Miscellaneous Blatherings

I have finished two chapters in two days, but now I have to work at the job that makes me money.  I don’t want to.  I’m burned out.  I took a small break, but I think I need a vacation where I leave the continent.  We are planning one of those, but it will not arrive soon enough.  There are other things happening in the meantime that I look forward to.  I just need to keep plugging away at the day job until I get over the funk.  It will happen; it has before.

Isabel has taken to letting her dollies nurse on her, or nurse on me before she nurses.  She is very generous, that one.

I have also been working on the second book at the same time as the first. Both are right there, in my brain, so when I want to work on one, I start typing and out it comes.  The problem is that I want to finish both and there isn’t enough time in the day.  But it will happen.  I’m glad enough for the work that is coming.

Milla is getting taller and growing things like breasts.  She complained about the bra I bought her so I just bought her some bigger ones.  As has been the case since she was tiny she likes her clothing five sizes too big.  I have to say that I prefer that to the opposite alternative.

Our next door neighbor is moving away.  Ours has not been a cordial acquaintance.  Mostly it hasn’t been an acquaintance at all, but what contact there has been has been unfriendly. She does not seem to like us, and we really don’t like her in return.  We have vowed to take a pie to the new tenant, hoping that a beginning kindness will at least give rise to the possibility of a friendly acquaintance.  We shall see.  I am glad, though, that the neighbor who does not like us is leaving.

It is sunnyish today, which is an improvement over downpours.  I’m glad that it is not brightly sunny or I would lament leaving work until the last day.  As it is, I will get it done without grumbling that I’m doing it in exchange for good weather.

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Monday

One of my several books is finally coming together.  I have been plugging away steadily and actually making a dent in getting it done.  The result though, is that when I have time to sit and write, it doesn’t happen here.  Many days, like this one, the choice is eat, write, cello, or French.  Usually only eat wins.  Tonight I bought plant starts for the garden, and since it was not raining I decided to plant those instead of all my other potential projects, so I managed only eat and plant.  Oh, and pull weeds.  First I had to pull weeds out of the planter boxes in order to plant the vegetables in them.  The ground was soft and loamy, perfect for pulling weeds and also for planting.  Oregon’s weather today was as schizophrenic as ever, unable to decide between warm sun and pounding rain.  I’m a bit dismayed by the rains we are getting.  They are more like east coast rains than typical Oregon rains, but things are changing in the weather world, so I should not be surprised.

In any case, it was pouring rain when I bought the baby plants, but by the time we got home, I made dinner and we ate it, the sun had decided to come out and stay out until dusk when I completed the planting.  This was quite satisfactory.  I love digging in the dirt and growing things.  It makes me feel centered.  Isabel came outside with me and helped. She scolded Ava whenever Ava barked at the wind, or the walking neighbor, or the squirrel, or the cat, or the way her fur fell across her face.  Isabel also made her hoo sound and showed me plants, helped me to pick weeds, and showed me how her coat snaps.  She liked pulling out the old leaves from the flower bulbs that have already bloomed for the year.  She stacked them in the stack of discarded plant parts and old rooty things.  Then she watched closely as I dug holes and placed baby lettuce or baby corn into them.  Adorable.

I finished this gardening project at dusk and my hands were filthy, so I figured it was as good a time as any to take a bath.  However, taking a bath and getting baby ready for bed took up the whole evening, leaving me basically no time for cello, French, or writing.  Now I should be sleeping but I’m typing this.  Why?  I have no idea.  I just pulled out the computer and started to go.  I can’t say what insane motivation drove me to it.  I am going to overcome this motivation now and go to sleep because the only time I’m going to get writing done during the week is in the early morning, which means getting up early, and if I am going to get any sleep at all (which is necessary in my brain for coherent writing), I have to stop this now and turn out the light.

Interview with the Author of The Cello Suites, Eric Siblin

Described as “part biography, part music history, and part literary mystery,” The Cello Suites weaves together three narratives:  the disappearance of Bach’s cello suites in the eighteenth century, Pablo Casals’s discovery and popularization of the music, and author Eric Siblin’s quest for the truth behind the suites today.  Mr. Siblin graciously agreed to an interview, and we spent over an hour discussing his book, the music, and the beauty of the cello.

LG:  I was fascinated by the Walter Joachim story.  That was one of my favorite parts of the book.  It was just timed so perfectly, and it seemed incredible to run into somebody with that kind of personal history.  I was really curious about how that acquaintance went, how long it lasted, and what it was like to run into someone with his background.
ES:    Walter seemed like the music fleshed out before my very eyes.  It was wonderful to stumble upon him.  When I heard about his story I was just amazed and spellbound that somebody living a few blocks from where I was living had such a profound connection to the music, and somebody who I was crossing paths with every week, but not knowing, had turned out to be such an embodiment of the music.  It was just delightful to get to know him.

Unfortunately it happened late in his life.  I think I met him in October and I think by Christmas he had passed away.  So I didn’t get that much time to hang out with Walter, but I would regularly bump into him on the streets, the main street that he lived on, Monkland Avenue, and I would walk with him either to the cafe and have lunch with him, or escort him (because he walked with a certain amount of frailty) back to his high-rise apartment, and started to do some interviews with him as well with a tape recorder, but had only gotten up I think to 1938 or something, when he passed away.  It was fairly short-lived my encounter with Walter, but it was really pivotal for the writing of the book because firstly, it just spurred me on and got me quite enthusiastic, and secondly, Walter urged me to take up the cello, so that also gave the idea of the book a shot in the arm.

LG:  Yes, the timing seemed really fortuitous.
ES:    Yeah, so it was wonderful timing and terrific to meet him at that stage.  It was perfect to meet him period.  He had a real joie de vivre, and he was a great raconteur who would regale me with stories of music history, his own life story, which was fascinating, and music gossip, cellist gossip.  It was great.  And he was right, by trying to pick up the cello, in a really rudimentary way, it was also gave me insight into the music and helped me, and helped the book get written, I think.  I never sat down at the outset and thought, okay, what solid ground do I have to cover in order to turn this into a book?  What activities can I do to make it readable?  It was really an organic process that stemmed from own genuine curiosity.

I was really trying to connect-the-dots that comprised the music, and often it was by happenstance.  The case with Walter, was one.  There were other times.  I was in Europe once doing other work and I would inevitably look around to see if there were other connections where I happened to be to the Cello Suites.  Sure enough, often something would pop up.

For example, I was in Brussels a few times, and I would not otherwise think of going to Brussels to research the Cello Suites, but I was there for other work reasons and I would look around, and Brussels produced a few different scenes that made their way into the book.  One, the first cellist I interviewed was living not far from Brussels in Belgium, Mischa Maisky, and I interviewed him.  Then it turned out when I was researching Cello Suite No. 6 and grappling with the sort of mystery of the five-stringed instrument in Cello Suite No. 6, I learned of this fellow Dmitry Badiarov, a Russian immigrant luthier who was building violoncello piccolos, and had strong opinions about Cello Suite No. 6.  In fact all the Cello Suites from his point of view were written for the violoncello piccolo.  So I got to go hear him play and interview him.  On another occasion I wandered into this store where I found a business card advertising a store called Prelude.  Following my nose I had to go there.  That was another serendipitous happening.

LG:  Did you ever have imagine walking into some unusual little store and finding the actual Cello Suites?
ES:    Oh, I suppose you could file that under fantasy.  I’m not sure that I ever expected it to happen, but kind of operating at the fantasy level, I think when I felt it most vividly was when I was in the little shop called Prelude.  I certainly didn’t set out to go to that shop with the idea of finding anything.  But I had that sort of magical feeling that you’re sort of stepping into your own fantasy in a way and your own book where a 13-year-old Pablo Casals stumbles upon the Gruetzmacher edition in Barcelona in a second-hand bookshop.  You know how that scene was so pivotal I think for Pablo Casals, for the history of the music, and in my case for imagining there was a story in the music.  Here I was at sort of the end of my journey, kind of walking into, literally, a prelude of my own imagination.  That was a really neat feeling.  I can’t say that I seriously expected to personally find the manuscript.  To do that, I think you would have to be rooting in castles and be very familiar with German history.

LG:  And with the war, so much got damaged.
ES:    Yeah.  People do look for Bach compositions and things do turn up fairly regularly, but I never seriously thought that I would be the one to unearth it, beyond daydreaming.  I did think that well, if somebody else found it while I was writing the book, that would have been interesting.

LG:  While doing the research you said that you were often there on other trips, so was the book a sideline project you were working on while you were living your regular life and doing your regular day job?
ES:    Yes, very much so.  For most of the time I was a freelance magazine writer and an independent documentary film maker, during that period.  It began when I was still writing for the daily newspaper The Montreal Gazette, but I quit that job while the book was being researched.  I had a day job throughout the process and was writing in my spare time.  [I’m glad the book took time to write] because there was such a learning curve for me that I think if someone said to me here is fifty-thousand dollars, write this book in one year, it wouldn’t have been a very good book. It certainly wouldn’t have been as developed as the book that got written, because I benefitted from having all this time.  The ideas had time to marinate in my head, and I had time to just stumble upon people like Walter and accident upon business cards that advertised a shop called Prelude and make sense of what was essentially a pretty complicated story if you factor in eighteenth-century Europe and history and the slow unification of Germany, and the militarization of Prussia, and the Spanish civil war, and the life of Bach.  There were a lot of dots to connect so I think it is good that I had a lot of time to do it.

LG:  And Dimitry Badiarov, the fellow who believes the suites were made for a 5 stringed instrument, did he play all of them for you?
ES:    No.  I heard he has a recording out that just came out recently, but I haven’t heard it.  No, he did not play them all.  He is in Holland.  He just feels that Suites 1- 5 were written for a 4-string violin piccolo, and the last suite was written for a 5 string violin piccolo.  Part of his argument is that nowhere in the Anna Magdalena manuscript is there a reference to a cello.  He could be right for all we know.  It is one of the reasons this music works so fabulously well on so many different instruments.  If you had only heard all the suites played on the lute, you would say, “Well, yes, this was a composition for the lute.”  You wouldn’t even think of the cello if you didn’t know any better.

LG:  I found especially interesting your description of taking cello lessons.  It gave me a little boost to me in my own playing because to me so much of the time it just sounds bloody awful, and I wonder why am I doing this?  But then I have moments where it sounds beautiful and I can feel it in my body, and I realize this is why I’m doing it. I was curious about your cello lessons, how much you learned, and how much you played, and why you stopped.
ES:    I am a firm believer in amateurs.  I think today society is kind of a almost instructing us to be spectators, not players or creators in life, and we get so taken up with the wizardry of virtuosos in all the arts that people don’t feel they can be good enough to play, or never develop the desire so I think picking up the instrument at any age, or any art form, is a terrific thing to do.  I play guitar so I don’t play any other instrument, so learning the cello as you mentioned, as you alluded to, is kind of a daunting thing after a certain age.

I think the bowing in particular is a real challenge.  It was kind of like a combination for me of calligraphy, golf, and archery, none of which I know how to do, and so that was tough, but my left hand was okay because I play the guitar.  After getting over the trauma that there are no frets on the fingerboard, it wasn’t as bad as I might of feared.  There is something really quite special about finding your way to the correct note, real or imagined, just intuiting the intonation.  If you’ve never done it before and you’re used to frets, you would tend to think this is absurd, I don’t have a hope in hell of landing in the right spot, but you do, and it feels great.

Likewise, the great sort of rumbling and reverberations of this majestic instrument running through your whole body is a thing of great visceral pleasure, I think. So even though it doesn’t sound great at times, and you’re forced to play really Mickey Mouse material at the beginning, I think that the progress inevitably proceeds and it feels wonderful. That was my experience, and certainly when I got to the point where I could play some bonafide Bach ditties from this book called Bach for Cello, it’s great.  However watered down and basic those pieces are you still get a sense of Bach’s music in the phrasing.  The genius of Bach’s phrasing somehow comes out, and for me that was really exciting.

I didn’t stick with the instrument right to the end of the book, I think for reasons of time.  I realized that I wasn’t going to learn a Cello Suite very quickly, and I at some point quite spontaneously got the idea that I could try to tackle this on guitar.  I have just been a folk rock guitarist.  I never played classical guitar.  I took the cello notes and transposed them on the guitar.  It was kind of goofy.  I was playing essentially baselines on guitar, that mimicked the beginning of the first Cello Suites.  And then it didn’t take very long to learn that in fact there were bonafide arrangements of the Cello Suites for guitar, so I bought some guitar tablature, which I don’t read, I don’t have facility for reading for guitar.  I am used to doing what is called guitar tab, so slowly, measure by measure, in a real painstaking way, I was able to figure out the prelude of the first cello suite, so that sort of displaced the cello experience for me.  Also I didn’t own a cello, I was renting a cello, and paying for lessons, and doing a lot of things in life, so that is how my cello lessons came to a close.

LG:  How far did you get with them?  Did you move out of first position and were you doing vibrato?
ES:    No. I didn’t get beyond just those first few pieces in that book Bach for Cello.  Ultimately it was a feeling that I’m a respectable guitar player, but I was really a beginner at cello, so I decided to devote what time I had in life to playing an instrument I was fairly good at, so that is what put me off. If I were ever to get a cello somehow, I would love to pick it up occasionally.  I have actually dreamed about some of those Anna Magdalena notebook pieces.

I might get back to it someday in retirement.  It was a case of spreading myself too thin.  I don’t have that much time for music playing and I can do more with the guitar.  I’m more ambitious with the guitar and I learned a few other classical pieces on the guitar.  I still play popular music.  It wasn’t a total irreversible conversion.  After I wrote the book I found myself free to listen to all sorts of music which is what I do now, which includes Bach and the whole gamut of classical music.

Another thing I really liked about Bach was that if you try to get a sense of Bach, if you look at the people Bach was influenced by, and then Bach’s career, and his sons, and all the musicians Bach influenced, it is a pretty nifty way of getting a crash course in classical music.  Also I had the career of Casals and the cello repertoire to add to that, so it was a great way of getting up to speed with something that I think intimidates people.  How do I start with this colossal, sometimes intellectually intimidating, vast body of work, you know?  People don’t know where to start.  In my case I feel really fortunate that I had this really terrific, little spring board that I jumped on.  I was just so genuinely and intrigued about the real story.

LG:  The letter that Bach wrote to try and secure a position, and they are so obsequious, it grates against a modern mind. I thought it was funny too how he seemed to say, “This job doesn’t pay enough.”
ES:    We have to be forgiving in someways because there are certain conventions that were de riguer, that were practiced and expected in those days.  They are kind of unseemly.  In fact, when you read about the life of Bach, he wasn’t some kind of wimp who was cow-towing to whatever authority happened to be around.  He was kind of a rebellious type who really stood up for his own rights, particularly in the workplace, and his art.

He really knew the value of the currency that was used in those days.  Some people have called him a bit of a cheapskate, but on the other hand, when you have 20 children and you’ve got a really demanding job that includes the music in a substantial city like Leipzig, and running the music of a Lutheran boarding school and churches, on top of busily cranking out what is going to be the greatest output of music for all time, you’ve got a lot on your plate and you have to check the bills and see how much money is coming in.  He didn’t lead the sort of lackadaisical life of a sort of romantic and happily impoverished artist.  I think that helps explain part of his genius.  He wasn’t sitting around thinking what music is going to be popular or going to be considered a masterpiece.  He was really busy in the here and now. He must have really been living in the moment, I think, he was so busy.  It has a nice ending, his story.  Even though he wasn’t considered famous in his lifetime, and he has been rendered ultra famous by posterity, a man who had his nose to the grindstone and was just doing his best on a day to day basis ended up producing this music that had such everlasting allure.

America Has Met the Enabler, and He is Us

America Has Met the Enabler, and He is Us
–by Mary Sanchez

To see this story in its original form, go here.

President Barack Obama is carefully creating the illusion that he’s serious about immigration reform. In a major speech in El Paso, Texas, this month, he pitched the idea that reform will strengthen the middle class by undercutting an underground economy of cheap labor, and will make the U.S. more competitive globally.

But what can Obama do to advance this reform? Some would say not much, given a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. He could be presidential, beginning with setting new policy priorities. He could halt further hefty contracts with the prison-building industry to erect more detention facilities. He could ensure that true criminals — violent offenders — will be deported, not the immigrant caught rolling through a stop sign or the hundreds of young people enrolled in college, the so-called Dream Act students.

Is Obama just covering himself? Making all the necessary talking points about “putting politics aside” and lamenting the pain of people “just trying to get by” so he can later claim, “I tried?”

If so, I don’t entirely fault him for it. Truth is, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus has been chewing Obama’s backside for months, reminding him that as a presidential candidate he promised a pathway to legal status and full U.S. citizenship for those among the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants who can prove themselves worthy.

But caucus members are saving face, too. Later, they can say to their constituents, “We tried.” As anyone paying attention to politics knows, the illegal-immigrant issue has been demagogued to the point of caricature. If you’re an elected official and you say anything the least pragmatic about the issue — much less show any compassion — your words can and will be used against you in the next election. Especially in a primary if you’re a moderate Republican.

One promising sign is that the administration has begun calling conservatives’ bluffs on the “border must be secured before reforms make sense” fallacy. In El Paso, Obama said his administration increased the number of border agents to the highest ever, deported the most undocumented immigrants ever, worked closely with Mexico on drug violence and screened 100 percent of rail shipments entering Mexico for guns and money.

And yet, he predicted, Republicans will probably “move the goalposts.” “Maybe they’ll say we need a moat,” he quipped. “Or alligators in the moat.” Yet we’ll know the day this administration or any in the future is serious about immigration reform when it unequivocally speaks the truth: Powerful interests in this country demand low-wage labor to do jobs Americans won’t submit to. Those interests include agribusiness and meat processors and the like, but they also include U.S. consumers — you and me. Yes, “those people” who have crossed our borders illegally are helping keep our cost of living low. You don’t need to employ an illegal landscaper or nanny to reap the benefits.

If we as a nation want to keep those costs low and also want to see our laws respected, we need comprehensive immigration reform. That means new policies to allow legal entry to guest workers, and a path to citizenship for many qualified illegal immigrants already here.

Instead, we have a bureaucracy, massively backlogged, meeting neither humanitarian needs of immigrants nor our own economic and security needs for low- or highly skilled labor. Americans also need to understand that we cannot deport our way out of this mess. The Center for American Progress estimated that the costs of a mass deportation would be $206 billion over five years, and possibly as high as $230 billion. That’s not going to happen, on fiscal grounds alone.

In El Paso, Obama’s prepared remarks included this, intended as a slight to Republicans: “When an issue is this complex and raises such strong feelings, it’s easier for politicians to defer the problem until after the next election.” Yes, and it would be very easy for Obama to keep tossing rhetorical platitudes in both directions with talk of “a nation of laws” and “that first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.” Or he can set aside the flourishes and lead firmly, changing the policies and priorities within his administration.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

High School

A couple of days ago I listened to a story on This American Life about prom.  It got me thinking about mine because the people interviewed kept remarking just how important prom was.  One person even went so far as to say it was second in importance to a wedding.  Seriously?  I don’t know that I agree with that.  Prom is certainly a ubiquitous high school event, but it wasn’t anything at all life-changing for me, and it wasn’t because I was an anarchist or anything.  I just didn’t really care.  I thought it was a dumb dance.  I was not one of those people who spent all of high school looking forward to attending.  I did finally obtain a boyfriend by senior year so I actually had a prom date.  If I hadn’t gotten the boyfriend, I probably would not have gone.  I was much more concerned with acquiring a boyfriend than attending prom, and much more surprised and shocked that this happened than I ever would have been at getting a prom date.

For me, the story of how I got my first boyfriend was practically out of a high school movie.   Every February, our school hosted a Valentine’s Day school dance.  For some reason, one of the most attractive, most popular boys in school asked me to dance.  A lot.  We danced together all evening.  This was a surprise to me.  He was Mr. High School All-American boy.  Extremely popular, he had attended the schools in my town his entire life.  This meant something in our little town; it meant you knew everyone and everyone knew you.  This could be a bad thing, but for a lot of people, it accorded them with additional status.  Eric had this status in spades, plus he was captain of the football team and President of the Senior class.  Seriously.  He also had blonde hair and blue eyes, lovely chiseled features, and an athletic build.

I, on the other hand, was not Miss High School All-American girl.  I had the blonde hair and blue eyes, but my hair was short, and for the dance in question, I had tried beforehand to trim my bangs.  After cutting, I realized they were crooked, so I cut them again and made them crooked the other direction.  By the time I was done, they were about two inches long and still crooked.  I was also skinny as a rail, with no breasts to speak of.  Certainly not curvy.  I imagine I was prettyish, but definitely not a beauty and never one of the girls the boys talked about or wanted.  I spent most of my time buried in books, riding my horse, or acting weird because my friends thought it was funny and I liked making them laugh.  My parents lived like they never had money, no matter how much they had, so my clothes were not name brands, which I cared about in those days.  (One nice thing about growing up was giving up that ridiculous delusion.)

In spite of my average appearance and lack of social standing, here we were at this Valentine’s Day dance and Eric was dancing with me.  My friends couldn’t believe it.  “He must like you!” said Marie.  “He keeps dancing with you!”  I didn’t quite believe he liked me.  Deanna kept giggling every time he came near.  “Stop it,” I would hiss to her in a whisper before heading to the dance floor.  Kari just smiled her poker-face smile.

Over the weekend after the dance, my friends and I spent many hours on the phone deconstructing the dance and its portent.  Did Eric like me, or was he just being nice?  I could not believe that he did.  They could not believe that he did not.  On Monday, I was embarrassed and terrified at the prospect of seeing Eric. We had a class together the last period of the day.  I spent most of that day a nervous wreck, wondering what would happen in that class.  I was terrified.

Later that afternoon, we were all in Mr. Fisk’s class listening to him drone on about who-knows-what.  Mr. Fisk’s stories were fascinating as sophomores and stupid by the time we were seniors.  I don’t remember now how it transpired, but somewhere along the line in the class a note was transferred to Eric.  I think it was supposed to be from me to Marie or Marie to me, or something like that, but it was about how much I liked him.  He sent me a note and we agreed to both ask to go to the bathroom at the same time.  A few minutes later, Eric got up, asked to use the bathroom, and left.  Heart pounding, 30 seconds later, I asked to go to the bathroom as well.  Mr. Fisk was none the wiser and let me follow Eric. He probably didn’t even notice we were out at the same time. We were the good kids, the ones who always turned in our homework and would never leave to go fraternize and cause trouble, so bathroom passes were easy to come by.

Eric was waiting by the bathroom.  He was wearing his Levi’s 501 jeans, a pink polo shirt, and white sneakers.  I thought he looked amazing.  He said hi and then kissed me.  Exhilarating.

We were going out after that.  We never had a conversation where he asked me to be his girlfriend or anything, I just was.  I adored him.  Completely smitten, I would do anything he wanted to do or go anywhere he wanted to, just to be with him.  Compared to stories of teenage activities I hear about these days, our actions were so tame.  I would never have considered having sex with him, not in a million years.  Honestly, we never made it past second base, but to both of us, this was a lot.

How is it that I managed to get the most popular boy in school for my boyfriend senior year?  I mean really?  I think about this time and I have to wonder.  I know part of it is that this most popular boy in school was unique in some respects.  So often the popular kids are so idealized that we have a vision of how they must be, but to become truly popular and liked by everyone (which Eric certainly was), that person must possess some characteristic of some sort that makes people like them.  Eric was truly likeable.  Plus he’d been in the same town schools since kindergarten.  Plus he was handsome.   Really.  Blonde.  Blue-eyed.  Captain of the football team.  President of the class.  I mean, come on, was this for real?

It was.  That is what is so remarkable to me.  I look back now and for the first time truly marvel at it.  I mean, come on!  Do you think he could have been more of a cliché?  And it’s even more amazing that I, with my background and thought processes, could have had him as my first real boyfriend.  That alone is a feat in and of itself.

One night, we were making out in the backseat of his housemate’s ginormous 70’s automobile.  The thing was a boat on wheels.  I was supposed to be spending the night at Marie’s house, and a group of us had all gone and done something that evening.  Eric and I parked the boat outside her house and started kissing in the backseat.  It was cold out and the windows fogged up.  At some point, I realized there was a round light moving along the back window.  We both sat up quickly and pulled on our shirts (each other’s, as it turned out).  Then we heard a tap on the window.

Humiliated, Eric opened the car door and got out.  The officer took him aside and scolded him.  He then stuck his head in the car and asked me my name and where I was supposed to be. Terrified and humiliated as well, I told him.  He said I should go into my friend’s house and go to bed.  It was probably only 11:30, but I was scared and obeyed without question.

I spent the next week completely terrified that the stop would show up in the local paper.  A weekly, the local paper did not have much to report on, and therefore contained a section listing every petty grievance to which the police force responded.  I was certain our names would be listed with our transgression for all–especially and including my parents–to see.  Thankfully, this never transpired.

Because I now had a boyfriend, prom seemed like it might actually be fun. My friends were all going and I looked forward to hanging out with them.  My mom is an excellent seamstress, and after looking and finding no dresses that I liked, she offered to make a prom dress for me.  I picked out a pink satin and some pink tulle.  She made a long dress with a fitted bodice, with a pink ribbon around the center and tulle around the collar, which sat off the shoulder on my collar bones.  I liked it fine.  Looking at it now, I think it’s kind of boring, but I enjoyed getting dressed up.  Eric looked amazing in his tuxedo, and he arrived in the boat to pick me up, a pink corsage in hand to match the boutonniere on his lapel.

The best memory I have of prom is that my best friend Marie won as prom queen.  She had a huge crush on a good friend of Eric’s named Gary.  Gary had a girlfriend, but for prom king and queen, there would be a dance.  When it was announced that Marie was queen and Gary was king, I was thrilled to death for her.  She was able to dance with the boy she liked for an entire slow song.  I could tell watching her dance, her head against his shoulder, that she was in heaven.

After prom, we went to a party at some friends of Eric’s and sat in a hot tub before he took me home.  Most of them were drinking alcohol and this scared me.  I didn’t find that part of the night much fun.  I can’t remember when I got home, but I don’t think it was very late.

One other huge aspect of my relationship with Eric was that shortly prior to our starting to date, he had become “born again.”  Over the course of our courtship, he became more and more heavily involved in the church.  In an effort to please him, I went along.  I had been friends for some time with another girl who was extremely involved in her church.  I started going with her, mainly because I had a crush on David W. and David W. was in youth group.  David W. would flirt with me at youth group and I enjoyed this.  Also, my friend’s parents would take us for pie after church.  Having grown up in a family that went out to eat maybe once every two years, this was an immense treat.

Interestingly, while I was attending church and trying to be a good Christian, I was discovering a lot of hypocrisies that bothered me immensely.  One morning, the pastor described faithful Muslims praying to Mecca.  He spent a good deal of time describing the scene, to the point I could practically feel the warmth of the sun on my back and the rug under my knees.  Then he dropped a bomb saying, “Isn’t it a shame that all these millions of faithful Muslims are going to hell?  I could not tolerate or believe this.  This sermon was a turning point for me.  I had serious doubts about Christianity and organized religion in general anyway, and that statement made me start looking for inconsistencies, which were not difficult to come by.

However, I kept my doubts to myself.  Eric would drag me to youth group on Wednesday and church twice a day on Sunday and I would go with him because usually after we would make out in the back of his truck and I liked doing that.  I went along with the church thing, even so far as memorizing the entire book of Romans because he did so as well, and I believed that he wanted me to.  I would pray with him, and discuss the Bible with him.  Mainly I just wanted to be with him and this offered me the greatest opportunity.

Our small town, like many, had started offering an all-night graduation party to the entire senior class.  The point was to keep teens from drinking and getting hurt or killed as a result.  I was not a drinker and looked forward to graduation and the graduation party.  My grandparents had flown in from Kansas for the event and I was excited by the prospect of all of it.

The day before graduation, Eric took me out in the afternoon to eat at a nice restaurant.  When we arrived back at my house, at the top of my parent’s driveway, he got out and gave me a hug.  Then he said, “It’s been really fun hanging out with you, but we are going to have to stop. I’m going to college in the fall, and I am afraid our relationship is interfering with my relationship with Jesus.”  There were more words, but I don’t remember them.

I was incredulous.  I had not seen this coming, not even close.  Heartbroken and numb, I stumbled into the house and into my bedroom.  I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on my bed in a pool of misery.  We were to attend a Baccalaureate dinner that night.  I dressed in the new outfit my mom had bought for me, a knit yellow sweater and white cotton skirt.  I don’t remember much of the Baccalaureate dinner except there were some speeches.  Eric was there, but he ignored me.  I stared at my plate all evening.  My parents and grandparents could tell something was wrong, but didn’t say anything.

Later, after we arrived home, I went again to my bedroom and lay on my bed, trying not to cry.  My family wanted me to come in the living room and visit, but I just couldn’t do it.  Finally, my grandma came in to talk.  I confessed what had happened.  “Oh, honey,” she said, rubbing my back.  “It seems so hard now, but you’re so young. It is for the best.”

I still remember her voice and the way she stroked my hair and back.  I also remember that graduation and the party were a drag.  My friends kept trying to get me to liven up, but I just couldn’t do it.  Forever after, when I think of graduation, the memory is colored by the fact that the day before the ceremony my first love dumped me for Jesus.

It was the best decision of course.  Eric became a successful missionary in Africa. He is still there, working on a Bible translation of some sort, I think.  I saw him at our reunion and it wasn’t weird at all.  Time heals all wounds and we had grown up. I was such a baby at 17.  I am immensely grateful Eric didn’t do something stupid like ask me to marry him.  I would have said yes in a heartbeat and it would have been the wrong decision. We would have been divorced by the time we were 20.  I’m so different from that person, I can barely remember how I thought or acted.  Most of what I remember about myself at that time makes me cringe in embarrassment.  I certainly could never have been a Christian.  The seeds of doubt in organized religion had been planted, probably before I knew the ground was tilled.

In any case, this was my prom and the story around it.  Nothing spectacular, just an old memory. It’s funny, as I’ve been writing this, how much I actually do remember.  Life is interesting and so much is forgotten.  I’m glad I remember this.

Bedtime

Tonight I ran, pushing Isabel’s stroller, for a half an hour.  Ava ran with us.  We ran up and down hills and across sidewalks.  Many of the sidewalks were bumpy because of large tree roots.  I love the large trees; I do not love the large roots pushing up the sidewalk.  However, given the choice, I would take the trees and the bumpy sidewalks over no trees.

Anyway.  After I ran I came home, took a shower, and made dinner and washed the dishes, then Isabel was tired so I put her in jammies, changed her diaper, and put her to sleep.  I lay there too for about a half an hour.  It was only 9 o’clock.  I could have completely stayed asleep, but I was still wearing contacts and had not brushed my teeth, and then Milla came in to kiss and hug me goodnight, and I knew if I stayed there I would wake up at 1 and not go back to sleep.  I got up and started working on my book and now I’ve hit a wall, a tired wall.  I can’t write anymore.  I have to go to sleep.  I still have not taken out the contacts or brushed my teeth.  Ack.  I’m going to have to do that before I can sleep.  Instead I sit here and type this.  Okay, I quit.  I’m going to bed.