I confess my mind works in crazy ways. My last diary, Chattel Mortgages, was just a prelude to what's going on in my goofy head.
See, I remember the day in 1972 when I got married to a man who was in the management training program at his company.
He actually told me that someone at his office told him it'd be better if he had a wife.
I didn't think about it much at the time. The diamond ring looked pretty good on my finger, and was having a lot of trouble keeping myself out of other situations that my new career as a flight attendant was introducing me to.
So we married. In 1972. In Montgomery, Alabama.
In fact, we married at St. John's Episcopal Church, famous for its slave galleries and more recently for the newly discovered piece of information that my cousin just shared with me that my uncle, the priest there for 35 years before he retired and left us, his unfiltered camels the only vice I know that he admitted to having, had quietly convinced someone in the parish to take down the confederate flags that had always hung in the sacristry or whatever it's called.
My husband and I married in the chapel adjacent the main sanctuary. Mostly I chose that route because it was easier than trying to figure out how to get married on what little money we had (my father had just, after all, paid for an abortion for me complete with plane trip to California and then all the expenses of putting his daughter up at Auburn for the last gasp of her education before she became a "flying barmaid" or more lovingly "Stew Sue" which is how he took to addressing me.
He was bankrupt. $280,000 I was told, though I've never seen the papers. I do know that his 1/4 partnership in Alabama Aircraft, Inc. which was the organization he and my mother worked before she died (I think she did the logo) and whatever interest he had in Ono Island were part of the collapse of his world, and I also know that if not for the closing of Brookley Field none of these things would have happened, except perhaps my mother's death during a time when there was no such thing as chemotherapy or surviving cancer.
But collapse it did. And he lost everything eventually. In one of my recent trips to Alabama to do a story on the Alabama Baby Doll for Alabama Heritage magazine I was fortunate to be able to revisit the house where my maternal grandparents had lived. I was shocked to realize that the room in the basement that the new owner had pointed out to me was the room where my father had boarded up a corner of it so that he would have a place to live. He had moved into his wife's parent's basement to live for a while before he began to drift out to sea in his mind, where he discovered at last his gifts of poetry.
His final poems are part of my heritage. My true heritage. The only things I've ever inherited from both my parents are their gifts and their creative genes.
My mother would have been a wonderful artist. She studied interior design at Auburn. She had some drawings that I found after her death that I'd never known existed and I have framed them and shared them with my sister and nieces, but they are truly treasures to me.
The reason they are so precious has less to do with my mother's talent than her sexuality. Her drawings are full of a spirit of sexual awareness that is normal, natural and celebrated in today's world. It's healthy. It's post-"our bodies, ourselves" but when she was on this earth, she was anything but sexually comfortable.
My father told me how difficult it was for her. She was not a woman who could be sensuous. That was risky - threatening to the victorian morals. And yet my mother's friends told me she was adventuresome. She and a friend took off to Washington, DC and I have a telegram somewhere that just says "Meet me in Washington" without address, time or any further instructions. Amazing.
My perception of mother-daughter relations doesn't include warm hugs, caresses, or stroking of any sort. I couldn't cry in her presence nor she cry in mine, and my sister and I are still not able to do that very well. We avoid the looks that indicate that there is pain and we have to be careful not to upset one another. I know that my voice can speak volumes to my sister. We are two years apart and were and still are very close.
So when I write about things that are painful I am careful to not dredge up too much of the stuff that is better left on the bottom. Dredging in Mobile Bay is a particularly difficult thing and we know how that can affect the quality of life here. And I am always learning how words can confuse the issue of what I'm trying to say.
See, I didn't understand that he was SHAMED by what I had done. My abortion. He, after all, consulted with my uncle the priest about it. And my uncle said there were really only two choices - the Florence Crittenden home and California. In fact, there was Mexico but my daddy would never have opted for that one, and New York? Well, that was yankee (I just learned that this is a dutch word -- lol -- gotta love those Dutch - I am gonna go look up the Dutch relatives I have soon) and besides Daddy had a sister in Fremont, just outside San Francisco. So for the second time in my life, I boarded an airplane - I don't even remember this flight oddly - I seriously don't. I do remember the bus ride home from the doctor's office where I learned I was pregnant and had to drop out of the school my father had worked so hard to get me into.
I didn't know any of this back then. I have a hard time even thinking about how many of my family really knew why I was on an airplane to California so soon after my mother's death. One year and one month. I loved California of course. It was, after all, 1969.
Leaving on a Jet Plane has a different meaning for me than most might assume. In this case, I was sad to leave California. I could have stayed out there and been a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts, but Daddy wouldn't even entertain the thought. Certainly Aunt Barbara would have been able to get my flirty little ass to settle down a bit. She had a daughter who later graduated from Stanford in BioGenetics. Yea. But me? I boarded that flight for the return trip and by winter quarter I was in Dorm 10, Auburn University.
Just in time for the ball. The Sigma Chi fraternity ball. I didn't go though. I just watched as the fraternity men rode up on horses to the dorm and announced the name of the co-ed that was to attend with sir whoever - scion of whatever legacy that still held sway in that fraternity. Did it mean anything to me? Only in the sense that I missed the horses of my childhood. I didn't have money, time or interest in balls. Still don't. Not that I don't like to dance, but I've never found a partner who could dance with me, or even keep up.
But I ain't dead yet, and I keep dancing.
One of the things that's confusing about my upcoming art show is that I use the titles of songs in my work. I like music. Lyrics mean so much.
Here are the titles of a few of my paintings for the show. I could use some help finding song clips for the labels that I plan to attach to the paintings so that people can actually listen to the lyrics as they view the work. If anyone wants to help me, I'm going to do another diary later today with the images in them. The titles are "Is that all there is?" "She's Come Undone" "Sunrise, Sunset" "Hello, Dolly" "Before the Parade Passes By" and "Summer Wind" - as well as one I have not found yet called "It's Three O'Clock in the Morning" which might be out there now as well. That one is a bit more confusing because most people haven't heard of it. And if i could ever get the painting of my mother done I'd use "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" as my father sure cut cut a rug and played the sax.
So when I write about me, I'm often just trying to parse out some tidbit of truth from the silt on the bottom of my life. The stone that I feel underfoot might just need to be examined to see if it's got sharp edges. You know? I might leave it there. I might throw it out in deeper water where it can't hurt someone else. Or I might - I just might - frame it and show the world why it's still a sharp object that needs to be re-examined.
That's what I'm trying to do with my art. Re-think the truths that we hold "self-evident" in our discourse. We have a hard time doing that sometimes.
Currently I'm thinking about women as Chattel. Slaves as chattel. Property as a measure of worth. Trophy wives. Wives as Corporate show-pieces. The couple. Coupling and uncoupling. The house as property that speaks to the world of your worth. Your property as a measure of who you are. And finally, though not by any means the end of this subject, the idea of using your children as a sort of representation of who you are. Your children and my children are individuals.
The movie "The Help" which I have not seen but plan to see alludes to the idea of people as property in the sense that the landowner/wealthy could point to the resources and indicate that they had some wealth attached to the ability to generate income by the work that could be done by this help.
Does the factory mentality -- the industrial basis for our schools - the seeing of children as an investment in our future - not in some ways come close to this idea -- and the idea of the draft was certainly a period in my lifetime when we as a group resisted the idea of children as cannon fodder --
Who are we as a country? Who are we really? I am totally sick of the daily onslaught of media coverage that points us back to our simplistic fear based cultural divisions and away from a humanity that cares about our planet and about each other. Religion? Please tell me how you see your god as someone who makes a person or group more beloved than another group by some divine being. I want to understand this.
What I understand is that cultural constructs are artificial. They are invented to keep us in society. In society with or without. The idea of ADD and ADHD, I'm beginning to think, is a social construct. It's never a problem for me when I am thinking. My ADD is only a problem when I need to make myself stop thinking.
As my exhusband always used to yell at me "No one pays you to think." Indeed.