"There is nothing so depressing as boundless optimism." -- The Wicked Witch
Saw an amateur production of "The Wizard of Oz" tonight in a church basement. Can you believe it was delightful? Can I believe it was delightful?
It was delightful.
Both witches speak with voices of experience.
I went through a box of Mom stuff today. I didn't find in there the letter from her that may or may not be somewhere in this house, the letter I saw only the very opening of, when Holly and I found it in a trunk after she died. She'd written it to me, apparently, at a point at which she felt exasperated and past all patience, at wits' end, or otherwise having had it with me. Throwing up her hands. In its opening lines she expressed, and not in a kindly way, her expectation never to understand me. I don't recall how it went. Just that two sentences into it my girlfriend and I looked at each other, folded it up, and put it away, and I've not seen it since.
I don't know where it ended up. It's not in the trunk, and it's not in any box I've been through, like today's box, which I knew I'd been through since then. I've wondered whether Holly might have destroyed it, and even contemplated trying to contact her to ask. I guess I'd like to know whether it's in the house, and eventually I'll probably have that answer, at least. My gut tells me it's gone, and I'll never know what harshness it held. Nor whether it also held anything else.
As it is, it holds, in my imagining of it, a version of---even the distillation of---her disappointment and consternation and, I don't think it goes too far to say, heartbreak, over me. How ladylike I am not is in there, for sure. And more. More disapproval than she probably ever felt is in there, in my imagining.
One of the first stabs I ever made at a serious poem:
Breaking Family China
I've broken my mother's grandmother's cake plate.
Mother, quick to the broom, says the line:
It was only a dish
but with her pause to register
sighs the acquired acquiescence
to the physical depiction of inevitable loss.
It is my mother's soft-spoken
(mostly dead) side of the family's
plates and bowls and cups and glasses
whose destructions shake me
---near artifacts of rumored women
who mixed by hand in cool shiny china
bowls which, though fragile, have outlived
the strong women who used them.
These Mother has brought from the farms,
survivors vaguely foreign, even here.
Soon she may go into her room
to smoke and watch the ceiling
and she may cry
but she will not be, as I am, afraid.
When I wrote that I think it was mostly supposed to be about her more extensive experience of loss, and my knowing I had such a thing ahead. Specifically, underlyingly, I still had, ahead of me, losing her---such a horror of an idea that for years it was one of only a very few thoughts I simply wouldn't let myself think. Sometime since then I realized how the poem has me, in its beginning, as the agent of destruction. As time goes on and I know loss myself more variously, deeply, and certainly, the kind of moment the poem recalls is more, for me, about things between me and her. The impasse, if you will, around what does not pass, what failed to be passed on, when I broke the chain, when I dropped a lot more than the cake plate.
(That's a little indulgent art/critical therapy you'll either forgive me or you won't.)
On a possibly lighter note, in today's box was a half-heartedly and sketchily used baby book commemorating my infancy. Very little is filled in, and most of what's there I suspect was included, in one fell swoop, to show my grandmother, who'd given the book as a gift, that it was being used. By far the longest passage, under "Mother's Notes," is the following:
Lisa, baby Lisa, you were so good and sweet most of the time. You began to sleep all night through at the ripe old age of one month. You (at 2 1/2 mos.) are now eating 3 meals a day plus a bottle at bedtime (around 10). Your brother manhandles you and you just smile goodnaturedly and give him several coos for good measure.