Book of Gen
~ Growing up in a Magickal Home * Magickal Records *
In my garden of memories, I classify
orchids as unregretted indiscretions...
and violets as regretted discretions.
My orchids have taken prizes.
- Don Blanding from Let Us Dream, The Amatuer Botanist
The Basics 1963
The Basics 1972
The following was to be a brief biography of Mother's life...magickal and mundane, profesional and personal, subjective and objective. After cutting much of it, ten pages of copy remain. Thus, I put in TOP of PAGE links every two pages for those who like their biographies...in serial form.
My mother, Dorothy, was born on Friday the 13th and her thoroughly Irish mother just knew she wouldn’t live to adulthood. Both of her parents, John and Helen, were 28 when Mother was born. Grandfather listed his occupation as a gardener at the time. A throwback and the black sheep of the family, Mother was different from the start. Her father, John, told her about the French aristocrat who was their ancestor, who escaped from France during the Reign of Terror to live in England, marry and live out his life in secrecy. That’s why we never knew his name. But Mother knew the color of his skin because instead of getting her Irish mother’s milk white skin, she got her father’s recessive swarthy pale olive skin, marking her with the blood of her French aristocratic ancestry.
Dorothy’s dark skin caused a “movie script” episode in Grandmother's life. She was just a toddler playing in the front yard with her brother, Bill, when an old gypsy woman passed by the house. Helen had turned her back for just a moment and the gypsy picked Dorothy up and walked away. Bill began screaming, “She’s taking the baby! She’s taking the baby!” Helen turned to see the woman walking down the street with Dorothy. She grabbed her broom and gave chase. The gypsy didn’t even run, when Helen yelled, “Stop her, she taking my baby!” The woman protested in mock horror, saying that the dark haired, olive skinned child was obviously her granddaughter and continued walking. Grandmother began hitting the woman with her broom until she relinquished the child as the neighbors began coming out of their homes to see what the fuss was. Grandmother explained to the neighbors as the gypsy slipped away. Not many people can say they were stolen by gypsies.
Mother was exceptional in many ways. She began reading when she was barely three years old and with Grandmother's excellent home library, Mother was weaned on the classics, including Shakespeare, by the age of four. She was so bored with being a small child that she decided that she needed to go to school, when she was just four. She followed her older sister Gertrude to school every day until the teacher finally let her stay. Mother was three years younger than Gertrude was and she idolized her. Mother excelled in her first two years of school and was promoted past second grade, from first to third grade in 1921.
Although she adored her siblings, she was, in looks and temperament, quite differ from them both. Brother, Bill was fair and quiet, thoughtful and studious with a wicked sense of humor. Sister, Gertrude, was blonde and green eyed, soft spoken and liked all the things a proper young woman should like. She was kind, generous, helpful, understanding and loving. Mother - dark haired, dark blue eyed and tawny skinned - on the other hand, was quite the tomboy. She was energetic, enthusiastic and boisterous. She loved the outdoors, sports and, as Grandmother used to say, she always looked like an unmade bed. (Note stocking sagging and crooked bow. Above, Far Left.)
This picture was taken of her climbing a tree in her yard at the age of nine in 1923. Face smudged and hair in tatters, she was completely happy. As she and the trees grew larger, she used to climb them to secrete herself away from the world to read or muse or watch the cloud dragons. She was imaginative, loved to write, draw, sing, dance and put on plays with her sister. She loved to swim, roller skate, climb, swing and go pogo stick hopping.
Mother recalled her childhood as a magical time. Sister Gert and brother Bill: picking huckleberries and wild blue berries stuffing newspaper up their pants and sleeves so the ticks wouldn’t get them, and then catching fireflies at the end of the day, working with her mother in the garden, and helping her father in his wood working shop in the basement. She had a kitten that she named Moochie who loved to swing on her mother’s best curtains. She remembered that most of her summer vacations were spent stepping over sleeping children to get to the bathroom. Her cousins came to visit and were replaced by new one each week throughout the summer. With two aunts and two uncles on her father's side and five aunts and two uncles on her mother's side, the house was always full of people.
1923 was a pivotal year for Mother. This was the year she would see against the dark night sky, the large red-gold flames blazing in the shape of a cross that accused her mother of being a witch. She would have nightmares for weeks afterwards that caused her to sleepwalk, trying to put the fire out. This indelible image would force Grandmother to renounce her philosophical and occult studies publicly, for fear that the same or worse might be someday be visited upon her daughter, whose gifts were beginning to show themselves. It also instilled a degree of fear in Mother that no matter how much she wanted to trust in the goodness of people, she knew they could, in a New York minute; turn on their friends out of fear, ignorance and superstition. She never again used the term witch in a serious context.
The year would also bare the burden of the loss of her Irish grandfather, James Patrick, (Helen's father) her favorite storyteller. Mother would memorize his stories of being a Union soldier during the Civil War; and his adventures in the Wild West as a currier in Custer’s 7th Cavalry, a good friend of Buffalo Bill Cody and a survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
She would also witness one of our family’s greatest mysteries. When her Grandfather died, he was laid out as was the tradition, at home...in the dining room. With candles guttering and the scent of flowers, one could go in to pay one's respects and then gather in the other rooms to hoist a glass and sing a song to honor the deceased. People were coming in and out of the house all day. Dorothy saw her mother open their front door to a stranger wearing a formal Confederate Parade Dress officer's uniform with brass polished, white gloves, and his hat with full plums tucked under his arm. Mother heard him ask if the was the funeral of James Patrick and then asked to see her grandfather’s remains. Mother and Grandmother watched through the parted doors of the dining room as he put his hand on James' shoulder and heard the officer say, "Well, Jim, I've kept my promise." He saluted and she watched him leave with nothing more than a respectful nod of his head to the family, taking with him the secret promise made between these two enemies, a private and an officer, sixty years before. We never learned who the southern gentleman was or how they met or what the promise was.
That same year the elementary school's principal wanted Mother to skip fifth grade but Grandmother, said no. Mother was already two to three years younger than everyone else was in her class, including her sister, Gert. As it was, she would graduate high school just after she turned fourteen.
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In 1952, her home town newspaper reprinted a picture of Mother's graduating fifth grade class in a "Where are they now" feature. There are two faces that are slightly lightened. The one at bottom left was Mother...the one up and to the right...her sister, Gertrude.
The neighbors got over the scare that Grandmother was a witch, but Grandmother was still very conservative with her philosophies. She tried to instill in her children the values of Catholicism that were comparable to with her Irish family’s tradition, like devotion the saints and the Blessed Mother. There were Catholic icons in every room, but Mother was raised to believe that one was closest to god in nature.
When Mother was about eleven, Grandmother put a portrait of St. Anne in Mother's bedroom. In a very short time, Mother turned the painting into a divination tool. She would ask “God’s Grandmother” yes and no questions about the important things in the sphere of a child’s life, and the image in painting would nod her head up and down or side to side, to inform her petitioner of the future. Mother practiced prophesy with the painting for many years before she mentioned to Grandmother the positive outcome of one of her questions. Mother went off to summer camp at Cape May and when she returned, a corner shrine, with candle rack and kneeling bench was dedicated to a statue of St. Teresa in her room - and the portrait of St. Anne was gone. Try as she might, Grandmother didn't want Mother to show her gifts before she was cautious enough to understand the danger they put her in.
Holidays were always the most magickal times. Season changes, weaving holly wreaths and garlands for Yule, dancing around a May Pole, planting a tree, harvesting the fruits and vegetables for summer canning, birthdays, Feast Days, any excuse for a party - the house was filled with music and dancing and food and good company.
On Halloween, the tricks began a full week before. One night was gate night when everyone’s garden gates mysteriously landed on the roof of the firehouse. Thread night woke all the sleeping with thumping and bumping as a spool of thread unwound banging against one’s bedroom window while the perpetrator was blocks away on the other end of the thread. Pumpkin stealing was each year the bane of the same local farmer. The kids would sneak into his pumpkin patch to steal from the old man. They managed to get to about the same spot - nearly a clean get away, when suddenly the old man would burst through his front door. He'd come running out on his porch, shot gun in hand filled with salt rock and mock rage as the kids (who each nicked a pumpkin for carving and pumpkin pie) ran for their lives. Each year the neighborhood accepted the pranksters with good humor.
However, on All Hallows Eve, the children were expected to perform some little song or poem or tell a joke or otherwise earn their treats. Because if they didn’t, the trick might be turned on them from behind the doors in the form of a goblin or ghoul ready to return the fright that they had inflicted on the town all week. The Victorians took the holiday in most healthy way...not all witches were hags, magick and divination was possible and fun was expected to be had by all.
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After the festivities, a big dinner was set for the family. Mother put food out each year for the passing spirits that a good Catholic girl knew didn’t really exist, but that an Irish colleen knew were there just the same. The house had to be clean, as well and it inhabitants. No one was allowed to be sick. Everyone got something new to wear, usually hand made by Grandmother. The cupboard must contain fresh bread as the primary talisman for a full cupboard, but Grandmother always made sure flour, salt, sugar, eggs, plus milk and cheese in the icebox, were included. Everyone's purse or pocket needed a coin or two. Grandmother lit candles before the pictures, Mass cards and memorabilia of their beloved dead … and at midnight after everyone had gone to bed...Grandmother read the tealeaves for news of the year ahead.
1926 - Between Grandmother's instructions for proper home making, gardening, canning, cooking, sewing, needle point, Mother received elocution and singing lessons, music lessons in piano and violin, dance and art studies, and practice in proper manners. The dinner table was the nightly venue for philosophical and social debate because against the rule of gentile conversation, the two things that our family always talked about were politics and religion.
Mother spoke often of Grandmother inviting the priests over to dinner every Friday night. It seemed the proper thing for a good Catholic woman to do. But with light entertainment before supper, a perfect meal, an impeccable table setting, one would not expect with dessert, the very proper lady of the house to challenge every church tenet all the way up to and including the opinion’s of saints, the propriety of the pope and a woman’s place in the church. With a wave of her hand, she would dismiss original sin by saying St. Paul had a revelation and St Augustine popularized it! She argued that two people in love could have produced Jesus and that The Virgin birth had to be made a law of the church by Pope Pious IX not a hundred years earlier! She rejected Satan as a being or a force of evil, along with the concept of god as something to fear. She believed that nature was capricious and all the evil of the world was in the hearts of sick or ignorant humans. The rules and tenants that mandated behavior before god were merely “man’s invention” not god’s law and therefore not binding on her! Mother wondered why the priests continued to come to dinner every week and decided theirs was a particularly Catholic behavior - it was a mystery.
Grandmother and Grandfather were not the obedient type and their children were raised in the philosophy of the church, offset by the progressive thinking of an intellectual and enlightened household, punctuated and charmed by the myth and magick of their Irish ancestry.
Mother was to graduate from her academic high school the year the stock market crashed. The family lost everything. They lost their saving and college money tucked away for the three children. They lost the home my Grandfather built with his own hands for the lack of $160 dollars. The house today is worth $240 thousand. Mother became a member of the "Lost Generation." In her own words, we "put away our dreams and faced the stark reality of trying to survive in a world of poverty, hopelessness and regret. But we wouldn't stay lost. We'd survive, knowing that all we had lost was this opportunity to achieve our dreams. And someday, we'd get another chance to make our dreams a reality." Until then, she was forced to go to a technical school to obtain secretarial skills instead of going to Penn State to study journalism. After her high school graduation, she got a job as a secretary to four lawyers. She would forever lament her lost opportunity to go to college.
Several years later, she lost her beloved sister, Gertude, to a ruptured appendicitis. Gert was pregnant with her first child and both were lost due to the negligence of her husband who thought that Gert was not sick enough to need a hospital. Both Grandfather and Uncle Bill nearly killed him...and he was forbidden to attend the funeral where she was buried in the family plot. Gert was the heart of the family and Mother's best friend. The family was inconsolable.
1933 - After a hard week's work, she and her friends would go to Atlantic City’s Steel Pier to go dancing to the swing bands of the day. She often sang with local bands on the weekends and on one occasion sang with a local stand-in band during a break taken by Dorsey Brother’s Orchestra. Tommy Dorsey liked her voice so much that he asked her to tour with the band. But Grandmother felt it was not suitable for a single lady to be riding on a bus with a bunch of men…and advised her to refuse. She did and always wondered what might have happened if...
Instead of becoming rich and famous, she met the love of her life.
She was visiting her friend Christine in Philadelphia while Christine's sailor husband was away for two weeks. After a few days, the two young women were invited to a party next door. The party was at the home of another sailor and his wife named Myrln and Vione. When Mother walked into the living room with Christine, she was, sort of - left at the door to make her way around the room on her own.
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She noticed George at the piano, singing raucous songs with a group of people huddled around him. Mother sat down and before long, another sailor was trying to get her attention. The guy didn't have a prayer; she was listening to the young man at the piano singing, not the guy sitting next to her talking. The singer's voice was one she thought she had heard before, but it was not likely that they had met. She would have remembered. Perhaps in a dream. Half way through the evening, the young man walked over to her and took both of her hands in his. He said, “You know, don’t you.” She smiled and said, "Yes, I know." The very next thing he said to her was…"Dear God, I’m married.”
His wife, who was older than he was and well off, had recognized his formidable talent and pursued him with the logic that she would make him the perfect benefactor, until he relented. Only after the wedding did he realize that they had nothing in common but his hope of becoming a successful writer.
Between two world wars and during a depression, one would think there was not too much innocence left in the world, but there was in their world. He said that he would not entangle Mother's heart, until he was free. It was too late for that. So, the best they could do was spending two chaste weeks together, chaperoned but their mutual friends. He would have no hint of scandal where they were concerned. She returned home to wait for news. While he, also a sailor, filed for a divorce shortly before going to sea.
They corresponded in his absence and discovered that she had in fact seen him in a dream. He was chasing a football over a fence...she described the scene perfectly...it belonged to the house next door to his. They discovered that he too, had dreamt of her. He dreamed of her dancing in a red flamenco dress when she was in her early teens. He described the stage and the color of the curtain behind her. She said that she did the Flamenco dance for a fundraiser for the church. They felt that they had known each other for several lifetimes.
It was obvious that he would become a successful poet with such letters…such poetry, that he wrote to Mother. He was going to be a brilliant writer, as he was nearly that already. I was lucky to save Mother's letters from my demon sister.
From a letter written to Mother...perhaps, not the most beautiful he wrote to her, but one that I feel she would not mind my sharing. The letter began with talk of the difficulty he had concentrating on work because he was filled with thoughts of her. His words are lovely and sincere, when without a hiccup he suddenly begins to write the poem below, without definition but in the middle of the letter. His handwriting does not change and continues in the line after line careful script, the way one commonly fills a page with chatter. However, it is not chatter, even written in its folksy style...and it is uncommonly, extemporaneously written, without edit or ink blot...
“...Right now I should be workin’ on some sensible sort of theme. Right now I should be baskin’ in the edifying beam of some philosopher’s wisdom or busy searching for, the beauties of the muses or the ancient's cryptic lore. There’s four or five o’ topics that I’d like to know about (though I’m not one of them fellers who his learnin’ likes to flout. Or to the world in gen’ral of his eddication boast) But to sit down here and putter on this sort of stuff, is simply wastin’ precious hours of which there ain’t enough by half allotted t’one span of life to let a feller learn, of all the things that’s bound in books for which his heart may yearn. There’s times when at this battered desk, with this o’l pen of mine, I scrawl out reams of pages of some mighty purty lines and some purty pert’nent paragraphs, but those times ain’t frequent now. ‘Cause this heart of mine won’t work just right, an’ I’m feelin’ kinda low. I seem to hear, no matter where I go, the whole day long, and sometimes far into the night, the melody of a song—a sweet and jolly little song, that once was sung to me, by a voice that kissed each lovely note so sweet and tenderly. God knows I’ll never want to but though I ever should, wish to escape that haunting voice, I simply never could. No matter far I flee or high I climb or sink in waters deep; that voice my whole life through I’ll hear and in my last long sleep…
…It’s lonesome that I am today, she’ll never know the gloom that I have known without her in this still and silent tomb that is my world without her; an’ how I’ve longed to have her here if only for a minute – time to whisper in her ear those magic words that bridge the gap twixt peace and discontent and whisk away the mem’ry of those hours of hell I’ve spent without her; if only for a minute so’s I might rest, where’s only found the deepest peace; my head upon her breast. Right now I should be workin’ on some sensible sort of theme but right now I can’t help dreamin’ a sweet and word’rous dream of the day that’s swift a-loomin’ when this mis’ry will be o’re and then I’ll seek the muses and dig up the ancient’s lore.”
It took many months of bartering with his wife to get her to agree to the divorce. As fate would have it, she intercepted the telegram that he was sending to Mother of the good news. The wife knew nothing of “the other woman” who was not nearly so, but once her pride was bruised, she reneged on the divorce. She said that she would not allow another woman to be Mrs. Famous Poet. He swore that he would never write another line of poetry if he couldn't be with Mother. Whether she gave him a divorce or not, NO ONE would be Mrs. Famous Poet. She said that she didn’t believe him and would never divorce him.
The two young lovers sat with bags packed on a pier contemplating a tramp steamer to a far away land like Hong Kong or Morocco to “live in sin.” But the culture of the day was such for them that honor forbid the possibility, no matter how badly they wanted it. By today’s standards of young people “hooking up” for recreational sex and giving away their bodies as party favors like those neon glow bracelets whose light fades by morning... To these people, this lost love story must seem rather dramatic and foolish. Even when Mother confided her love story to me, I told her that had I gotten a vote, I would be speaking Chinese today! But it was not possible for those two people, at that time and place in history. And so, instead of getting on the ship, they said good-bye.
ASIDE: I wasn't going to tell you about this part of Mother's life...it was so very precious to her, very private and sacred. However, this part of my journey is all about telling the truth. All of the players are gone and no one can get hurt by the story. Still...I debated casting Mother's pearls before...those who cannot empathize. Those people like my demon sister who once said to me that the story was all a bunch of crap and Mother was just trying to romanticize a seedy affair that she had with a married man. Mother overheard my half sister's words to me. It hurt Mother so deeply that she never told anyone again...the story of her lost love. I was the only person to whom she could say his name out loud, because I knew the truth. See, my half sister never read the letters...and in them, it tells the truth of how much he loved her and how they chose to be chaste. Not everyone sinks to the lowest common denominator, as my half sister was always too quick to assume about everyone.
Mother never regretted loving him and named those days the most magickal of her life. She accepted Fate's decree that in this life...they would love apart. She said that if it had ended the other way...I wouldn't have been speaking Chinese. I wouldn't have been speaking at all because I wouldn't be here. And that was unthinkable to her. So, I felt that if I was her consolation prize for losing the love of her life, then I'd better be worth the sacrifice. I have lived my life in the daily attempt of making her proud of me. A pride that she lavishly expressed to me in words and friendship when she lived...and a pride that she still finds ways to express, now that she has passed. She felt that it was not her purpose, to come out of the closet. Although, I have resisted and resisted, she said that I would. With each new exposure, each new stripping of pretense or protection of myself (and now of her, to openly share the trust we had in each other. As her legacy, I travel closer to her goal of sharing our tradition with the world. I hope I have told their love story well enough for you to sense the magick in their meeting, without thinking that by writing it here, I have tossed it out...like a party favor.
Making a Life
Mother tried to settle down and married a handsome young man of her family's choosing, who knew he could never capture her heart. Billy said that he loved her enough for them both, but try as they might, the marriage didn't last a year. She continued to work on her writing and fed her restless need to learn by reading every book in the area's local libraries, A to Z.
She became a career woman and was making a name for herself, writing short stories for area papers and magazines while she still worked for the lawyers. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, she was the only one of her group who was unmarried.
With World War II looming over the horizon, she decided that she wanted children and married a police officer, nicknamed Bucky. Before shipping out, she became pregnant with my half-brother and within the year of her husband's return, she had my half sister. Mother left him after seven abusive years of egotism, ignorance and chauvinism. She got on a train and took her children west...where she had always dreamed of living to start a new life.
In 1949 - she married my father, an Air Force Pilot and WWII veteran. Mother said that she loved two men in her life. Daddy was handsome, made her laugh, loved to sing and dance, loved sports and was a gentleman. He accepted my half brother and sister as his own and made no differentiation between them and me, his natural daughter. For the next seven years, Mother continued to write and sell to small press, as she became the epitome of an Air Force officer's wife. She raised her Air Force brats with all the spit and polish of the military culture. She also raised us with all the Irish magick and love of life that she was raised with, while we traipse all over the country. I must have stepped over as many bodies getting to the bathroom in the morning as she did as a child because there was always a hoard of people visiting us. Whether it was Grandmother visiting us or other relatives, or a group of Daddy's cadets learning to fly and missing a home cooked meal, we always had a full house of laughter, conversation and debate.
1956 - The loss of a mother is never easy and it was expecially hard when my Grandmother died. Mother had flown all night to reach the hospital where Grandmother was taken for tests. She arrived just as Grandmother was sent upstairs for more tests and she was asked to wait downstairs until the tests were over. Grandmother was lying on a table flirting with two young doctors, one of whom made her laugh. And then...she was suddenly, silently gone, the smile still on her lips. Mother felt so cheated that she didn't get to say good-bye and tell Grandmother one last time, how much she loved her.
Thick in the late 50's car culture, my childhood hometown was Route 66. We had eight cars in ten years including one of the first VW bugs in the country brought here in pieces and put together by an uncle. We had a Volvo before anyone could pronounce its name and a Dodge Charger...Citron Gold and shiny, the first year it came out. Daddy was a midget racecar driver in his younger days...and cars were one of his passions. He retired a Captain from the Air Force after 22 years in the late 50s and we settled down for the first time in my life. We bought a home in the town where I was born and mother went to work at a local newspaper.
1958 - 1965 were good years. Both my brother and sister got married and moved out of the house. The country was changing with expanding ideas and there was an awakening happening in the culture that Mother very much identified with. My father's career was taking off (A little accidental humor, there...he was working for Bonanza Air Lines, a local airline company!) We had a little extra money for the first time in my life. Mother was writing her western novels in her new screened in porch/office. In those days, the genre was a "Men Only" club and not an easy one to break into. Her first novel, "Ride the Night Wind," she could not get published. But that didn't stop her. She wrote novel number two, The Starduster, and in 1965, Arcadia House published it, hard cover. She wrote a third novel entitled, "Trail to Pioche." It was a better novel than her last, but she never submitted it due to agenting problems. And her world was about to turn upside down. She would never publish "Pioche." Both the manuscripts of "Pioche" and "Ride the Night Wind" are lost to me, thanks to my demon sister forbidding me even a copy of them.
My father was moving up in the world. Mother was in the Women's Republican club and the two of them were flying to the capital on a regular basis. It was common to find the local intelligentsia and political movers and shakers at our house for a cocktail party. (Paul Laxalt was a regular in the early 60s and became one of Reagan's right hand men.) We were flying free all over the southwest on my father's airline. Life was moving pretty fast. Right about then the family fell apart. Mother was studying metaphysics, witchcraft and New Age philosophies as they related to our family tradition. In 1963, she initiated me into our family tradition. She was also working the Ouija board, which was taking her studies in a different direction and just the presence of the board, freaked everyone out.
The three of us were uprooted to Phoenix with Bonanza Airlines sold to Howard Hughes and he needed bigger hangers for his DC-9s. My half sister was pregnant with her second child and her husband was being sent to Viet Nam and so she moved in with us. Shortly after the baby arrived, Dad moved out. That was a hellish year, after which on a lark...Mother decided that she and I should move to Tucson. She wanted to research there and I would be closer to my boyfriend.
When Mother and I moved back home after two years in Arizona, Daddy didn't come with us. (Neither did my boyfriend) It was just Mother and I and frankly...it was a pretty good time. It was the late sixties, and Mother joined a small weekly newspaper as a feature reporter and sports editor. Yes, there was a nine-year-old in her that was still a tomboy in a tree who loved sports. She covered all the local school sports and after ten years filled many an athlete’s scrapbook with press clippings documenting their achievements from Pop Warner football to college scholarships. She was often surrounded by a group of students, half of whom were black that under any other circumstance would seem threatening, but to her...were simply her "boys" who saw that she got to her car safely after a late game.
Those were some of the happiest years of her life. She had an uncanny ability to get the story that no one else was getting. As if by magick...she always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. She was an award-winning journalist each year she worked for the paper even after it was sold and went daily and the demands on her life were all consuming. News never ends...somewhere, something is going on and she practically lived at the paper. When she was in her mid-fifties, she quit the paper for regular hours and better pay...becoming an Administrative Assistant to a local judge. She worked there for six years, getting involved in politics again...getting her judge re-elected and then later getting him elected mayor.
In the late seventies, she retired...for a few years and then took the job I vacated at my children's school as the principal's secretary. She got to see her grandchildren every day for three years. Spread her wisdom and magick to a new generation and had more "adopted" grandchildren than anyone could believe. Then she retired again. She has been teaching the principles of our family tradition to a small group of my friends, my foster sister, and I for about ten years. We dove into those studies in earnest twice a week as a group and worked as solitaries daily. It was a deeply spiritual time, a hopeful time, a Camelot age when we were acutely aware how lucky we were. Still that was not enough for Mother and she decided to go to college and major in journalism. She was a straight-A student and a favorite of both students and teachers.
She died in January of 1985 of leukemia. I spent every night in the ICU from midnight until dawn (which was against the rules...for everyone else but me...magick) after my gig producing the 11:00 o'clock news, reading to her, singing to her, telling her stories, giving her massages and catching her up on the days activities. I don't know if she ever heard me. Just when see seemed to be getting better, she died in her sleep right after I left her. I have missed her charm, wisdom and humor every day since.
She never remarried and found it odd that when my father died, three years before she did...she felt like a widow. She had loved him and didn't want the divorce, but understood his restlessness and let him go. They had been married for 17 years and most of them had been fun. In the hospital, she told me that she had no regrets. She had done everything she wanted to do in this life and that it had been a good one. I asked her if there was anything left, that I could do for her. She said, "Be happy."
A Chinese proverb says..."If you want to be truly happy in life, you must write a book, raise a child and plant a tree." She did all three. She achieved her dream to publish a novel...even if, as she said, "It wasn't a very good novel." Greater than that, she had achieved her dream of becoming a respected journalist - and there, she was excellent. She didn't make it to those far away places she'd dreamed about, but the fastest growing city in America knew that her writing skills and news judgment were impeccable. (Although I may surpass her as a novelist...I will never surpass her as a journalist.) Her reputation preceded me throughout my journalism career. Peers, who never knew her, knew of her. And the hot dog journalist of the day in both print and broadcast news...a sassy Irishman that everyone wanted to beat...owed his first job to her belief in him, when she hired him at her paper.
Of all the dreams that never came true...one didn't end as sadly as it might have. She sought out and found her lost love, George. The poisen words of my demon sister burned in her mind and she had begun to doubt that their love was anything more than a romantic dream; a young girl’s fancy. When she wrote to him, she had no intention of intruding on his life. She just wanted to tell him that she had never forgotten him. She tried to prepare herself that he might not remember her, at all. She wrote to him saying that she had found mutual friends of his, Myrln and Vione. She said that she knew they'd had a falling out and Myrln had since forgotten what it was about. She said Myrln had lamented losing his friend and wondered if they might renew their acquaintance. She never asked him if he remembered her. His first letter to her...answered all her doubts.
"Your letter was like warm balm on an old wound. Oh, yes. I remember." Until his death, they corresponded with long lovely letters expressing their deep afffection. He had become their mutual dream and spent twenty years as an award winning foreign correspondent covering WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and Jakarta. He went to all the exotic places that they dreamed they would see together. Rarely in America, eventually his former wife gave him the divorce. He told Mother that he had tried to find her, but was told that she was happily married, so he did not pursue her. He later married comfortably and had a daughter. Mother got to tell him that her son carried his name...and he got to tell her that he kept his promise and never wrote another line of poetry after losing her. Although it was a great compliment to her, she told him that she thought his poetry was a great loss to the world.
The last words I heard Mother say...lying on her side, eyes closed but smiling, reaching out her hand and stretching her fingers to tickle the veil that separated the dead from the living...she said, "I can almost touch him."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
To feminize the poem, Epitaph, by Don Blanding, her favorite poet...
Do not carve on stone or wood,
"She was honest" or "She was good"
Write in smoke on a passing breeze
Seven words ... and the words are these,
Telling all that a volume could,
"She lived, she laughed and...she understood."
© 2004 Ardriana Cahill
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