Suzy

I met Suzy when we were sixteen years old. I lived with her, her mom, and her sister off and on for about a year. Her mom was a painter and instead of a garage out back, she had an art studio. Suzy and I were great pals for several years. She met the love of her life early and had a couple of kids before I settled into my own years of domestic bliss.

Right after I moved into the first house I ever owned, still a deliriously happy newlywed, Suzy called to tell me she had found her life’s calling. She was going to be a dancer. A ballerina. She was 22 years old and had three little ones, and out of my mouth popped “But you’re too old! You have to start young.”

It seems ludicrous now to say that 22 is “old” but for dance, that’s the brutal truth. Suzy replied “How can you say that? This is my dream!” She was hurt and offended by my impulsive, insensitive remark, and she didn’t mind saying so. I admired that about her even in that moment. Suzy was never one to take any abuse, while I usually allowed people to say mean things to me all the time without the wits to form a response.

We never spoke after that conversation (no suprise) but I still think about her and wonder if she ended up studying dance, if she was able to in some way realize her dream, even though being a mom of three little ones seemed to me to be a job and a half all by itself. I wondered then and I wonder now, where would she find time to make her dreams come true?

I also wonder how I would have felt if somewhere along the way someone had told me I was too old to pursue my own dreams. My ex came close to it, saying bitterly when I was maybe 25, “Grow up, Cindy. You’ll never be Erica Jong.” And he was right. I never will be. And I’m okay with that. Just being a writer is good enough for me, and I hope that somewhere Suzy is dancing, if only for herself.

 

 

 

My Princess Story

I now have a completed synopsis and chapters I’m happy with. Whew. Still need to write a cover letter, but that will be easy. Due to the royal wedding tomorrow I will be glued to my televison from early morning on, and my writer’s group meeting here on Saturday, I am thinking it is time to let my proposal sit a few days. I’ll review it Sunday and if I still think it’s great, I’ll whip up a cover letter and send the packet out on Monday. Meanwhile, this royal wedding reminds me of another one many years ago…

I was going through a tough time in my marriage. I had two little boys, neither in school yet. I wanted my marriage to work, for myself, but most of all, for them. I was giving things one last shot by seeing a marriage counselor. My ex went once, and then said “I’m fine. You’re the unhappy one, so you go to therapy.” At the time, it seemed like good advice. I put my ex on a pedestal. He was smart, perfect, the prince who’d rescued me from life behind the bar, pouring beers and mixing drinks. I believed everything he said. The marriage was falling apart because I was unhappy and that was my problem, not his.

I had a woman shrink at the time. She was a little older than I was, maybe in her 30s. She was very reserved, but she also made me feel safe. She listened to and validated me. She tried hard to get me to look realistically at my marriage. The day Diana and Charles married, I had a session. I came into her office and said “Charles and Di are married!”

She pounced. Did I feel entitled to be treated like a princess? No, I said, appalled that she could think that. I was just carried away by the exuberance of the day. The fairy tale aspect to the wedding. At least some people got their happy ending. She didn’t buy it. “It’s not the ending, it’s the beginning. Weren’t you happy at the beginning?” I admitted I’d been delirious with joy for five years.

The therapist couldn’t save my marriage. She even sent us to a specialist, who also couldn’t do anything to help us, though she tried. We split up and several years later so did Charles and Diana. When that divorce became public, I remembered my therapist’s words. She was more right than I’d realized.

That’s not to say I am not completely taken with all the hoopla of this new wedding. I am! And it’s not because I want to be a princess. I’d rather be a queen, thank you;-)

Billy

My brother had a birthday this week. He’s a little less than a year younger than I am, but his life has been dramatically different that that of his older sis. Since we are so close in age, Billy and I shared a lot of memories. Shared–past tense–because Billy’s childhood memories have been erased.

One night when he was 20 years old, after a hard day working out of town as an apprentice electrician, he went to a bar. He met some girls. Billy was not only a generous and kind human being, he was also gorgeous. Girls liked him. A lot. All we knew about those girls is that one of them was driving the car that night of the head-on collision. Both girls died. Billy survived. He was in a  coma for two months and the doctors didn’t give us much hope.

When he woke up, he was still my brother, but the trajectory of his life was forever altered. He knows me as I am now, not as I was when we were kids. He no longer had the small motor skills to do the job all the men in my father’s family have done since Edison invented the light bulb. Eventually the local electrician’s union hired him to mop floors and clean toilets at the union hall. He has a good income, a pension coming, and health insurance. He’s happy.

Those two girls would be the first deaths Billy saw first hand, but not the last. Billy owns a home and from time to time he’s had a friend or family member down on their luck living with him. The accident did not erase his kindness or generosity. One day Billy came home from work to find that his friend had shot himself in the head. Blood and brain tissue everywhere. Billy cleaned up the mess and called the next of kin.

My uncle Jack stayed with Billy while recovering from cancer. Actually, Uncle Jack didn’t recover. He died in Billy’s house, on Billy’s sofa, with Billy by his side. My brother has witnessed death up close and personal. At my uncle’s military funeral, they presented Billy with the American flag. I admire Billy’s courage in the face of so much death. But mostly, I  just love him. Happy Birthday, bro.

Travels with Al

Because I am a reader and writer, I cannot imagine a vacation without books, paper, pens. This trip, I left my laptop at home, bringing just a journal and my Kindle. Read a little, wrote a little, but mostly engaged in the usual rigors and beauties of travel, including an all too brief visit with my beloved son Tim.  

The writing I did was intensely personal, not about what we saw (the old adobe buildings in the town square of Mesilla, the gorgeous Guadalupe Mountains, the majestic bat exodus at Carlsbad Caverns, George Bush’s childhood home) nor where we went (New Mexico and Texas), nor the moment Al found the perfect silver cuff for my anniversary gift in the exact location where Billy the Kid was said to have stood trial for murder. (What used to be a courthouse now courts tourists.)   

Travel with Al always brings out the excess baggage, literally and figuratively, in our marriage. If I was upset; I wrote it down. What I remember most about journaling is being so grateful to have this refuge when Al did something to hurt my feelings, like complaining that we had to turn in our rental car because a small black widow spider had climbed up under my seat.

“You wouldn’t have died from it,” he said. He knew this because he’d asked the ranger at Carlsbad National Park.

“But if it bit me, I’d have to go to the hospital, right?”

His nod clearly signaled how remote he believed this chance. His lack of empathy indicated he was still miffed that we had to detour into crazy-busy El Paso, thus missing the journey down into the caverns. I poured my crushed feelings about this and other slights, real and imagined, into my journal. 

Lucky for me, after my initial siting, the spider stayed hidden in its web. Still, I had an anxious hour when my feet did not touch the floor mat where I’d first spotted the tiny terrorist. I’m not usually afraid of spiders. But this was New Mexico, and I’d heard stuff, plus its bright orange back was so unusual, a half hour out of Las Cruces my nerves got the best of me and I finally called the Hertz 800 number from the car. The guy on the other end of the line listened to my description, named the black widow, told me it was poisonous, and instructed us to exchange the car in El Paso. 

Al does not do well with my anxiety, or any sign of weakness in me at all. He ignores it if he can, but on vacation, he is forced to deal. It’s not that he’s a cold bastard, he just believes all will be well, no matter what. He thinks I’m essentially a sissy. It does no good to complain to a guy like that about his lack of sensitivity, especially after he’s just bought me jewelry. It’s like trying to change a dog into a cat.

At least we arrived at the park in time to see the bats, or the dog would have been really morose. 

Journaling, I had a clear epiphany that who I wanted Al to be was someone I could be for  myself. The specific ways I wanted him to care for me, I could care for myself. Which is what I did. I got us the new car, with a free upgrade. Plus they paid for our gas and gave us a gift certificate for our next rental.

And when we got to the park too late to go down to the caverns, I said, “but we’re in time for the bats, right?” and the taciturn guy at the information counter had to admit that yes, we had plenty of time to make it to the bat cave.

Fresh & First

Today, America ushers in a new age. I don’t know about you, but to me this seems like the most exciting beginning ever. And I’ve een pulling the lever in the voting booth for a really long time.

Barack Obama is only the third president I voted for who actually won. The first president I voted for was Jimmy Carter. I still love him. It was sad that he didn’t allow wine at the White House, but he was the first President I remember who tried to get us to conserve energy by dialing down our thermostats and wearing sweaters in winter. A visionary, even then. And now he builds houses for homeless people!  

I’ve endured an actor as President who started the trickle down economics and deregulation that led to unfettered greed, not to mention our current financial crisis. Then there was the war-monger, and after a all-too-brief respite, his son, who took Clinton’s balanced budget (Bill is the second guy I voted for) and gave everyone a check, and also tried to finish the war his dad started. Now we’re trillions in debt.

Obama’s got a hard row to hoe. But he’s committed and sharply intelligent and I have great faith that he and his advisors will get the job done. The right way. 

If it’s true that we can read people, see into the core of them, beneath all the scial stuff, what I read in Obama is utter and complete goodness, and a determination to make this country better than he found it.

We’re in a mess, no doubt about it. And so many politicians would take advantage of that. So many would use methods that weren’t exactly morally correct to get a little something extra, a million or two, for themselves and their pals. Not Obama. He will do what is best for all of us, not just the rich, not just his cronies. He doesn’t even have cronies! He’s a guy with friends and advisors and I think he knows the difference between them.

Which is why he’s appointed Hillary Clinton, his bitter primary opponent, as Secretary of State. Because he has no enemies, he holds no grudges, and he wants the right people in place to do the best job they can to make us once again a country that will be given respect in the world’s eyes.

He’s filling his cabinet with diverse figures, giving people of color and women their chances to shine. He sees beyond color, beyond gender. He gets it. We’re all in this together. We are a nation that is bleeding and he’s about to apply the necessary skills to bring us back to health, and he asks us to start by helping one another.

Dare I hope that the color of his skin signifies a racial healing in this country as well? I do, and even more, I know it. By electing this man who takes the highest office in the land this day, my country has declared loud and clear that the age of color discrimination and blatant racial hatred is over.

I see all good things from this election. If anyone can stop our country from crumbling from within, it is Obama. He has energy and the youth on his side, and he’s gonna need them both. Also have you noticed how calm he is? He’s like an enlightened master. He does not fluster. He simply gathers intel and gets down to work.

He’s not afraid of hard work. He’s been working relentlessly behind the scenes from the day he won the election. Now it’s time for him to take his rightful place in the White House. Welcome home, Mr. President. And may all the forces of good be with you, and with this beloved country you now lead.