My sister Diana, who with me found the stresses of caring for our aged and dying parents quite trying at times. It forced us to find ways to grow and be better than we once were.
Di found that drawing would calm mother as well as herself and she developed her own unique style of crayon art
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and from there she wrote her first book “The Importance of Thomas” which reveals, as told to her grand kids, her journey with me in caring for our parents.
Second, My daughter Andrea:
My daughter Andrea, who just started writing her own blog, I salute as she embarks on a new career which is growing stronger everyday.
At 34, she went back to school and was the first girl in my family to finish college and get a degree. You can read her story and goals at the link that follows. (Actually, Diana was the first in my family to finish college, but of me and my girls, Andrea was)
Her blog: http://usmountainstandard.com/about
Third, I salute my daughter Tina
Now, my firstborn Tina, married at 17 and didn’t even finish the last 6 months of school thinking marriage was her destiny, At 45 she found herself evolving.
Despite the fact that she didn’t start her family until she was 29, my former 3.5 grade point average student took her time getting that GED.
I only list her third because she is only now starting her journey.
At age 47, she started college and is now waiting to be admitted for a nursing degree, which I don’t think will be a problem with her getting straight A’s.
Both girls following in their mother’s footsteps taking strides, moving forward late in life. I guess you could call us late bloomers.
And well, most of you know my story. It’s been a rocky road but I keep on truckin’. I’m blogging while embarking on a screenwriting career.
And finally, I salute me:
My first screenplay was written with Andrea in mind, but even though her acting career took a detour, she is now back on track. With encouragement from Sean Astin and others, she has renewed her enthusiasm for film. Like me, she doesn’t know where that will end up.
With Andrea, I have just completed the first phase of a web series we hope to start filming sometime next year.
Both girls are supportive of my efforts and eager to collaborate.
Everything I’ve done I did after 45. It took three marriages for one to take and that was at 45. I raised four children, two girls and two boys and in the interim pretty much kept my dreams on hold. Now it’s my turn.
At 45, I learned to ski and…
I rock climbed and loved it. I would say it was my favorite sport. I also climbed mountains.
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and at 50 I got to go to one of the most prestigious acting schools in LA, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
In addition, I got to learn more from LA Coach Molli Benson, Check out her site: “Specialty Acting Workshops”
At 65, after mother died, I learned belly dancing,
It’s been quite a journey for us, but here’s to the ladies…AND we’re not done yet!
I was actually going to title this “What I Learned From my Mother When..”, But that was a bit verbose.
Actually, I was missing mother the other day. I was missing her in an overwhelming way and with great sadness. My mother was great at gardening and my yard looks like shit right now. What with California’s water restrictions, how can anyone have a decent looking yard? I was thinking how she could easily turn my mess into a garden of Eden. I’m also certain she and the water police would have ended up on a first name basis. She liked her plants.
Perhaps that’s why she moved to Tennessee. No water police and lots of rain for growing things.
Mother, who mistreated us and couldn’t get along with her children managed to grow just about anything. Plants and flowers did very well with her. She had fish ponds with fountains and lilies. Fruit trees overflowing with avocado, lemons and oranges. (I noticed she was especially fond of the dwarf varieties because she was short and she didn’t want to miss harvesting every delectable product, which she could then share with neighbors and friends. She could grow whatever her heart delighted and tended to them in a way we kids envied. Why is that do you think? I never could figure out how someone so abusive could feed and nurture plants and get them to grow prolifically while leaving her own children to starve for affection.
You might ask and well you should, “You missed that?” Well, not exactly that, but…Yes.
If you got her talking about flowers and plants, she was captive and kind. I miss her catalogue of information when it came to gardening.
I was missing and will always miss the woman I felt was somewhere buried inside and that I only occasionally got a glimpse of. I sensed deep within my soul that somewhere, out of reach, was a kind and loving human being wanting to get out. Why do I believe that? Well, I figure anyone who would give birth to five children, who are generous and have kind hearts and thoughts, must have been a good person in another life. I will never know or understand why we were cheated of the person she could have been, but we were.
MOTHERS LIFE AS I KNEW IT
When she was ten, her father contracted tuberculosis. He was a fisherman or so I believed. I don’t know why I thought that, but she talked about her father fishing and living on the beach in Mazatlan, Mexico just hours from where she’d been born in Esquinapa.
She told me that one day they were on this boat together, just the two of them and he told her to dream big. Finish school and do well. But that wasn’t to be.
When he could no longer work, she would be in charge of caring for him when his health deteriorated until he died. Grandma or as we called her Abuelita, would work. Abuelita would sometimes make tamales and my mother would hawk them on the streets, selling her wares so they could eat. It also accounted for why mother was so generous to the street urchins in Tijuana selling Chiclets. Because the income was so little and overly time consuming, Mother had to quit school and help while her two siblings continued getting an education. It didn’t seem fair and I think mother always resented being the one sacrificed to her lot in life. But it was not uncommon in those days for the eldest in any family to make that sacrifice.
In time she would get hired out to care for and wait on the rich families in the area. It was here that she would develop her expensive tastes. She told me she had always dreamed of the finer things in life and of playing the piano. One day when walking by this house, she caught sight of a young girl through the window learning to play. Mom was not unlike the little match girl yearning for what was not hers to have.
This was in the 30’s and I don’t know if the depression was worldwide but it didn’t matter, their life was the depression. For a while, they lived under palm leaf lean-to’s on the beach. Mother as she got older picked up an additional chore, a weekly run to a farm to get milk and deliver it to town to sell. On this run, she was accompanied by a boy of whom she spoke fondly of so I’m guessing by now she was older and it probably did a lot to make the task a bit tolerable, but it still wasn’t an easy life.
In the early 40’s, mother moved from her native Sinaloa to Baja. With her cousin, a priest in California’s sponsorship, she was able to get work in San Diego, where she would eventually meet my dad.
Mother often spoke of her mother with disdain telling me, “you don’t know what it’s like to see your mother with other mens!” So I guess grandma did what she could to put food on the table. I don’t know the whole story there, because I could never get any further elaboration. Was grandma selling herself, or just hooking up with whoever would help her out and give them a roof over their head? Was mother’s perception based on her loyalty to her father? There’s that too and no one would have been good enough, knowing mom. From what I gathered she had little respect for her mother. Whereas I adored her.
Unfortunately, all that bitterness carried itself over to us and her marriage.
That mother was not mentally stable was never in doubt, so when we got glimpses of who we thought she really was, we would bathe in it for however long it lasted only to be slapped in the face moments later. It always struck me odd that no matter how many times this transpired, we always fell for it. Well, maybe not all of us, but I would. I always hoped the gear would get stuck on the good mommy and that that was the one we would get to keep.
Years later when we realized mother was not sane but suffered from schizophrenia all my siblings fled the state. I alone was left to deal with her. My brother and younger sister were in Florida and my Irish twin went to Alabama to be with my dad. Actually, I lie. I was not alone but I was. My step siblings (there were four) had also left the state with the exception of one of the younger sisters, who had a child out of wedlock and not deemed worthy to grace mothers’ doorstep. My youngest brother was the product of my stepfather and mother and was five months older than my oldest child, so he was in no position to help deal with mother at all. After everyone had left, he would endure a nightmare only he could tell but we will never discuss. (These are older pics ) He is 50 now and the photos are not how he appears today.
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We older kids at least had a buffer in each other against her anger and spats of rage and unpredictability. Because of him, I stayed deeply involved and close by. I did my best to intervene whenever possible. At times I’d rescue him by having him over as often as I could for sleepovers with my girls. Even so, mother would pull in the reins for fear we might turn him against her.
When mother started accusing me of stealing a thimble or a spool of thread, I had not guessed she had Alzheimer’s. I thought perhaps this was a deviation of her mental state. I would try to reason with her and say, “Mom, if I wanted a spool of thread, I’d ask you for it.” She would respond, “Then, why didn’t you?!” It was nonstop and ongoing. If the other sister who had by now gotten in good graces with her because of the grandchild, and happened to visit, she would be accused of stealing towels. She was always stealing towels.
Because of HIPPA, we were never allowed the privilege of speaking to her doctors, so we were for many years out of the loop. No one would talk to us. No one would listen. Yet, I was well aware that her mental state was grave and getting progressively worse.
When my stepdad had a stroke, I was living in Colorado, so I called the authorities in Nashville and informed them of mother’s state of mind and how someone needed to attend to her. She was alone, not stable and in a panic. Because my step dad was coherent but unable to walk well and fraught with worry about her, his wanting to be released quickly in order to get to her only validated the information I’d given them earlier. They went to the house and took her to a facility for evaluation. With both parents in care, I was all that was left to consult with doctors. My step father, gave permission for me to be included in the consultations that followed and that opened the door for my first opportunity to discuss her state of mind.
She had several doctors but the psychiatrist was the one who broke it down. She suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder clouded by what appeared to be early stages of Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. Because of the complexity of her condition, it was hard to see where one left off and the other started. He said at this stage of her life, there was nothing we could do. If this had been diagnosed when she was younger, with medication and counseling there may have been a chance for a normal life. He said that at this age, it had now become a part of her personality. In other words, embedded in her hard drive.
The home we took her to after my step father died, proved to be invaluable. They gave us classes on how to respond, what to do and not do. Had we known this information earlier much of her data might have been rerouted. For one, never deny. DON’T say, “I didn’t do that!” Or No, anything. Because they will always respond, with “Yes, she/he/you did” and each time they say it, it then becomes their reality through repetition and to them it is true. Instead, side step it, change the subject and move on to something else. In mom’s case, the neighbors were coming in and stealing beans, flour, coffee, detergent and heaven knows what else and I would argue,” how could they?” She would respond “up the back porch.” and I “but it’s 20 feet high and there are no steps to it.” and she, “Yes, but they are in construction, they have tall ladders.” and so it goes. So my advice? Don’t bother arguing with them.
Also, don’t make this mistake. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THEIR MIND.
When my husband and I finally got permission to move her down to Alabama from Tennessee where I stayed until the court gave me permission to move her, she was like a child wondering how long it was going to take. It went like this,
She:”Where are we going?”
I: “To my house”
She: “Where’s that?” ,
I: Alabama. (She didn’t like that)
She:”That’s where your dad lives. How long is it going to take?”
I: “Three hours.”
She: “Are we there yet?”
After those two lines of questions were established, she settled on three. How far, how long and are we there yet.
My responses were, “not far, in a couple of hours and no.
At one point, I varied it, tiring of the same answer and I said something like, one hour, 45 minutes and so forth. Then one time I changed it back and she said, “No, you said… ” Russ and I cracked up.
When the home she was in determined she needed a full time sitter, I knew I couldn’t afford that. My sister moved up from Florida and we bought a house together, baby proofed it to meet health care specifications for her situation. We took the knobs off the stove, put special locks and alarms on the door, ones she couldn’t reach to prevent her from exiting without our knowledge.
This was still a concern though because even with the demented mine, they found ways. Like the story of an old Marine officer who after he retired became an electrician. He dismantled the alarm system and when the nurses went to check on the patients, they were all gone. This old guy had delegated various patients to manage those less able and they were marching down the street for a getaway. They knew this old codger nor his troops would be easily corralled because they were marching with purpose. In fact, to confront them might cause them to scatter, so the doctor got the van and went straight to the commander in charge. She said, “It looks like you could use some help” and he looked at her and sighed, ” I sure could. These soldiers can’t get it together” or some such.
So, yes locks were a must and in her case they were put high on the door jam. We also didn’t include footstools because it would not have taken long for her to find them. Even so, my sister got distracted one day while changing mothers bed after she’d had an accident and I had only been gone five minutes, when Di calls to say, mom disappeared. She was crying too. It was 16 degrees out and mother was in a thin nightie and barefoot! We called 911 and the police only a couple of blocks away, came quickly. I turned around, but fortunately by then one of the neighbors had spotted her first and headed her home.
Like a child, she looked up at me and said, “It’s cold.” and I scolded her as you would a child, telling her “not to worry us like that again!” She said, “Okay”
Yes, I miss my mother. I missed her my whole life and yet she left her mark on me. Because of mother, I will like plants and flowers and pretty things. Expensive things. I like diamonds and gold. Nice clothes, nice houses. Cleanliness. Fancy restaurants, travel and many things I can live without but don’t want to. My mom taught me to reach for the stars and so I will until I die.
Mom wanted to live vicariously through me pushing me to do the things she always wanted to do herself but felt ill equipped to do because of her lack of education.
Yet mom, taught herself to read and write. She studied all the time and I think of her always determined to better herself. Mom did the best with what she had.
I look at it this way. I’m still going for my dream, however late in life it is I’m starting, It’s those dreams and that drive she instilled in me that move me forward and keeps my mind active.
I have dreams of one day writing the finest Academy Award winning screenplay ever and saying, “Mom, this is for you!”
A few years ago and I won’t name how many years back, but it’s been awhile, I was privileged to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
This was no ordinary school, I mean it’s attendees were such notables as Anne Bancroft, Robert Redford, Paul Rudd, Anne Hathaway, Kirk Douglas, Jessica Chastain and many, many more. See: https://www.aada.edu/alumni/notable-alumni#decade:all/orderby:all/display:panel
I was honored to get accepted. I’ll never forget the day I saw the ad in the paper looking for people to audition for the school. I was in Grand Junction, Colorado at the time and the auditions were in Denver. I applied and submitted my photo and they sent back what they wanted to see for the audition. At the time, I was 49 and I really didn’t think I’d be considered. After all, they want young, fresh, malleable students, right?
For some reason, I didn’t let that deter me. So, I prepared my song and a monologue.
The monologue was from a stage play called “Judge Lynch”. I was this hillbilly redneck woman whose husband had just lynched a black man for a theft while the real thief was a white man hiding in their woodpile. Very controversial piece and I put on the southern drawl and nature of the woman as I saw her.
The song I would sing was “Another Hundred People” from the stageplay “Company”.
At the time, I was associated with a group that had formed at a local coffee shop located in an old, downtown warehouse building. They were trying to generate traffic by putting on artsy events.
When I first moved to Grand Junction, it was shortly after a bust. A bust being where the town had vacated due to the oil shale companies closing down and everyone pretty much connected with it moving out or walking away from their homes. So there was nothing going on there.
Those of us who had lived in bigger cities were hungry for something, anything to put the arts back into our lives.
So, this coffee shop put out a casting call for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and I auditioned. I got the part of Nurse Ratchet and was so excited! First rehearsal and only two -three people show up. We call the no shows and the next time we got a few more but missing others. After about the third attempted rehearsal, the play was cancelled. So much for that.
However, we had others showing up who had not made the cut for the play and who kept coming to the Tuesday night meetings and from there we formed an improv group, did poetry readings and such. And through that I met a man name “Bob”. “Bob” would have been the director of our play, and was no novice to theater and show business. It was he who suggested the song and monologue I would do for my audition.
Now “Bob”, not his real name, was obese. It was quite evident from the start that he was also extremely talented and smart, even if he was a bit brusque at times. Anyone who make a point of letting me know that I was meant for the stage, because as he put it, I didn’t have the boobs for film is brusque. The looks maybe yes, but no boobs.
In my opinion, maybe a long time ago that might have been true, but anymore now, no one seems to care. But, I still liked him. I just blew that part off. But that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, I went to his home, which he shared with his mother, to rehearse. The first time I went, I look for his mom, he said she was in the kitchen. He then proceeds to lead me down the hall and eventually to his bedroom.
Yes, I said bedroom, but that’s not the interesting part. It was the hallway.
The hallway was predominately filled with pictures of him with stars and performing in all these musicals and stage plays. This guy had been a genuine Broadway star! It was hard to believe and yet I was fascinated with this man on the wall, compared to the man next to me, who in these pictures was a third if not one fourth the size was now and he was gorgeous. How did this happen?
I couldn’t help myself, I blurted out, “This is you?!” He says, “Yes” and I say, “Wow!”, as he continues to nonchalantly usher me to his room.(Now you know why I didn’t use his real name) I never asked, “Why?”.
His room was anticlimactic by comparison. It had a small bed and lots of electronic equipment and a keyboard piano, which is where I rehearsed the song with the orchestral background and then recorded the background tape for the audition. This guy had tons of scripts and sheet music piled high everywhere and it made me sad. He may have been brusque, but he knew his stuff and I couldn’t help but admire him. I couldn’t feel sorry because he would never have allowed it and yet… I do wonder where he is now or if he’s even alive.
I still sometimes wonder what it was that happened in his life to bring him to where he was at that juncture. Yet… well, I’ll never know.
For the monologue, I would go up to Aspen to rehearse with another actor, who’d played a bit part in “Forest Gump”, and who it turns out had other things on his mind, so I finished rehearsing on my own from there on out. At least “Bob” was on the up and up.
Never the less, I made the cut and off I went to L.A. What was nice is I had a choice of locations. New York or London. I couldn’t really afford to go to either New York nor London, and even though a part of me really wanted to see those places, I chose L.A.
Another reason was because my grandmother had been quite ill and she lived there and I knew I’d have a place to stay with her, plus I’d get extra special time to be with her.
It couldn’t have been a better choice.
Every day I’d get home, she’d ask me what I’d learned. She was so proud and protective.
One night I was getting ready to go to a party and she tells me not to take any drinks from anyone, because someone could put something in it. I laughed and asked her how she knew such things and she replied unabashedly, “I watch TV”. In the meantime, I pooh-poohed it saying, “Abuelita, I am 50 years old, who’s going to want to lace my drink?”
Weeell, I never told her, but she was right. I don’t know how, but I had not even finished half a beer when I felt it. If it had not been for me spotting a young student, only 14 who was in my class, with a beer in her hand no less, I might have finished that drink. As it was my mommy protective instinct kicked in and I gently imposed myself up on her making sure she didn’t finish the drink in her hand and that she got home safely. After I sobered her up, I called her aunt and uncle to come pick her up. She was a sweetie from England and was really okay with me interfering. However, had I finished my drink, it would have knocked me on my ass.
Ahhhh, “someone” was looking out for the both of us and No, I didn’t tell grandma.
Later, I would borrow some of grandpa’s clothes for my hobo dance and perform it for her. She just loved it! She loved for me to sing for her and never tired of listening even when she heard it over and over again. I think she had as much fun as I.
Yes, I made the right choice. We got to have some special times together and I even got to take her to get her US citizenship, which she was so proud of finally attaining. She died a couple of months after I left.
It will inspire and humble you. When this simple woman came on stage, everyone laughed or smiled, but no one expected her to knock their socks off. Simon Cowle (sp) said, he knew they would be in for a surprise, but I don’t think even he knew how it would materialize.
When I hear this woman sing, I cry. Every time.
How many times have I wanted to give up and had this long self talk of “why do you keep at it?”, “you’re just not that good”, “Why don’t you grow up and give up and just live your life peacefully and quietly?” ” Relax like other seniors, find yourself an innocuous hobby like painting”. Scary huh?
I can’t give up though. It’s not in me to give up. So I keep plodding along jotting down story line after story line. I read somewhere that without dreams, one has no purpose. Dreams and goals keep us alive and can bring you long life. How can it not?
I knew a long time ago I would live a long life. I haven’t given up on the outside, but it’s the inside self talk that wars inside me and if I let it, could get the best of me.
When that happens I must remember this little reclusive woman who dared to come out of hiding and become a star.
When I was a child, I ran away daily to get away from the screaming and abuses at home. My therapist said that I am amazingly “normal” for someone who had gone through so much.
I believe it was the “running away” that saved me.
One of the places I would frequent were the salt ponds near the town of Chula Vista. The salt ponds is where water from the Pacific Ocean gets channeled in through the San Diego Bay past Coronado.
Okay, I’m not much of a cartographer. But, that orange/red dot is where we lived and the map on the left shows how the salt ponds were connected to the ocean. The map on the right shows where we were in relation to the ponds and where the woods and trees were.
The salt ponds were my haven and I spent a great deal of time wandering them despite the “No Trespassing” signs. I was small, so I was seldom noticed or found out.
It was here at the ponds and the nearby “woods” that I spent a good bit of my time. There, I could do any number of things, climb trees, rescue animals and play with my imaginary village. I was seven.
The first molestation I could recall occurred when I was 5 by three teenage boys. Then more came after that. Some I remember clearly, some completely blocked out, but were uncovered years later. Once I was “made”, it was like a had an invisible brand on my forehead so men and older boys would somehow find me. It was a painful period of my life but I survived and came out on the other side a much better person and parent. For a long time, I didn’t know the causes of my insecurities or why I did the things I did or allowed certain things to be done to me. It makes sense to me now why the men I dated or was most comfortable with would be younger than I. Unconsciously, I was repelled by older men, especially ones with certain personalities, perhaps they had traits of or bore a resemblance to a perpetrator. I don’t know.
However, I digress, that is not what this blog is about, but it is important for the fact that it explains why I “ran away”.
TO THE RESCUE
At the ponds, I would rescue animals and birds that would wander off into them. At the time, I didn’t know the ponds were only a couple of feet deep, so I never actually went into them, thereby limiting the number to those I could reach on the fringes of the pond or those I could pull in with a stick. I also knew that the salt was mined for consumption, so perhaps I didn’t step in them to avoid contaminating it. The fact that I was pulling animals out of there didn’t compute or balance into the equation. I did this for several years up until I was about 11 or 12, I’m guessing.
At one point, I had accumulated so many critters that daddy built me a cage out back to house them. Mostly I brought in birds. The reason there were so many birds was because they would land on the ponds to swim and their body heat would crystallize the salt on their wings and they would get weighed down unable to fly. I would take them home, wash them off, feed them until they were better and then let them go.
One time, I recall finding a very unusual bird. It had a government band on it and I remember my dad calling the number and someone coming out to pick it up. I remember feeling like I’d done something very important.
As a child and through young adulthood I would have dreams of flying out my window and watching the world from above. I’m guessing it was either because I was in a bad relationship or mother was screaming at me, dad overstepping his bounds or beating the crap out of me, I remember the euphoric feeling of being set free. Perhaps it was because I needed rescuing that the ponds came into being but it’s how I kept sane.
Next to the ponds, were the “woods”. In one area on the way to my “woods”, there were tall eucalyptus trees. At the time the entire area seemed immense, now not so much. Hunting on the ponds was generally something I would do first as I wandered to the woods or climbed a tree. I was an excellent climber and could practically run up the smooth trunk of a eucalyptus like a Polynesian.
I could also spend hours playing by this one charred, burned out tree trunk. I would drive my toy car into my imaginary village and talk to my imaginary friends. This was my special trunk and I never shared it with anyone until now. It was cool, because it had an opening on top where I would look down into all it’s goings on and talk to it’s people. Sometimes I would sit there in the dirt, crying my woes to them and they would listen and it would be okay.
When I would go out, I would take a sibling or neighbor child with me but generally I would go alone or I imagined I was alone. One day, my sister brought it up and I remembered being surprised because she sounded as though we frequently went together.
On one occasion, I remember taking the little red headed girl that lived in the house behind us to the woods with me. Now to give you a full picture, my patch of woods was more like Br’er rabbits thicket. There were all sorts of tunnels that pretty much only a small child could pass through before getting to it’s heart. At the center of the thicket was an open area and once you broke through the tunnels a maze of paths that you could weave through could be accessed. It was my own secret garden and I shared it with few.
As I recall, that day was warm and we started to shed our clothes. We hesitated at our drawers and then rationalized that if it was good enough for Adam and Eve, we could do it too. So we did. We took it all off then got to giggling and squealing, running around in sun-ful pleasure. I recall, she was the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen, looking like an angel. Her skin was ivory white and it glistened in the sun, in contrast to my dark, swarthy complexion. She had only a few freckles sprinkled across a perfect nose while I had a pug nose. To top it off she had the most luscious vivid red curls that would tumble, most of the time uncombed, down her back while I was in neatly, too tightly braided pig tails that gave me an almost Asian look without the paleness. Everything about me was dark. I felt as though I always looked dirty and I longed for her whiteness. I think we were about seven at the time.
One day I went down to her house and she showed me how her family boiled clams in a big pot. They may have been originally from somewhere like Mississippi. They were hillbilly’s as many in our area were. She also told me she’d gotten ringworm. I didn’t know what that was but I must have gotten it from her because the next thing I knew my parents shaved my head, then scrubbed my scalp with what felt like a wire brush and iodine til it bled then covered it with what looked like axle grease followed by a knitted hat. It hurt and burned. So if I thought I was ugly before, I really looked ugly now. When I was finally allowed back to school, the kids would make fun of me. Our hats read, “Tijuana” . Needless to say, I wasn’t allowed to play with her again.
Eventually the boys that had molested me before had begun to hang out there (not in the “woods” but among the trees) and cornered me and my sister once, made us come back the next day then nothing.
As I got older, I got to where I went less frequently to the woods. I don’t know if it was my age or because perhaps it was no longer my “safe” place. On top of that I took my mom there once.
I’d found this fruit I thought I recognized so I took it to her. She wanted to know where I’d gotten it and I took her to where I’d found it. She actually got on her hands and knees and crawled through the rabbit hole with me. Even though I didn’t take her all the way in, only part of the way, she now knew about it. It turns out the plant I found was Jicama and she also found another called “chayote”, a squash like fruit and other other eatable, natural foods there. It was one of those rare moments where I’d actually pleased her.
In time the tomato farmers started dumping their old discarded plants into the lot next to it, (people were not as environmentally conscious then) but it wasn’t all bad. At first it reeked of rotten tomatoes but the following year tomatoes grew out of the rot. It had created it’s own mulch and delivered some of the most amazing sweet, beefsteak tomatoes ever. Sometimes, I would sit on a mound and eat a few before loading up and taking them home.
Later, as more people started “camping out” among the trees on weekends followed by our eventual move into town, the woods and salt ponds were relegated to the back of my mind becoming just another memory. Yet from time to time it surfaces.
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