Thursday, February 1, 2007

Neil Diamond Said It Best

I AM.. I SAID....

I am from my Noni and of Lynn, MA I am from the taste of gravy (spaghetti sauces for those not Italian) at one day old. I am from her kitchen with the odors of periwinkles, artichokes, sausage and squid. From the smell of the ocean just outside the window and the circus of family that paraded through her kitchen on a daily basis. I am from my Big Pa and the smell of his uniform after coming home from the sewer treatment plant. From his stogies, fresh tomatoes, basil, mint and big fat green tomato worms that he would squish between his fingers and cuss at while we played in his garden. I am from the Blue Note where Big Pa worked his second job as bartender and served me Sarsaparillas till I could hold no more. I am from listening to Yiddish, Italian and thick Irish, lyrically spoken and the clinking of glass. I am from immigrant, low-class, working stiffs who were loud and sometimes raunchy, warm, comforting and knew the meaning of family and cherished their young ones. Where hugs were abundant and everyone loved everyone.

I am from Nicholson Street where my Nana Pat lived and from her kitchen that you could smell as you turned down her street. From her Pot Roast, her Rum Cake and immaculately kept house. From her starched aprons and her pinned hair. From the old washtub with the rubber roller that she kept in her spotless basement that fascinated me as a child. Where not a single cuss word spoken nor a voice raised or any true sense of affection ever found it's way out into the light. I am from my Little Pa who believed children should be seen and not heard. I guess he believed that about himself as well. I can’t remember ever hearing him speak. I am from the smell of his pipe, his Vicks inhaler I used to steal from the top of his bureau to whiff and the funny little squishy white beads that grew on his immaculately kept hedge that surrounded his immaculately kept yard. I am from sterility of spirit. I am from the hospital parking lot where I waved hello to my Little Pa not knowing I was really waving goodbye as children were not allowed in ICU back in 1972.

I am from Walnut Street in Lynn, MA where summers were sweet and filled with wonder. I am from the grapes in Old Lady Murphy’s yard that was forbidden to enter because her son was a murderer of children who trespassed. I am from Mr. O’Brien-the Pigeon Man, who would bulge out his throat and make funny sounds while he stroked his pigeons, calling them all by name. I am from all the little pigeon eggs that you could hold in your tiny hands in wonder of their smallness. I am from the bonfires at the bottom of the hill every Fourth of July and the all night parties that my Mom and Dad would throw for their friends. From the bands they would hire to play in our living room till all hours of the night. From sneaking downstairs and stepping over the bodies, passed out on the floor, to sneak a sip of whiskey sours. I am from the Doors, Louie Armstrong, The Beatles, The Mama & The Papa's and the Lovin Spoonfulls. I am from the Callahan School that was in the middle of the Projects, where I was the minority. I am from my very first boyfriend who happened to be Black and from my mother who was disgusted and made me promise not to ever do that again! “Your father would have a heart attack, is that what you want?” I am from wondering where they learned to hate. I am from the many bumps and bruises a young girl gets from tagging along with her big brother who didn’t appreciate her adoration. I am from Walnut Street where my dad’s Best Man bought our house for himself and his new bride and two months later he shot her dead and hung himself. I am from disbelief.

I am from Belmont, NH were my folks moved us so we would have a better life, in a safer place, away from the influences of the Big City and “those people”. Where my dad’s new job would jettison us into Middle Class. Where we chased butterflies and lightning bugs through acres of corn and beans. I am from 500 chickens to kill and dress every summer and the 50 turkeys that followed the same demise come fall. From the punishments of weeding acres of string beans in the height of a hot summer day because I spoke my mind or maybe it was because I rolled my eyes when my mother spoke to me. I am from the Black Angus Cows that came to live with us from an Island somewhere in Maine and the 3 calves I watched come into this world during that hot summer and the litters of kittens that were always bouncing around the farm. I am from the newness of life and the finalness of death that farm life instills. I am from being kissed by a boy for the first time in the basement when I was supposed to be stacking wood.

I am from the First Baptist Church and Concord Christian School and the Wednesday Bible Service, the Vacation Bible School and the Choir. From the Word of Life Bible Institute and the 5 days a week devoted to all things Christian. I am from the disillusionment of watching our Pastor have an affair with the organist. From out next Pastors wife who had an affair with a Deacon and from the Deacon who was excommunicated in the middle of the Sunday service because he wanted to divorce his wife. I am from being banned from Marrying in my church because my soon to be husband was not “Saved”. I am from running as fast as I could from those two-faced sonsabitches and believing what I believe when I talk to my God.

I am from Maui, Charleston, SC and the several other places I have wandered through during my 20’s. From the home full of lesbian, on the shore of NC, that took me in when I had no place to stay and helped me get back on my feet so I could crawl back to NH, to my home, where I knew what was what. Where my dad would be sitting in his recliner, in his slippers with the paper in hand waiting for me to come home. Where my mom would be working to deliver new life, she was an OBGYN Nurse, and where I knew she would look at me with worry and disapproval because of the choices I had made. But also where I knew I was safe and could find peace of mind, in my old room. Where my Flower Power wallpaper would be waiting and my headphone and me would buffer the world that was the confusion of my 20s.

I am from the many places I lived with my ex-husband and the turmoil that was our life. The things we bought, the things he sold. The gallons of Vodka, the splintering of wood and the inevitable apologies come daylight. I am from my three kids, two who were born at my childhood home so they could always find their roots. I am from divorce and rebirth, from strength of spirit and cries in the night, so as not to alarm the kids. From persistence and determination that I would be fine and so would they. I am from making sure I hugged them and kissed them every chance I get so they will never wonder why their mom never hugged them. I am from showing them what love FEELS like and that my arms are always there to support and guide them.

I am from finding the love of my life. I am from watching him go because life is just that way sometimes. I am from rediscovering him and knowing things will work out… someday. I am from having learned enough patience to wait!

I am from finding a great job and the nausea that I felt knowing I had bullshitteded my way into it. I am from mastering my job and becoming #3 in the company. I am from Peyton Place where I built a home. Where my kids could develop friendships, memories and know what Home means. Swimming at the damn on a hot summer day, watching the fireworks off the deck and sitting on the deck on a quiet Sunday morning listening to Norah Jones and watching the birds fly by. Wandering around town at 11:00pm and not worrying about a drive by shooting. I am from leaving my door unlocked, my keys in my car and every window in the house open if the weathers good and knowing all is well.

I am from peace of spirit and fullness of soul. I am from understanding that life and love takes time and time is what we have!


Robyn said...

This is a powerfl piece--were you worn out after you wrote it? Did you really go to Word of Life Bible camp? I never went but I heard about it a lot. Those Baptists! They sure do know how to drive a soul out the door.

"I am from peace of spirit and fullness of soul." This is a great line--you have learned what to appreciate and what to chuck, it sounds like.

dive said...

Prudence, you are the Great American Novel.
What a wonderful, rich life; full of heartbreak and hope.
Hey, you even had your own Boo Radley in Old Lady Murphy's son.
The only thing I can't figure is how a girl like you didn't end up a good socialist (hee hee).

Dear Prudence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dear Prudence said...

Robyn, yes I was worn out and ran it through my mind all evening. It is a very cathartic excise. I have tried to make a conscious effort to chuck the "small stuff". You can't change most of it anyway so why let it add wrinkles to your face!

Dive, thanks! I think I believe the way I do politically is because I have worked so hard to get to where I am I really don’t want to share! I think I can do a better job running my own life and wish no “person” would impose any limitations on my well being. I think most people can and should work as hard as I do to make their lives full for themselves and not rely on “other” to hand them their dues! So fundamentally, I could never be a Socialist. Just think if everyone lived up to his or her potential there would be no need for distribution of wealth. Or maybe that is part of my Polly Anna view of life. Either way, it helps keep me peaceful.

Dear Prudence said...

Ps Robyn, yes on the Word of Life Camp, I even won a prize in Christian Storytelling.

dive said...

It's a great excercise, this "I Am From" thing of Robyns. It really makes you think about your life in a more intense way than normal.
And it stays with you.

I can't argue with you on the Socialist thing, though only America seems to have the strange idea (probably a hangover from McCarthy) that it involves redistribution of wealth (or it could be the obsession the US has with wealth per se).
I like to play devil's advocate and read up and study any opposing view before I have a rant about it.
If you ever get the time (or are remotely curious), have a read of the first book of Marx's Capital. It has nothing to do with Communism, and I've happily worked my way up from a dank back alley to one of London's top jobs and a nice lifestyle whilst being a Marxist.

I also have much more fun talking to hard right people that to wishy washy centrists.

Dear Prudence said...

Dive I will take on your challenge. I am an open person and if things ring differently, I am
Gumby Damit!

dive said...

Okay, Prudence.
And I'll re-read The Wealth Of Nations (dang … there goes the weekend).

Sassy Sundry said...

I love these posts, and I love yours. Great details.

Old Knudsen said...

Very edgy I also know of a pastor that ran off with the organist leaving the spouses to go huh? Dive I'll still call you a commie no matter what, as long as its the government sharing I'm happy, Hitler claimed to be a socialist.

Robyn said...

One of the unique things about the US is our belief in "the pursuit of happiness." And because we were carved out by various kinds of pioneers and individualists, group thinking doesn't always work so well--at least not in the government. Group thinking thrives in the Word of Life Bible Camp.

Prudence, I have never won any prizes in Christian storytelling, but I have won prizes in Bible drills. I can find in a verse faster than Pat Robertson. Ha.

Dear Prudence said...

Robyn, this is why I think I can better manage my own life! You are correct group thinking abounds in Religion and it is scary!