I’m haunted by an image from Peter Carey’s novel Oscar and Lucinda: A cathedral made entirely of glass floats silently downriver on its way to a tiny Australian outpost. It’s meant to be an offering, a structure so perfect and beautiful that the two who created it will be vindicated, accepted back into the community that cast them out.
I've wanted to write a book as beautiful and perfect as a glass cathedral. But the simple act of asking a respected author for feedback has brought the castle crashing down. I doubt myself. I am so fragile that the drop of a velvet hat on the floor of my glass cathedral can shatter it, lacerating my heart.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
For some reason I'm prone to cloaking myself in confusion about who I am and what I'm meant to be doing.
But today at least, that's a lie. I’m not the least bit uncertain; I know exactly who I am and what I want. I want to work on an extended memoir and complete it. I want to start a web page and blog. I want to serve other trauma survivors and artists and people struggling to own and define their creativity. I want to care for my son and marriage and family and friends and health.
I want to be myself, and it makes me angry that I can’t remember a time when I felt like that was enough.
Monday, September 2, 2019
Once in while I’d stroke Grandma Burkey’s cheek, soft as the leather of my old deerskin purse. She was tiny at 4’10”. She’d be wearing a dress that fit snugly over her round body, perched on a chair with her hands folded in her lap.
Like most grandmas, she came with a repertoire of food: shoo-fly pie, funnel cakes, Dutch potato filling, apple dumplings, fastnachts. She was best known for her “Easter Eggs”: melted dark chocolate laced with paraffin, poured over freshly-ground coconut, wrapped around peanut butter. These four or five inch long delectables had to be stored in the refrigerator so the paraffin wouldn’t melt; we drooled over them for days, waiting for Easter.
One day, when she was babysitting, she glanced up at the ceiling and said, “There’s Ishkabibble.” I squinted but couldn’t see anything. He must be very small, I reasoned. It made me think of Timmy, when he tied a string to the leg of a housefly and it buzzed circles in the air.
Grandma Burkey was nice, never wished to complain. She sat in the rocking chair that took up most of the tiny living room of her government-subsidized apartment, knitting and crocheting afghans and doilies and teapot cozies and Christmas ornaments and little dolls. Only once did I see a crack in her pleasant self-effacement: when my little sister painted herself and our hardwood floors with permanent India ink. Grandma muttered with fury as she scrubbed her down in the tub.
Grandma Burkey never made it past 8th grade. She was probably relieved when her husband, a domineering alcoholic, died of a heart attack at 40—she never dated or married again. When the doctor told her an artery in her brain was poised to burst, she entered a nursing home, occupying one half of a vinyl-floored room. She hated her roommate but relished her role as the queen of the craft room and favorite of the staff.
She lived in the nursing home for another 30 years. She was 92 when she died.
Isn’t this beautiful? Grandma Slack picked up an eggplant and held it up in the air. It was beautiful: its graceful curves, its deep black-brown-purple sheen.
Forging the Second Self: Post-Teaching, Post-Mothering, Post-Midlife: Who Will I Be Now? Part I.: Who Am I Now? When I see myself a...