Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I'll soon have to write a couple paragraphs about what I've been doing for the last forty years. Photos are requested, too, for an exhibit at the farmhouse where the fortieth class reunion of the class of 1968 at Letchworth Central Junior-Senior High School will take place.

I remember my mother's fortieth class reunion. We both were in awe that such a thing could be taking place. I never really thought of my mother as old -- even when she was -- but I also, when I was thirty-four, didn't think about her feeling younger than her years, or of having sex at age fifty-eight.

Not that I have sex, you understand, or even think of it.


Anyway, I've got some exotic pictures of me in Ghana from ten years ago. THEY certainly will go in the exhibit. There I am in native garb (in which I look stupid, as all white people do, in my never-humble opinion), surrounded by a sea of little kids. There's another one of me pounding fu-fu, or was I just watching someone pounding fu-fu?

What surprised me more than anything when I got back from those five weeks was that I hadn't ever attempted to hold a baby on my back the way the women do there, with the cloth, leaving themselves free to, well, pound fu-fu and gather paw-paws and pineapple. I never tried to carry anything on my head, either, but that doesn't surprise me. Next time, I'll at least try the baby thing.

I was with Habitat for Humanity for two weeks, and then on my own for three. We dozen white women traumatized an entire generation of Ghanaians in the village of Kushea. These kids on their mothers' or sisters' or grandmothers' backs would take one look at us and lose their minds. They'd stiffen and shake and shriek as if we'd dropped them in ice water ... or as if they're stuck their fingers in electrical outlets, had there been any.

The older kids, toddlers big enough to toddle, thought we were most interesting, but those babies are still having nightmares about us.

I have a picture of me grinning between two soldiers in Bogota, Colombia (again: my queendom for an accent mark!), German shepherds at attention.

Hmm ... I have wedding pictures, too, but no divorce pictures. Doesn't that seem strange? Really, now, divorce is at least a big a deal as a marriage, but we just duck off to a lawyer's office and get it done alone. My then-husband didn't even know he was divorced. He got a notice in the mail from the court that said his case had been heard, but that's it. He didn't know if the divorce had been granted -- like a wish, like a scholarship -- or denied.

I have pictures of me in my art car. How screamingly cool is that?

I don't have any pictures of me sobbing on the way home from work, night after night, crying so hard I thought I'd snap a rib, while my mother wandered the halls of Alzheimer's.

I don't have any pictures of my broken heart, either. I almost said broken hearts, but yeah, I guess I only have one. Seems like more, though.

There's no picture of that one boyfriend smacking his own head against the window of my [painted] car because being with me can make some people crazy. No pictures of me smashing my beautiful blue-and-white teacups on the floor, gouging the linoleum, because sobriety doesn't always bring sanity.

On the other hand, no pictures are needed of our tenth class reunion when my drunken boyfriend beat up his equally drunken girlfriend -- the Queen of the Prom, by the way -- right in front of the class of '68.

So I'll bring my way-cool photographs of Africa (Africa!) and South America and the cars and trucks I've painted. I'll write that I'm a member of the St. Petersburg Writers' Club, that I've actually edited a novel. People who got married and had children who now have children will look at the exhibit and think that their lives are boring. They'll think that putting their kids through college is no big whoop, that staying together for thirty-five years is a sign of boredom and fear, not maturity and love. They'll note that I included a picture of my cat but not of my non-kids. Oh. They'll imagine their lives without their kids and just frown, not quite able to do that. They'll have their noses pressed up the glass of my life, and they'll see me peering longingly into theirs.

But whoa! what if we're old enough now -- wise enough -- to realize that the grass really isn't any greener? At forty, I was occasionally sad that there wouldn't be children for me, but at nearly sixty, I just shrug. So what? That simply wasn't my path this time around. What if all of us at good ol' LCS think that way? What if we've already learned that different is just different -- not better or worse -- and that happiness really is wanting what you already have?

What're the odds of all that being true?

1 comment:

Jason said...

LCS? Not familiar with that one although I have this tingling in the back of my head that I should. Anyway, keep it up! I love it!

Love, Jase