|I was a pale, hairless and uninvited girl-baby
who bled to a childhood of coughing, while the doctor,
who had come thirty-odd December miles by horse and sled
to attend a woman in labor, attended to the matter
at hand, oblivious to the thin wail for help
until his task was completed and the damage done.
The parents, over-aged and over-wrought,
had only too recently adjusted accommodation for
their first lusty daughter - pink, dimpled and curled -
who bore little resemblance to the one who crowded in
fast behind, claiming premature rights to a place
in that bleak and frigid corner of no-place.
Shy as a shadow, I lurked through the early years
with dolls, princesses, goblins and wicked witches
filling in for friends I had no chance or hope to know -
while my lusty sister mapped the perimeters of my
being, and saw, tooth and nail, that I remained
docile and obedient to them.
Education bore free interpretation through
the clear, unseeing eyes of a teenage teacher
in an under-heated one room where I earned points
for quiet and unobtrusive behavior, while the mysteries
of fractions and long division floated over
my day-dreaming head without disturbing a thought.
In due time, a move within hiking distance
of high school left those ever hopeful parents dreaming
of the day when cod-liver oil and cough medicine
would begin to pay off, and success of some sort
they could never imagine, would miraculously come
to the undersized, unspeaking middle of their offspring.
A younger brother with flaming red hair and impressive
genius with pencil, diminished the desired effect
of my first tentative stab at artistry, as I groped
for identity to prevent being trampled by the mobs
who all seemed to have understood perfectly,
from the very beginning, fractions and long division.
Isolation and long-term introspection spawned
startling views, and I shrank in the spot-light
of first focus, recipient to a motley array of prize
hardware from contests whose judges were baffled
but sympathetic to the small, skewed voice from nowhere
who dared such unorthodox reason - or lack, thereof.
I veered briefly to masquerading with blackboard
and chalk, hopelessly straining to demonstrate an
expertise in fractions and long division to a handful
of pre-puberty mathematical prodigies, while gathering
courage to offer myself to the world at large - hoping
to receive that of which I had not the foggiest idea.
The bus ride across several states on a hot summer day
wrinkled my home-sewn suit, while I clutched the matching
bag containing wherewithal for an indeterminate time,
feverishly on the lookout for city bag-snatchers, against
whom my mother had warned - The art school to which
I was bound had promised more than I'd known to ask.
I stumbled into fashion design, which proved no less
foreign than nude models and streetcars, so I asserted
my presence by interpreting an assignment for evening
gowns more to my liking, resulting in a display of kiddies'
nightwear and learned, to my astonishment, that
non-conformity scored well in that mixed-up Land of Oz.
With the sheer force of ignorance, and inability to gauge
individual abilities against so richly populated
a society, I randomly sought and sometimes got positions
in which it was never clear whether I had been hired
to produce, or merely to be studied in the curious,
casual way afforded any other netted and pinned specimen.
A powerful sense of adventure, replete with enticing
mirage of limitless luck, lured further advance with the
thoughtless abandon of someone who knew where she was
going - pressed on to the very edge of the map, betting
everything on the shaky beginnings of a dangerously
single-minded knack for drawing babies.
Somewhere between extreme youth and middle years,
opportunity opened the way with more grace and less
effort than ever before or since, resulting in a
leopard coat and the exalted sense of "having it made"
. . . then, the stirring wonder if additional treasure
might be found equally at the other end of my rainbow.
It was opportune time for the dark, accented seaman,
over-ripe for dropping anchor, to disembark in my home
port with orchid in hand. He saw an impossibly naïve,
leopard-clad bridge to opportunity. I saw cosmopolitan
romance and potential father to babies of the kind
I had developed such a fruitful knack for drawing.
The small son with blond curls and cherubic smile,
too young to protest, endured pinned paper wings for
cards heralding the realization of his mother's fond
fantasy, and the daughter who came later suffered through
ringlets, ruffles and bows - until the choice was hers,
and has rarely been seen out of jeans and sneakers since.
. . . but an orchid will wither and fade in time,
and a leopard can't change its spots. Nor can promises
built on uncommon ground with divergent goals prevail
through the tug of opposites - so mid-life found me
alone, skills rusty and identity firmly molded
into the shape of habit and illusion of partnership.
From screws drawn for catalogs, to desperate probing
of each remote other possibility . . . until "Company Toy
Designer" made possible realization of improbable
dreams with trips to far-fetched corners of the map,
and thirteen published books rewarded the stringent
economy of long-term menus of principally stew.
Our son, with the cool head and steady eye, charted
his course according to wind, weather and tide.
The daughter, always a breather of rarefied air,
challenged survival as avant garde sculptor in a
materialistic bureaucracy, secure in its sameness,
impatient with the impractical, and opting for ordinary.
One more, then another, annexed the family scene . . .
daughter-in-law, artistic, sincere in endeavors to save
the planet, championed the disadvantaged and animal rights.
Son-in-law, brooding, cross-cultural artist whose talent
for partnership fell short of studio performance, drifted
out of relevance without meaningful bond with anyone.
Then . . .
. . . The beautiful daughter-in-law deceived, deflected
and destroyed by a mad-man - mindless tool
of a dark and twisted desire . . . Life negated
within the spasm of a warped and scheming brain.
. . . Dreams cancelled, action forfeited and future denied
to one with the courage or innocence to trust.
Experience evolves from time-bound glimpses - never
the whole. Awareness slips from the before into an after,
leaving Eternity's fullness a mystery insolvable
this side of truth. Events of one life-time are only
as real as the thought that assigns particularities
to the inseparability of an infinite Absolute.