Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Saturday, January 11, 2014

All the Feelings

Just saw Saving Mr. Banks with the husband. Neither of us could leave the theater until we composed ourselves. Especially me. Not knowing the film was going to incite tears, I had no Kleenex with me. So ill-prepared was I. Instead, like a child with a runny nose, I resorted to drying my eyes on the voluminous cowl neck of my sweater.
Too many connections, I had/have with this movie. Like the author, P.L. Travers, of Mary Poppins, on which this movie is based, I had an alcoholic father whom I adored. I watched my father spit up blood; I saw his eyes, fixed and dilated, as he lay on his deathbed. I was forty-two when I watched my dad die. It was traumatic. Travers, whose real name was Helen Lyndon Goff, was only seven when her beloved father passed. And her mother, like mine, was emotionally troubled. I frequently daydreamed of having a different mother, one that was more loving and tender and stable, and I would probably have taken to a nanny who possessed those qualities. My mom didn't work outside of the home, really, save for a few temporary jobs, and we certainly weren't the wealthy sort who employed nannies or any kind of household help.
In life, I had a dad like Travers's, the Mr. Banks in the children's book. My dad, Duncan McDowell, was a delight, the sort who sang and danced and changed lyrics to popular songs with nonsensical lines ("They, asked me if I knew, raccoon poop was blue ... " ~ a dining room tribute to the Platters' song, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.") My father was my very dear friend. I felt like my arm had been cut off when he died. I wrote nothing for a full year, read very little, slept fitfully. Nothing, really, mattered to me, my grief was so broad. Clearly, I identify with the quite functional dysfunctional father-daughter relationship portrayed in Hollywood's dramatized movie, Saving Mr. Banks. I lived it, from the years 1965 until 1977, the summer I turned twelve, the summer Elvis died and my father quit drinking. Many times, I'd been a little girl praying that my daddy would lay off the sauce, as he called it; or, at the very least, he would only get a little buzzed, instead of pass-out drunk. Dad was still nice when he drank a six-pack. It was when the orange vodka came out that our carpet turned to eggshells.
Currently, I am a nanny, so there is that link. I sing and dance with the children in my care; I nurture them daily; I prepare their meals; I discipline tenderly; I love the children and they love me in return. The recognition that I am Mary Poppins to four children overwhelms me with happiness and gratitude. I know that I am making a difference in their lives. That is no small awareness. It is an enormous truth that carries immense responsibility.
Travers infused Mary Poppins with love because it was autobiography disguised as fiction. The pain of her love for her father, Travers Goff, is transparent on every page. She wanted the Mr. Banks of her book, an idealized version of her father, to impress and enthrall all. She wanted redemption and restoration of his character. She wanted an erasure of the alcoholism and his untimely death. (He was in his early 40s when he died from influenza, a truth that is not divulged in the cinematic version.)
It is why, the very same reason, that I am writing Bologna With the Red String: A Culinary Tribute to a Blue-Collar Upbringing in a Barbecue Town. The food memoir is a love story ~ a tribute ~ to my parents, much more than it is a cookbook. It does not exist to make fun of my blue-collar background, even though there is humor employed in the telling. We might have been poor at times, but we were never stupid; our income insufficiencies weren't from lack of responsibility. There was a recession and people quit buying cars. My auto-worker dad rolled newspapers to keep food on the family table when the General Motors plant shut down.
My story seeks only to honor my mom and dad, both of whom did the best they could, and then some.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Trying again

Well, hello, 2014. I've been waiting for you.
I do have some resolutions, the kind that I will probably break, but I'm one of those eternal optimists and so I trudge forward, feeling only kind of certain that what I'm about to write might actually happen.
1) Lose twenty-five pounds. (Duh.)
2) Quit cursing (emphasis on burying the F-word).
3) Get organized.
      a) Clean out the linen closet
      b) Clean out the top middle drawer of my dresser
      c) Scrapbook photos as soon as I get them
      d) Keep the Taurus clean so HAS doesn't freak out when he drives it
      e) Donate all clothing that I haven't worn in a year
4) Pay bills on time.
5) ^Earn more money.
6) Follow that weekly savings plan I saw on Pinterest. (Week 1: deposit $1; Week 2, deposit $2 ...)
7) Plan a trip to Greenwich, Connecticut, to see the house where The Family Stone was filmed.
    (Book a bed and breakfast there in town!)
8) Go to church 52 times.
    *Try different denominations, in and around the Kansas City area
9) Blog about my church-journey?
10) Blog at least fifteen times every month.
12) Get at least three short stories published this year.