Good Things That Happened
- Picnics at Live Oak Park in Fallbrook
- Visits to Mount Palomar
- Food, Grama & Mom were wonderful cooks
- Pancakes made by Grampa
- Trips to the Bonsall store in the back of the 37 Chevrolet with no back seat
- Telling stories to my little sisters
- Building tiny adobe buildings in the creek bottom
- Going to the beach in Oceanside
- Visits from Aunts Aileen & Audra & Uncle Loren, they brought presents
- Making friends with Jane Rogers in 3rd grade
In addition to all the interior things that we are as human beings, we are also biological creatures. Just as animals do in the wild, hiding that they are weakened or injured to protect themselves, as a little girl I hid that I was wounded to avoid becoming preyed upon even more. I learned to recognize when the wolf was at the door. I became stronger and tougher than the other children I knew. I had to. I wouldn’t let anyone see me cry.
I cried, but I would hike into the sagebrush and live oak covered hills in Southern California somewhere alone, and I would cry by myself until I had let it out and felt some freedom from my sorrows. And I would collect rocks and bring them home in my pockets, and pick wildflowers to press in books that I would bring along with me to read, sitting out on some granite outcropping, having a life independent of my childhood troubles. Those were the things my family thought I was doing. I kept the crying part to myself.
After my father committed suicide, I don’t know exactly how long it was, but I began to talk to my father in my imagination, or like a prayer. Sometimes I would do it under the covers in my wagon wheel bunk bed, with the covers pulled up over my head where I could be alone. It was as if I summoned the better judgment I needed from the spirit of my father there, and I would do what this interior father would advise me to do to protect myself and to find some happiness.
When I was in third grade I had a teacher named Mrs. Conway. She gave us all composition books, the black speckled ones, and we were assigned writing a story in them once each week to be turned in by Friday. I wrote a story every day. When I asked for another composition book she told me I could have as many as I liked.
Eventually, she wrote a note to my mother in red ink. You know red ink, it’s scary stuff. So in the back of the bus on the way home to the ranch, I opened the note to my mother and read it. Mrs. Conway wrote to my mother that I was one of the best writers she had encountered in all her years teaching school. She said that mom should encourage me to write, that someday I would be able to use my writings skills in whatever I decided I wanted to be when I grew up. I have no idea how old she was, except that I was pretty sure she was older than my mother, but not as old as my grandmother. Her note nearly made me cry in front of people. I stuffed it carefully back in the envelope and gave it to my mother. She never mentioned it, but I never forgot what my teacher had written. It buoyed me up in the years to come that someone important to me had admired something personal about me and declared it so good.
About the same time I turned ten, my fourth grade teacher said I lacked self-control in my report card, this in spite of the fact that I was doing all my school work and getting the highest marks on what I was doing. I finished my work early quite often and we didn’t have assignments for what we ought to do when we had finished our work. Having a curious mind, I read every book they had for the fourth graders. I read all the books I could get from the book mobile. Then, I would explore things like aerodynamics.
Paper airplanes were fascinating to me and I would get very involved in trying to cut and fold one that would fly the furthest or the highest, or both. As a result of not waiting to fly my planes until recess, I was beaten in front of the entire class with a paddle, with holes drilled into it, for flying paper airplanes when the other children were struggling with their assignment still. It was both painful and confusing, and I resolved that she would not see me cry. She probably kept hitting me longer because I didn’t appear to be remorseful without the tears. There was a lot going on that was painful and confusing. It was the last time anyone would think I was any kind of trouble maker for a long time.
You Are Always Taking Yourself Along With You!
There is an old story of a city’s gatekeeper who was sitting outside the city gates, when a person entering the metropolis for the very first time approached him.
“How is this city you live in?” he asked.
“Before I answer that, let me ask you how you found the previous town you visited?” the old gatekeeper asked.
“Oh,” the traveler exclaimed, “the people were incredibly unfriendly and rude.”
The gatekeeper replied, “It is amazing, but those are the exact words I would use to describe this town. It would be best to continue on to the next town.”
So, the traveler went on his way.
Later in the day, the gatekeeper was approached by another traveler looking for a place to dwell.
“Is this a nice city to stay for a while?” the traveler asked.
“How did you find living in your last town?” the old gatekeeper asked.
“The people were lovely,” the traveler said, “kind, generous, and very friendly.”
“Well, that is amazing, for those are the exact words I would have chosen to describe this town. Please come and dwell with us awhile,” said the gatekeeper.
The gatekeeper knew, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.