Welcome to A Love Story ...

This is my parent's love story. I'm the oldest child of Savantha, lovingly known as "Sam" and Henry, who was sometimes called Mac. Every child is shaped by DNA, but there are other inexplicable influences that are harder to define. This is their story--and perhaps, mine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In Between

A Child Alone?
I don't have a picture sitting with my parents. Not together. Not the three of us. I was first born of my parents. We have some family pictures, but most of the pictures I have are of me alone or only with my mother. So, this morning I visualized myself sitting with both parents. I thought about all that I am and all that I received from them. But, as Gibran writes--I came through them, a differentiation that is critical. I am my own person.
     What started this reflection was having had my chart done recently. Money has been a critical hurdle for me. It isn't that I don't work. I do. I work harder than most people I know. I don't sleep my life away. I have created some critical pieces that add to the turning of the world's axis. I'm intelligent, educated, and for the most part, having a hard time getting and keeping a job. A job. Regular income. But, I have never stopped working.
     I believe that I'm called to do something good, to leave for my children, as my parents left me, a legacy. The question is a legacy of what? And then this idea that I never sat with my parents was a start. I was either with my mother, and sometimes my father, but never the two of them together. Yet, I always felt caught in the middle of them. My mother compensated by buying me things. My father didn't try to compensate for anything. In fact, he often withheld the things I craved the most. It wasn't to hurt me. I don't believe it was ever that. It was to hurt my mother who then would compensate for what my father didn't give me. It was a vicious circle because my mother could never compensate for his failure. It wasn't her job. Because she compensated with "things" I was taught a lesson that stuck with me and created this circle of "if you love me, you will give me things." Pitiful? Yeah, I guess so. But, that's not the reason for this post. It also is not a post to bash my parents.
     I came through them.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

     What this reflection is doing for me is honoring my parents as the bow that sent me forward. I could learn from them and I did, but not all of the lessons are lessons I should keep. Some must be discarded. I must discard my mother's shame for having me out of wedlock, for feeling that she did something wrong in not giving me my father for several years. She blamed herself. I must discard my father's judgment that it was my mother's fault that I was born. She got pregnant on purpose to ensnare me. Then there was my father's fear that he was not as valuable as the other man, that he lacked in something. It is probably why he would not stay where he felt dishonored. Fear, judgment and shame cannot dwell in the house of tomorrow. Their tomorrow is my today and I must discard that which they created to make me like them.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
Then Gibran goes on to say that "You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts." WOW! Because I did learn some of what they inadvertently taught, I got caught up in the yesterdays that I have lived in for far too long. But, sitting this morning visualizing my parents on either side of me as I write this, I know that I have their love and I release their thoughts. I can write my assumptions, but I cannot know their real thoughts because what I learned was mirrored in their actions, not their words. What was mirrored was seen through the eyes of child who could not discern the meaning, but only absorb ideas and beliefs that were designed to make her life them.


You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.


Ideas about worth were issues my parents suffered with. My mother's blackness, her feminity. My father's blackness, his masculinity. They suffered. I was marked by their suffering that even though I never sat between them, I was between them all along. But, God's mercy endures forever. The plan, according to Kahlil, is that God is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the archer, the creator. My parents were the bow and they were often sturdy. I know they loved me and as I sit her with them on either side of me, I feel them nodding approval. I am their arrow. They were my bow. I'm sent forth already and with the archer, I will hit the mark! I have to because the lessons of the bow were stable enough to help me land.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

God loved us all. He gave me to you for safekeeping. It was done well and the lessons are learned, but forgiveness must be the cornerstone of the lessons. I love you. I forgive you. Forgive me, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Gift



The Long and Short of Gifts

I sat outside my father’s classroom with my knees drawn up, my head resting across my arms. Determined not to cry, I took subtle deep breaths. My father would not appreciate having his daughter bawling like a baby in front of his students. But I was so sad. Barely 11 years old, a grade ahead of most kids my age, I had just received the worst news. I’d just came from the pediatrician—a mortifying enough experience since I was in middle school, but my mother insisted that I still go to a kids’ doctor—and Dr. Owens had just remarked to my mother, “Well, she’s in the 99 percentile.” Whatever that meant. I was a big girl, thin, but not too. I had pebble breasts, but still needed a training bra, and I just learned that I was 72.5 inches tall. I wanted to weep. I held in tears through sheer will power.
As my father’s students shuffled out of the classroom, some of them having taken previous classes with my Dad, greeted me by name. Others pointed and spoke to other students with comments like, “Mr. McCary could never deny that girl,” and “Man! She’s an Amazon!” I wanted to disappear, but instead placed my feet on the floor and sat up like the young lady my grandmothers taught me to be. When my father came up to me with his usual, “Hey, chicken!” I threw myself in his arms.
Dad was an affectionate man, most of the time. He could also be stern and rules mattered. He was 6-1/2 feet of pure male energy, slightly nerdy with a gap between his teeth, like mine. He was a very light shade of caramel with little brown freckles sprinkled across his nose and cheeks. His hair was a weird shade of brown, but dark and he had giant hands—hands that could soothe and hands that could build almost anything. Mostly, he was kind and his students loved him. I was in awe and fear of him, but mostly, I just thought he was the smartest man God ever made.
“What cooking, chicken?” he asked, sensing a mood. I held on for another minute and then stepped back.
“I’m a giant!” I said with emphasis on the word giant and added, “I’m a freak, too!” The will power held up and I didn’t cry and I realized that anger was quickly replacing the need to cry. I was angry that I could not be normal and I was angry because I would be normal if he weren’t my father.
So, my Dad—being the smartest man God every made, knew exactly what to do. He sat with me, running his hands across my hair. “Well, Hon, that’s quite a bit of news. You are neither a giant or a freak, just a girl whose been given an incredible gift.” He let that sink in for a few minutes.
“A gift?” Now a tear did fall. “What do you mean? I’m taller than all of my classmates, even some of the high school boys. I’m taller than all of my teachers.” The sob came. I took a deep breath. “Girls aren’t supposed to be this tall.”
“Who says?” he asked gently.
“Everybody!”
“Whose everybody?” he asked very gently.
I didn’t exactly have an answer. This is where my Daddy excelled. I know now that it separated him from a lot of teachers I’ve known. He didn’t always give answers. Sometimes he asked questions and when he was asking questions, he was urging me to think.  I did. I stopped and considered the question.
“Well,” I said hesitantly, “not everybody. But a lot of people do. The kids call me the jolly green giant.”
“And are you?” he asked rather seriously.
“What?”
“Jolly and green?”
I laughed as I think he hoped I would. “Daddy, that’s not the point!” I looked at him and now he was smiling. But, the crisis was only abated. A part of it still hung in the air. “Are girls supposed to be this tall?”
“You tell me.” He sat back and crossed his legs, waiting.
I was always tall. The truth was that I didn’t just shoot up one day and become a six-footer. Comments had been made all of my life about being taller than other children. The year before I had to stop trick-or-treating with my friends because a woman accused me of being a college student taking candy from little kids. The year before was also the start of school dances and no one ever asked me to dance.
“Daddy, I think I would see more tall girls if girls were supposed to be tall,” I said. “I mean, I’m the only one. There are no tall girls in my school.” Thinking about it some more, I said, “Boys come in all sizes. Big, tall, short.”
“The school is just a speck in the world, P.K.,” he stated and you haven’t seen much more than that speck. There are other tall women out there, I promise you.”
“Really?”
“Really. But, you’re right that there are not a lot of tall girls. That’s what makes you unique and also makes your height a gift.”
“It doesn’t feel like a gift,” I pouted slightly.
“It doesn’t?” he queried. “Hmmm. Maybe you’re not looking at it the right way.”
“Most of the time I’m looking down on people,” I responded. “What other way is there to look?”
“Now that’s a good question,” he told me. “It tells me that you realize that your height allows you to look down on people, which means that they realize that they are looking up at you.”
“Yes,” I said hesitantly. “It makes me feel like I’m in their space or something. Like I take up more room than I’m supposed to.”
“And you do. In a way.”
“I do? Well, people don’t like it. That’s obvious.” I realized then that of course he understood. People were always looking up at him. That made me feel good, too. I liked that my Daddy was bigger than my friend’s fathers.
“Chicken, it’s not that they don’t like it. It’s that it makes them uncomfortable.”
“I’m not doing it on purpose,” I exclaimed.
“Of course not, chicken. You would be a bully if you did that. But, here …” he shifted around and stood up, pulling me with him. “Everybody has a sense of his or her own personal space,” he told me and stood back a few inches. “Like now. I’m not standing that close to you, but it seems that way doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, but it’s okay.” I liked standing next to my Dad. It made me feel safe and protected.
“For us. Yes. But to someone else, it would seem like you’re crowding them, taking up their personal space.” He stood back a few more inches. “Even when you step back, you can never be quite sure where their personal space begins and ends. Do you know why?”
“No,” I said. “How would I know?”
“You have to be observant, P.K. You have to be able to judge it by the body language and whether or not they are still straining because they’re looking up at you.” He made me look at him. “See how it seems we’re almost eye-to-eye?”
I realized that I didn’t feel towered over by my Dad as before. I also realized that my siblings looked small next to him while I looked grown. There was no other way to put it.
“People think I’m older,” I told him. “I’m always having to remind people that I’m only 11. They think that I must have been held back in school or something. Well, my teachers don’t,” I amended. “They know because they know you, but I feel like I should be a senior in high school.”
“Well, you’re not, chicken. You’re 11 and ahead of a lot of your classmates who are older.” He hesitated. “That’s not the point I’m trying to make.”
“Okay.”
“The point is that for the rest of your life, you must be observant about this area of space and to know that there are things that you can do when you recognize that someone is uncomfortable. It’s your responsibility.” He spread his arms out, almost touching me.
“This might be considered my personal space,” he said while holding his arms out, “but that wouldn’t be fair to others. See?”
I did.
“So, you have to meet people somewhere in the middle. Think of their arm space and know that you must give them at least half of their arm space and reduce yours.”
“That doesn’t seem quite fair,” I muttered softly.
“True,” he smiled as he returned his arms to his side. “But, this is not about fair, it is about respect.”
“Respect?” I ventured. Then I got it. “Oh,” I added. “If I’m aware of another person’s space, I’m showing them respect.”
He grinned. “Precisely. But there are other ways to show respect.”
“How? I can step back and what else?”
“You can offer to sit down with that person.”
“Sit down? What good would that do? I’m still taller.”
“Yes, but the space changes.” He sat and gestured for me to sit as well. “It evens the space between you and the other person. See?” He gave me a chance to absorb what he was saying. I looked over at him and he was right. Strange.
“Oh, yes. I never thought about that,” I told him. I was feeling better already.
He patted me on the head and smiled. “But, chicken that’s not the gift.”
I had forgotten he said my height was a gift. I still didn’t see it.
“Chicken, people will always notice you. It means that when you are doing something good, like speaking, people will listen to you more. That’s a gift and …” He took my hand and looked me in the eye. “There are reasons for you being tall. I can’t tell you what they all are, but I know that one is that you’re tall so that people will notice.”
“Sometimes I don’t want to be noticed, Daddy,” I said solemnly. “Sometimes I want to be just like all the other kids. Just be regular.”
“Well, I’m going to have to disappoint you there. You aren’t just regular. You’re tall for a reason. Because it is a gift, it is to be used for good.” He sat back and closed his eyes for a second or two. Then he turned back to me. “This gift comes with a lot of responsibility and you may not know when to use it now, but later in life you will.”
I was a little confused and more than a little frightened.
“Daddy, you sound like you know something.”
“I do, chicken,” he said. “I do,” he repeated.
We sat there silently for a few minutes and looked out straight ahead. I waited because I wasn’t sure I was ready for what he was going to say and I think he was asking himself if the time was right to tell me what he had to, and I guess we both knew when that time was when I turned back to him and wached him. Waiting. He sighed and told me the thing that has been with me all of my life.
“Perri,” he said softly. My Dad always called me P.K., but this time it was my proper name. “Perri,” he repeated. “There will be moments when taking up space, standing up and making yourself visible, is what this gift is for. There will be moments in your life, when you have to stand for a greater cause than yourself. You’ll know it when the time comes. I believe you will be ready, too.” He smiled now.
“There will be times when someone is picking on someone and no one knows what to do. You will. There will be times when something needs to be said and no one is ready to say it. You will be ready. This is not a curse,” he added. “It is a gift of great proportion and God doesn’t just give it to anyone. And God will make you ready when the time comes.”
I swallowed hard. Something was stuck in my throat it seemed. What do you say to something like that? I wasn’t sure, but as I looked at my Dad that day, I knew that he was giving me everything he had at his disposal to help me prepare. The years taught me a great many lessons. Size has its uses.
Today I stand 75 inches tall. I still remember. As I stood up with my father that day, I knew I had learned the greatest lesson of my life. Don’t shirk your responsibilities and don’t waste the gifts you’ve been given. I stood tall and walked home with my father. From that day forward, I never complained about my height. And to this day, I consider this height a real gift.
Peace.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Our Mothers--Our Choice

My Mother, My Choice
When my daughter was a little girl, she would lament about the unfairness of a particular decision I made for  her--like not allowing her to stay up late or being able to wear her sandals when snowing outside--and complain that she never got to do anything. My response to her then would be that if life were fair, she'd have come here (to life) with a job. "Instead," I would tell her, "You came here broke, hungry and naked. How fair was that to me?" I learned quickly what the word incredulous means because the look on her face could be described as nothing else. But, I have to hand it to my child, she has always been good with the comebacks!
       "But, Mommie," she would say, "I didn't ask to be born!"
       But, her comebacks come naturally because, well, she got it from moi! Not to be outdone by my seven-year old daughter, I respond--naturally--with "Oh, contraire, mon amie, but you did." I give that a moment to sink in as my daughter asks warily, "I-I-I did?"
       "Of course, dear," I tell her. "You did." Then I explain that according to scripture, God knows us before we're a twinkling in our mother's eye, so that meant that she and God had a long talk about her coming to earth--through me, mind you--and that I could see it clearly. As she and God were discussing her time here on earth, God--She asked Eryon, "Who do you want for a mother?" And my precocious, smart and very much intelligent child--pointed to me. "That's her!
       SOOOOOOOO--here's to all of our choices. Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Giving Thanks to the Ones who Give Us Life

 Thank You For Loving Me, Mom
Oh, Momma. I miss you. I miss you more because as times goes on, I can look back and know what I missed, what I took for granted. You were my rock. Sometimes I was yours, but together we learned what it was to be women. I don't know your entire story, but what I do know I'm quite proud of. I have a lot to live up to. I am determined, even at my age, to make your proud of me. I also know that you are watching over me and that I am still loved.
A Little History
My full name is Perri Kathryn McCary. I have always loved this name. I love it more knowing how that name came to be. My mother was the first in her family to finish high school. When she graduated, she went to work that summer helping my grandmother out with the family of Dr. Perry Priest. My grandmother had worked for his family for a number of years watching his family and cooking for them. My grandmother was a great cook, by the way.
     Anyway, as the story goes, while helping out at the Priest home, Mom had a talk with Dr. Priest. Dr. Priest asked my mother what she intended to do having graduated from high school and she replied that she thought she would try and get a job at the Mill or maybe somewhere at the railroad. Not much was opened to a young black woman in the 1940s.
 The Late 1930s in Texarkana
The early history of Texarkana is intimately linked to the development of the railroad in the area.The city of Texarkana grew out of construction camps that were established at the western end of the Cairo & Fulton railroad line and the eastern end of the Texas & Pacific line. For a while there was work, but it was hard work and it didn't always include blacks.
     Dr. Priest admired my mother's tenacity. It took her 20 years to get a high school diploma. Sometimes times were so tough that they didn't have shoes to wear in the winter, but my Mom--she stuck with it and finished high school when others were giving up, having babies. So, here was my mother, 20 years of age, having shown her mettle in finishing school and she's being asked, "What do you want to do with the rest of your life?"
      I believe that this is a question we should ask ourselves each day. What are we doing with the rest of our lives? Some people have a plan--have plotted out their lives in great precision. Others of us make it up as we go along. Oh, we know what we want to do and some of us even know what we're called to be, but doing it--being it--well, some of us are slow learners.
     "So, Savantha, what are your plans?"
     Cutting vegetables in that precise way that was part of how she did things, Savantha didn't look up. She shrugged. Scraping the vegetables into the pot she was readying for my grandmother's soup, she shrugged again. "I'm putting in some applications," she told him. "I'll get something."
     I know nothing about Dr. Priest except he was white, but I know that he was a man of humor. I know that he often teased my grandmother that she was too frank and one time wished that he had the power to sanction her tongue. But, it was good natured. My grandmother loved him, had taken care of him when he was younger and now was taking care of his kids. He loved my grandmother, too. He called her a healer. I think he saw that in my mother.
     Then he asked my mother the important question. "Savantha, if you could do anything or be anything you wanted, what would it be?" My mother took a breath and said, "I'd be a nurse. I'd help deliver babies." Then reality set in and she shrugged again. "Fancy dream, huh?" She laughed and started cleaning up the remnants of her cuttings. Dreams come and go sometimes and I think for an instant--for a few moments, my Mom hoped. And then she didn't.
     God has a strange way of answering prayers and I think sometimes God answers the prayers of the heart that haven't been put into words. Finishing high school, my Mom was reaching for something and then an angel--Dr. Priest--helped put it within her reach.
     "So, be a nurse," Dr. Priest prompted.
     "It takes money, sir. I have to help my mother." For my Mom, her one goal in life was to take the burden from her mother who had taken care of 7 children essentially by herself.  Her mother, whose baby boy swallowed lye and died when he was only 2, loved her babies, but always blamed herself for being too busy trying to put food on the table, that somehow her son got hold of something dangerous. My mother, whose parentage was questionable--not having a father herself--decided that she owed my grandmother a rest.
     Then there was Dr. Priest who knew of my grandmother's talents and gifts and who also knew that my grandmother could not have helped him in the hospital where he worked. Blacks weren't allowed there. But, Elaine's daughter could. She showed him that she would work hard and Dr. Priest handed mother something that day. He told her that while she couldn't afford to pay for school, he could. He would. He did.
     It took about 3 years, but my Mom went to nursing school in Kansas City, Kansas. Dr. Priest kept his word, paying for her tuition and giving her a stipend to live on. His only requirement was that Miss Elaine, his housekeeper, probably surrogate mother, would be taken care of. It was a promise my mother fulfilled.
    Two years into my mother's education, Dr. Priest died. It was said that he had cancer and so, rather than suffer, he committed suicide. I don't know that for sure, but I believe it. My mother was ready to come home, but Dr. Priest's wife honored his gift and told my mother to continue with her studies, continuing the payment of her tuition and stipend. In 1953, just when my mother was getting ready to graduate, she found out she was pregnant. My Dad didn't marry her--not then. But, that tenacity, that talent for hard work, helped her survive.
     On July 31, 1953, I was born. I was christened Perri in honor of Dr. Perry Priest. Dr. Priest had a niece who was also named Perri Kathryn. Everyone called her P.K. For years, I had P.K. stitched on socks, sweaters, skirts--but the name I love best is the one given to me in honor of the man who gave my mom a chance to prosper. In many ways, he played it forward. So, Mom--on this mother's day I remember your sacrifices and the sacrifices of others. In many ways, you and Dr. Priest gave me life, one I will not waste.
     Thank you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Life Before Mom and Dad

Thank You, Grandmother for Taking Care of Me
Stevens Courts was and still is Texarkana housing. In the 1950s, it was a red brick haven for me the first three years of my life. There I was born, delivered by my Grandmother. While I know today that the Courts were built for those who had little money, I never felt deprived. Short memories are probably God-sent. I ate well. I had my own bed and room and lots of cousins to play with. I have pictures that show that I could have been considered a princess by all the standards that princess carry. I had the flouncy dresses and socks with laced trim inside my white high tops. My hair had beautiful barrettes and I laughed a lot. At least according to my pictures and the stories my aunts would tell.
     But, my life was created by the melding of two hearts. I like to believe that. I also believe that their tale will shed light on the complications of relationships, especially with the barriers before them. Color issues. Societal issues. Men and women issues.
     I would say that I am the luckiest of people in having come from these two individuals, but a child doesn't think that way. The child in me was safe and secure at the start of my life, but then there was upheavals that once made me slightly bitter. Taking parts of the story, I've grieved tremendously. But, then I tell a story or lesson from my childhood and know that it wasn't bad after all.
     Would my life have been different if I had stayed in East Texas? Most definitely. And I wouldn't be able to say which direction my life would have taken. Some of my cousins didn't fare well. Others did. East Texas was a place where bigotry was the norm. In many ways, I think my father did me the greatest service in taking us away. I know now that he was running away from some things that plagued him--demons, if you will. He had the best reasons for moving us to a land where bigotry was low on the totem pole and he had enough on his plate to deal with. I'll share these over time.
     For all of his problems, this is what he leaves me. He built a construction company that stands today, one his nephew ran until he death a couple of years ago at age 74. There's a McCary subdivision in New Mexico. A legacy. Mine and my siblings. Yes, some of it is marred by the negative, but to look at it in bits and pieces and then step back and view the entire landscape makes me realize that the idea of a princess still fits. I am the daughter of royalty, strong genetics and an impeccable pedigree. I came from the two people whose role in my life makes me who I am. And that's saying something.
     Next: Family Dynamics

Mom and Me ...

And then there were three.
     Our first house in Alamogordo holds a lot of conflicted memories. While I clearly remember giggling and hiding in the back seat of my father's car so that I could go with him to work and then, later, often being frightened of him, too, I clung more dearly to my mother's skirts. I was never shy. I remember my mother putting me in beauty pageants at that age. She would buy me beautiful clothes and I would model at community functions. I can still see the stage and me going out and turning around and around. I also remember sitting with her as she read books to me. She had so many books and I know that my love of books comes from her. We went to movies a lot, too. My mother loved westerns. After a matinee, we'd walk home and I chattered like a magpie. Mom said that I talked early and ever so often, when she would hear me speak, she said that she knew that I would write for a living.
     During the day, it was just my Mom and me. We walked together everywhere. I learned later that the reason my mother walked everywhere was that she had not yet learned to drive. I can remember my chubby hands in hers as traveled to the market or to the movies. She was my beautiful mother and she loved me dearly. My mother told me that I was the best baby. She said that I had the sweetest disposition, sleeping through the night almost from the first and giving her time in the morning to rise and do chores before I awakened. She said that I always smiled and was happy.
     That seems to work with my memories. About her. About me with her. Playing jacks on the steps. Walking home from a movie. Making ice cream with her. Being read to. Comforting memories of our time together.
     When I asked my mother about how she met my father, she told me that she was a junior in high school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. My father was a teacher there. Mom said that he was the smartest man she had ever met. My mother had to have been about 17 or so. She was the only of her siblings at the time who pursued her education, finally going to school where her mother's sister lived in order to finish. My mother's father was not the same father as her siblings. He was a dark man with wavy hair, like my mother's with strong Indian blood. She met him a few times and was even friends with his son later in life, but she didn't like to think of herself as the bastard child although the stigma lay dormant in her heart.
     Interesting how history often repeats itself. I consider myself as having two grandfathers--the legal one and the biological one. We have family reunions where my legal grandfather's family (cousins, aunts and uncles) meet and we never discuss my mother's father. I'm part of that family dynamics and culture. Simple enough, but when my mother was divorcing my father, she shared with me that she thought a child should be with his or her real parent and that it went a long way in her decision to marry Henry. She told me about Dr. Hill and said that she was ready to marry him until Henry divorced his third wife and asked for her hand. Mom explained that she didn't want me to feel as she often felt, abandoned and never really belonging to her father. But, I did feel that way sometimes. There was something fractured in my relationship with my father early on. Was it my fault?
     Being almost a decade older than my Mom, I wouldn't say that she was looking for a father figure when she and he came together. Dad was still relatively young when they met, but he was the adult and she was the child. Her relationship with him probably wasn't sanctioned by society. My mom remembered that one day he was gone. I asked her if Dad had been fired for dating her. She said simply, "I think so."
     My mother idolized my father and even at their worst moments, she didn't allow me to talk bad about him. She would quietly remind me when I was at my wits' end about him--"He's your father, P.K." However, I do believe that the time they met in Bartlesville placed them indelibly in each other's soul. It was several years before they would meet again. The attraction was still strong and then I was conceived. While home, awaiting my birth and her belief that they would get married, he abandoned her again. Yet, her heart was true. Those times that he abandoned her, I believe he was bowing to societies' dictates. Each time they came together, she was ruled by love.
     I think over the years my father basked in my mother's worship of him. Even when they divorced and she was at her angriest about the things that he had done, she never stopped loving him. She never remarried. I believe she understood him best and now, trying to see through her eyes, I begin to see why.
     Next: The March of the Munchkins--Siblings Galore

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Alamogordo, New Mexico

The White Sands I Remember
My first home with my parents was in a white adobe house with two bedrooms. Here is where my memories start with both of my parents, especially my mother. My sisters and brothers don't remember Mom as I do. By the time they were old enough to even understand that Mother was a nurse, nurses wore pants and tunics, not the formal nurses uniform of white dresses, stockings and shoes.
     I remember sitting and watching her dress for work. She had beautiful skin. She had this gorgeous raven black hair, a delicate bone structure and keen features. She was always beautiful to me. What I remember is watching her prepare for work, ironing her uniform and polishing her shoes a stark white. All of my life, my mother's care in her dress was exceptionally beautiful. I have, I admit, always felt a bit awkward around her. I was big, large hands and feet. She had bony fingers and thin feet. Learning later that she had been chubby until she was in her twenties and that it was in this chubby state that she caught my Dad's eye was a revelation.
     Anyway, I loved my mother, idolized her. I wonder if part of it was that in order to take care of me, she had to live some place else. So, I didn't have a mother everyday, but everyday I knew about her, she was an integral part of my life. I never felt deprived. Maybe it was because my grandmother always let me know how lucky I was that my mother loved us enough to work hard. I also realize that because my Mother worked as she did, my grandmother was able to devote a considerable amount of time to my care. This blog is helping me to piece together the chronology of my life and my parent's life. It is my hope to get into more of this as I write this journal, but here is some of what stands out.
     My mother didn't wear a lot of makeup, but she always wore lipstick. She worked the night shift. Most of my life my Mother worked the 11 to 7 shift of whatever hospital she worked for. As she would get dress to go to work, I would watch eagerly. The highlight of my valiant  watch was after she placed her nurse's cap on her head she would expertly apply red lipstick to her lips. It kept me enthralled. I can still feel my anticipation because once she applied that lipstick, she would leave. But not before kissing my lips briefly so that I had red lipstick on, too. Then she would tuck me in the bed and kiss me goodnight. As I snuggled down into my bed, my mother would put on her wool blue cape, swirling it around her shoulders, pulling it together with a gold clasped chain and the final touch, pinning on her nurses pin, a pin I cherish more than any jewelry she owned. This is my one treasure of her because of this memory it evokes.
     My father did some construction work at White Sands. I do remember the mountains of white sands and going there with my mother, father and grandmother. These memories must be of the family times. Abstract and mostly in bits and pieces. The first memory of my father--something that I know happened--was hiding in the back seat of his car wanting to follow him to work. He finds me, of course, and he's not angry about it. I am disappointed that I can't go with him and I am not sure whether I cry or not. I do know that my Mother and Father laugh about it. I think I know why. It meant that I was bonding with him, something my Mom desperately wanted. I think he did, too.
     I don't know when that changed. For some reason, there came a time when I didn't sleep in my room anymore. I always dragged a pillow and covers to the couch where my Mother would find me the next morning. I do remember the dream, though, and it came barreling into my consciousness the night we fled from my father. The night after he brandished a rifle and demanded a lie from me. It shook my very soul as I drove my Mother and siblings to Texarkana, back to the place where I had once felt safe.
     I know now why I slept on the couch, but I didn't until I told my Mother the dream I had. I told her that I remember someone knocking on the door of the house and my father gets up to let the person in. I remember trying to pretend to be asleep, but I peeped out from under the covers blanketing my head as my father and the man walked down to the end of the room not far from me. I don't know how I knew, but the man with my father was the devil. He was as good looking as my father and they talked. I couldn't hear them. They pointed at me and I knew then that they knew I was awake and that I knew who they were.
     Next: The Two Faces of Henry.