The Magical Land of Twenty : Tales From the Renaissance (& the Ledge)

Our Twenties

 

“When I was in my twenties, it felt like I was riding wild horses,
and hoping I didn’t go over a cliff.”

― Chaka Khan

 

Our twenties are supposed to be for wayward, rude, selfish, irresistible sex.  A bit precarious to do when your twenties take place in the decade of the 1980’s, with said decade bearing the contrails of the brand new AIDS crisis and understandable hysteria. My roommate and I lived in spitting distance of West Hollywood and its thriving bar scene, yet even though AIDS seemed to be all around us, we weren’t stopped one bit from trying hard to be reckless and wanton and fulfilled, because it was a solid directive of our generation. We just had to be cleverer about how to navigate the waters, and the bars.

I’ve often heard, from a sociological context, how awful and awkward and messy our twenties are supposed to be. And sure, the growing pains. I was constantly broke, and breaking someone’s heart nearly as often as someone was breaking mine, yet I was voracious in my various appetites; the sexual, the creative, the partying, the being-out-of-my-mother’s-house euphoria, the enticement of being considered an adult for the first time in my life, and the scary responsibility that entailed. I was unstoppable. And clumsy.  And, frankly, I find myself often yearning for that deeply flawed but fearless energy again.

I had left my mother’s home for the first and only time. I had left my very first relationship. My first love. He and I had been so Raging Bull with each other. So full of youthful Sturm and Drung.  We wore each other out equally, to be honest; I was just the first to act on it, needing desperately to have lightness back in my life. And off I went to my new adventures as a grown-up. I was instantly wild, as if I’d been cooped up and bound my entire life prior to that moment.

On more than one occasion, I dated two guys at once who were friends with each other. And it really was only ever just a matter of time before they’d talk, end up discovering the mutually shared component in the landscape of their conversation, and decide (rightfully so) that I was a pretty nervy bitch, and be done with me. I always knew it meant that I’d been found out whenever they would both stop taking my calls at the same time. My rationale was always, “Awwww, too bad, I was having so much fun. But hey, I’m single. I’m playing the field. We never made a commitment to each other. What exactly have I done wrong?”  In hindsight, and in the slightly calmer edge of my older self, I can see how remarkably self-absorbed that is.

Self-absorption may just go with the territory of being in one’s twenties. Is that insulting to twenty-somethings? Because I don’t actually mean it as an insult. I think it’s necessary for the decade of finding oneself to be a little self-absorbed. It requires all of one’s focus just to get the proper sea legs as a newbie adult. Lots of falling down. Plenty of injuries. Copious discoveries. Getting our way. Not getting our way. Brutal tears. And infectious laughter. We are babies.  At the same time, while our twenties are meant for discovering the world and ourselves, and is, as a decade, inherently, even acceptably, self-serving, should we be let off the hook for it?  Because while selfish may be sort of OK in our twenties, it still usually involves others’ hearts.

Take what happened with my next door neighbor.  I made the mistake of dating him.  Mistake only in that we literally shared a wall. Again, I’m thinking casual dating. And so, on an evening’s social excursion that did not include him, I found myself with the interesting prospect of a one-night-stand.  And as I giddily shared the details of that exploit with my roommate the next morning, guess who heard my boisterous story through the thin walls?  I found out later, as he was confessing his eavesdropping to me (although, confession isn’t really the right word when you’re the one backed into a guilt-targeted corner) that he’d actually placed a water glass to the wall like you’d see in movies.

“That trick really works?”

He was not in the mood for chatter.

From that moment on, living next door to him while trying to continue conducting my wild twenties was proving to be pretty excruciating. Let’s just say there were lots of slammed doors meant for my ears. Years later, when he and I ran into each other, both older, hopefully more mature, calmer, wiser, he actually apologized for being “a little crazy” back in the old days. And while I gratefully accepted his apology, somehow I felt like my incredibly selfish nature had been given an undeserved reprieve.

I’ve been rather lucky that no one ever murdered me out of some kind of crime of passion because of my impetuous immaturity. Like what nearly happened with yet another neighbor (same apartment complex on Detroit Street in the Fairfax District―many wild nights and crazy memories there). Let’s call this neighbor Ron. I honestly don’t remember his name. For all I can recall, it might’ve actually been Ron, making my efforts to protect his privacy moot. But oh well, Ron it is. My roommate and I were sitting at the kitchen table eating crispy, drippy melon on a hot summer evening, when a brusque knock came at our door. Those kinds of knocks always shoot my stomach right up into my throat. There stood Ron, a meek individual both in stature and voice, who very calmly offered that he’d been stabbed and could we please call 911 for him. What?!  No one who’s been stabbed is standing there talking to you calmly. Haven’t you ever seen Starsky and Hutch? But he proceeded to turn around and show us his bloody back. Freaking out as only two twenty-year-old girls can, we yanked him into our apartment, and rushed to call an ambulance. He told us we might want to close the door as his boyfriend was still storming around outside and brandishing the knife. Holy shit!  Now we were officially harboring a crime victim from his perp (I’ve always been a sucker for 1970’s cop show lingo).  As we locked the door and closed all the curtains, we could finally hear Agamemnon (not his real name either. Hey, no John Doe’s in this story) outside in a drunken rage, and we were scared shitless. We called for a paramedic and the police.  I then called my stepfather, who was a retired paramedic, to ask him to advise us on what to do until an ambulance arrived, as Ron Doe might’ve been slowly bleeding to death, for all we knew. What could we do to stop the bleeding? My dad advised, imploring us to “be careful!”  The authorities showed up, an ambulance carried Ron Doe away (he survived), while the police carried Agamemnon away to County, and we two pretty naive, sheltered, middle-class girls shivered in our boots once everyone left, and promptly graduated from melon slices to tequila shots, as we stared at our blood-stained sofa, and squealed in delighted horror that this kind of heart-thumping thing would never have happened living under our mothers’ roofs.

And while that one is always a you-won’t-believe-this! story to tell, with no other needed context, I relay it now to say that at least the callous heartbreaking I tended to do in my twenties never resulted in someone trying to kill me. I don’t think I had a clue just how lucky I was back then; not even after Ron showed up at our door with his domestic violence in the palms of his hand (or the fold of his back).  As far as I was concerned, I was indestructible.

My twenties were not just filled with me being the one breaking hearts. I was on the receiving end of that one plenty. Which is only fair. Take Frederic. Also not his real name, though I am awfully tempted to out this magnificent prick. Frederic was from Argentina, and we both worked as waiters at a pizza joint. He was very cute, and the accent was thick and alluring. We slept together the first day we met. It was cold and impersonal from the start, but I barely noticed, so fulfilled was I by someone’s attention and approval. It was always about that, if I’m being brutally honest. Things were going fairly normally until a young pretty thing started working at the pizza joint, and Frederic’s eye turned completely toward her. Well, not completely; he was still sleeping with me, which is where normal gradually moved into dysfunctional.

It blows me away to think that I looked at this little beauty as a “young thing” as compared with my old ass, which was twenty-five!  I would trade a lung for twenty-five again. The point is, it doesn’t matter where we are in life; someone will always come along to make us feel not as young, not as pretty, not as smart, not as desired, not as something.

But on to the pretty young thing ― or PYT, in Michael Jackson parlance. Frederic, magnificent prick that he was, would be in my bed and be talking about her. And I allowed it!  If he was a prick, I was a stooge, and I’m not honestly sure which is worse.  Yes, he and I were just casual.  I was still happily in playing-the-field mode myself, but for god’s sake at least I’d had the decency not to share whatever other exploits or interests I had with the guy I was presently with (thin neighboring walls notwithstanding).

The reason Frederic was still sleeping with me is because PYT was still a virgin, and was not about to have anything to do with Frederic. I was his convenience, until he could get what he really wanted.  He had no qualms about telling me so, and I would say things like “fuck you, asshole” in response to those kinds of comments, in my desperate attempts to counter stoogedom, I think.  Of course, not sleeping with him would’ve done the trick, but that’s way too self-respecting.

Here’s the thing: Frederic really got into the name-calling. The first time I realized it, I was taken aback, as I’d been looking for an actual argument. I could really get with a good screaming match. But he liked it. And then he thought I might like it.  And eventually I realized without ever consciously deciding on this, that we were actually mutually agreeing to have an abusive relationship.  Never physically, other than the sex (which didn’t even get particularly wild); just verbally and emotionally, which is damaging enough.

Eventually our interests both turned away from each other. Probably because, truth be told, that kind of relationship is boring, in addition to the more obvious spirit-decimating. But when I think back on it today, wasn’t it really only a matter of time before verbal would become corporal? And couldn’t I have ended up being the one to knock on a neighbor’s door with a knife wound in my back?  I am amazed I got out of my twenties alive. 

It also wasn’t just about a sexual revolution either. There was a creative explosion happening, as well. One I honestly wish I could recapture. Because while I love the artist I have become today, so much more than the one I began with in my twenties, a present level of unadulterated lust, gumption and nerve has just never quite matched that of my beginnings.

I was in the midst of writing my first novel. I’d started it the day I graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I’d loved acting, and thought I could’ve actually been gifted at it, but it never tugged at me the way writing did. Nor has music, to be frank, which might surprise those are are aware of my nearly 40 years in the business. I love being a musician, but it was always the writing. I was still living under my parents’ roof at that point. My stepdad had made our basement his office, and down there, in the cold cellar walls atmosphere, on his old (now vintage) Underwood typewriter, circa … around … 300 BC? … I started writing my first novel. The story takes place in London between the world wars. I didn’t have a single identification or connection with England or its culture, and I was the last thing from a history buff to even have much of a clue what was going on politically or socially there and then. I was a girl from Compton circa the 1960’s and 70’s. My sole inspiration for choosing 1936 England as the backdrop for a story I didn’t even have in my head yet was that it would be the absolute last thing anyone would ever expect of me. I was always the girl who hungered for a life no one could peg.  I hated cliches. I hated people who were cliches. I hated being able to read upon the lips of anyone talking to me, within seconds of meeting them, just exactly who they were down to their taste in fetishes. Mainly what I feared was the reflection back to me of myself. I did not want to be one. So, whenever I encountered someone who blew my mind for surprising me with an angle in their lives I could never have guessed, I would always say, “That’s what I want to be.  Unpeggable.”

That became the engine that has driven practically every decision, every life choice, every path I’ve ever traversed. It’s also exactly how I would describe all of my artistic idols: Coltrane, Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Joni, Jimi, Basquiat, Bukowsky, Van Gogh, Bartok . . .

So I took this story on, one that took eight years, practically my entire twenties, to write merely its first draft. I took it on and was determined to learn what I didn’t know, which was everything, about this time and this place I had randomly chosen. Long before the internet existed, I spent hours daily for years in the public library reading books and locating archived newsreels, to help create this world I was attempting to create. The directive many in the writing world consider to be the absolute sacred cow of credos is, “write what you know.”  It’s practically biblical. And I broke that rule straight out of the gate. I had nerve, if not common sense.

My main character was a kind of contemporary (for 1936) philosopher known for radical ideas about politics and religion, so I spent the bulk of my twenties with my head buried in Plato, Mao, Nietzche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, and on and on, as well as any books on the rising Fascist movement of that era. That is, when I wasn’t raving in the gay bars with my best friend and hooking up with boys who hadn’t found themselves yet. My sister, the intellectual, was quite instrumental in pointing me in the direction of whom I should read.

By the time I had finished my first draft, I truly believed I’d written a masterpiece. And typing “the end” to a 400-page novel held a power I cannot describe. It was the very first of such moments. I was twenty-eight years old, and I had written a book. And not a romance novel, or “young adult fiction” or stories of boyfriends and partying. No. A hefty-themed story of politics, war, and identity. I thought I was a badass. I still think I was a badass.

I also began singing in the gay bars. The cabaret scene was thriving. I entered a contest put on by the now defunct but forever legendary (and deeply fond to my heart) Rose Tattoo in West Hollywood, called Stardom Pursuit. I won. The winning was a good chunk of money and a residency there. I started learning a bizarre mix of songs, when most of the other singers around me were amassing their Broadway repertoires.  I remember pulling Pirate Jenny, by Brecht and Weill, out of some warped hat (I’d done The Threepenny Opera while at the Academy, and found I had a taste for the salty and the nasty). And so, while everyone around me was slaying Sondheim and Bernstein and Webber, and these were some of the best singing voices I’ve still ever come across, I was trying to take everyone to Hell with this enigmatic song of hurt and revenge and nastiness. It was my very first, ever, standing ovation. Message received … the dark crevices approach was working. Or at least the different was working. I decided right there and then that I wasn’t interested in the same repertoire everyone else around me was choosing. Even though, like I said, these singers I grew up with in the bar scene (most of whom are tragically no longer with us) could break my heart on a cold day.

First off, full confession, I didn’t have the kind of voice most of those singers did. Frankly, I couldn’t handle Sondheim. I had a different instrument altogether, with its limitations, and if I knew better I’d employ what I learned in acting school to make a song come alive. The high notes and virtuosic stuff were always going to be elusive to this slightly raspy, small-ranged alto. But my gift, it turns out, was in my ability to use that texture to interpret a lyric with genuine intimacy, and connect to a song the way an actor connects to a character she is hired to play. So, mom and dad’s money for school wasn’t a complete waste.

The very first of my songwriting also came out of this era. And also came from a most cracked and introspective place. I wasn’t creating infectious hooks and house beats. I was calling on other realms, the ancestors, archetypal hauntings, to fuel the stories inside my songs. For better or for worse, it remains the way I compose. I personally think it’s for better, because I’ve established a unique voice, even though not following trend has largely cost me opportunity over the course of my life.

If only I’d had the stubborn standards no one could shake from me with regards to my personal life. As a budding artist, I was fairly peerless and fearless. But as a budding woman, I was so full of insecurities as to wear the bloat of it on my very desperate soul.

It’s been a long time since I was a twenty-something, but one thing I know for sure is that it’s a very different world today for people in their twenties than it was in my day. I believe it’s much harder today. Most of my peers were out of the house as soon as they were legal. Today, kids largely stay under their parents’ roofs as long as they can, because a living wage seems to be so much more elusive to come by today. The economy is tougher. When we left home, I was a waitress, and my roommate was a file clerk. We managed to keep a pretty nice 2-bedroom apartment with hardwood floors and crown moulding, in the Fairfax District, with no significant struggles, and also no financial help from our parents. We were pursuing our careers (me in the arts and performance, her in psychology), even though our present jobs weren’t yet reflecting them.  And it was do-able!  And, at least from my vantage point as a performer, we didn’t live in a culture where if you weren’t “made” by twenty (or younger!), you were already over-the-hill and close to extinction.

The twenty-year-olds I know today are beating their asses to a pulp to hustle their careers and meet benchmarks, and are working round the clock, and maybe even juggling several jobs at once (while still trying to be in school), and are exhausted in the way we think of our elders as being exhausted, because the window from being a child to being a superstar is smaller and smaller, and panic seems the overriding emotion. Today what’s most important, what’s most revered, are ambition and relentless drive. There are even television shows right now that pit twelve-year-olds against each other in competition in order to inspire the shark in them. I am incredibly bothered by that. Unless you come from money, the world at your feet to explore and discover at your own pace seems to be a lost gem.

I spent my twenties doing some of the stupidest things imaginable. I’m not advocating for stupid. But I deeply appreciate the leisure I had of growing up by way of the mistakes I was allowed to make, and the lessons learned from them, which builds a certain muscle, and which doesn’t seem to be a luxury afforded the twenty-somethings of today. For one, we’re a more protective culture with our children than we were in my youth, living with more fear of predators, especially as social media has become THE major character in the play. It seems that rather than being allowed the gradual process of growing up, and finding themselves, and floundering, and grabbing hold, and tossing away, twenty-somethings are pressured to grow up instantly, and to produce! produce! produce! And the ones who are celebrated are the ones who’ve “made their millions by twenty-five,” or “gone viral by sixteen.” Today, the people that kids are programmed to view as their heroes are the ones who write code not books.

It seemed an easier time to be twenty when I was twenty. Of course every generation says that.  Is every generation right?  Is it literally becoming a harder and harder world to live in?

Like I said, I did some stupendously idiotic things in my twenties. Things I would shudder to think of my own twenty-year-old daughter doing, were I a parent. But not only did I survive it, I was shaped by it. I learned some lessons there, and had an unforgettable decade. I became an artist there, in the Magical Land of Twenty. You’ve heard of The Unsinkable Molly Brown?  I had firmly and irrevocably established myself as The Unpeggable Angie Brown. My twenties were equal parts cringe-worthy and rhapsodic. And I can honestly say that no other decade for me has been nearly as extreme, or as fertile, on both ends.

I truly hope the twenty-somethings of today aren’t being so protected within the bosom of their frightened parents that they aren’t allowed to breathe a little, and find themselves. Yeah, spoken like a true childless woman. I get that. I don’t know what it feels like to let go of a child who is growing up. But I’m still rooting and cheering for some freedom and wiggle-room and memorable odysseys for those who are coming along.

There are some pretty extraordinary twenty-somethings in my life right now, and whether I’m right or wrong about it being harder today to be in your twenties, what I see in these young folk is backbone likely formed because of the tougher times the present seems to hold. And they are taking the world by storm, on their terms, and tearing it up. Are they enjoying their lives? I pray so. I don’t want them burning out by thirty because we’re a more ambition-centric society than ever before.

We’re going to need them to be our hope for a future that presently has rights being retracted and constricted and snatched from our grip. And with the heavy burden that will eventually be theirs, I pray they are loving their time in this decade now. Loving it with a ridiculous ecstasy, because there truly will be no other decade like it. I adore being a witness to their personal renaissance. Because what I know is that when they reach my age, they’ll have a tale or two of their own to ramble on about their Magical Land of Twenty, how it built them into who they are today. And there’ll be a twinkle in their eye as they tell it.

 

Unless

My mother was magical.

She and I shared a most unique experience once. When I think of all her magic, which I find I do a lot since she died 20 years ago this month, it is an experience that could only have occurred for me because of being attached to Martha. I was nine years old, and she was informed by my pediatrician, Dr. Payne—(yeah…that’s not a joke…my entire childhood I envisioned it spelled Dr. Pain)—she was informed by Dr. Payne that I needed my tonsils removed. This was the era when this surgical procedure was done as routinely as tooth extraction. My mother was already scheduled to have lymph node surgery, herself, because of some unexplained lumps in her armpits, which, thank God, would turn out to be benign.

“She can’t be scheduled next week,” my mother said. “I’m going in the hospital next week.” 

And then came that magical word. A word, which, whenever it came out of my mother’s mouth, meant that the impossible was just about to be made possible.

“Unless….” she would offer with a singsong drag of the last syllable, about to tell whomever of her bright idea. And it would usually be an idea that probably shouldn’t be done, and yet her powers of persuasion were quite remarkable. 

In this case, the next thing I knew Dr. Payne had gone from explaining to my mother why hospital regulations would never allow it, because I was a child, etc. to making the arrangements for her and me to not only be hospitalized at the same time, but to be roomed together!

I’d been in a hospital only once before, at five years old, for a hernia operation.  I’d bunked in a ward with twenty other crying children. I didn’t know anyone, and I cried a lot too. And while drinking my alphabet soup one night there, and pulling the bowl up to my mouth, I dribbled half of it down my front. My hospital gown was changed, but the rest remained undiscovered until the bandages were removed weeks later, and pieces of moldy peas and carrots and random letters were prominently found pasted to my groin. I got a laugh from the nurse, which kind of tickled me, but otherwise I’d hated that frightening experience, because frankly I wasn’t comfortable being around other children. So, by this present idea, I was excited. 

Mom and I had our surgeries roughly around the same time, on the same day. I hazily remembered them bringing her into the recovery room, where I already was, as my surgery had concluded first, and I was already coming out of the anesthesia. I saw her crying hysterically. It’s one of the common symptoms of anesthesia wearing off.  But I didn’t know that at the time, and I panicked but my mouth wouldn’t move; I was still under the spell of my own drugs.  I think I remember her trying to punch one of the orderlies, from being so delirious. 

Still, the whole thing remains such an iconic Martha story, because how many people can say they’ve done that?  We had our own private room, Mom and me.  The only part I didn’t find especially enjoyable was that she got chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes for dinner, while I got boring Jello.

My mother was magical.  

When she visited Paris for her first time during my teenage years (a tradition I would inherit, as Paris ended up becoming my favorite city on the planet, which I’ve now visited several times), my mother brought back for me a print of the Post-Impressionist painter Jean-François Millet from the Musée d’Orsay. My hairs stood on end when she presented me with the print, entitled “Shepherdess and her Flock” . . . as it was ME in the painting. This 120-year-old painting!  The portrait was of a field as atmospheric as Millet could occasion, with the young shepherdess and her flock in the foreground. Downward gaze of fleshy cheek and sullen eyes. In fact, no eyes at all, just eyelids. Mine. This was why Martha had bought the print for me. And, of course, the first time I eventually made it to Paris, myself, I promptly went to see this painting in the flesh (or paint & canvas), and was tickled all over again that “I” lived in this museum in the great City of Lights, an ocean away from the life I knew.

But on this day when Martha brought the print home to me, I remember being so stunned that my face was the face in this painting that I asked how this could be possible! And yet another “unless” escaped like a fairy dust spurt from her mouth, as my whimsical mother could never resist a merry penchant for spinning magical fables—her loveliest trait, frankly. And she began by using, as a component in her case, the fact that our family name on her side is Shepard, then proceeded to declare that I WAS that shepherdess another lifetime ago, and had been Jean-François’ muse and perhaps even his lover. And as my face grew completely scarlet from the embarrassment that my mom would say these things to me, she just laughed with great jollity, and with—as always, gratefully, gratefully always—the undeniable sparkle of possibility. 

Blessings and flight among the angels, my sweet, magical girl.

Those Who Read Books

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Those who read books travel the world and time itself.

Are explorers, adventurers, discoverers.

Take on beggars and kings with no thought in the ranking.

Have their minds forced open and their spirits ever expanding

in insatiable hunger for more.

Those who read books fill themselves with wonder.

Know that a book is a friend,

a teacher, a priest,

an agitator.

Are not afraid to be made uncomfortable.

Grow the wings that continue, muscle by muscle,

to sprout upon reaching “The End” time and time anew.

Fly.  Fall.  Fly again.

Those who read books are changed.

And glad of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is a published author, a recipient of the Heritage Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums as a singer/songwriter, and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on INSTAGRAM & YOUTUBE.

A Rose Knows

Portrait of cute gril with big afro

 A rose blooms and releases fragrance.
It doesn’t question its deservedness.
A rose just knows. 

I’ve been wanting to tell of this encounter ever since it happened a few months ago, but have waited without really knowing why. Until yesterday morning, when I realized I’d been waiting for the title of my story. Victoria Thomas of the Agape Center, who was the visiting speaker at the spiritual center where I chose to spend Mother’s Day morning, at one point during her talk said the above quote. As soon as I heard this, I knew my piece was ready.

This spiritual center that I have newly started calling home, and sometimes sing at, hosted a craft faire this past Christmas, and anyone who had a craft was offered the opportunity to have a booth. I’d hesitated a commitment, and lost the opportunity, as booth space was spare and quickly snatched up. I didn’t represent a single thing that day, even though I have CDs, books, I’ve been handcrafting dreamcatchers for the past year, I make dolls. I sort of felt frustrated with myself that I’d had the instinct to hesitate, but ultimately it was okay as I had great fun attending in order to support all the other artists, crafters, and friends. And to top that off, on the day of the faire, right outside the front door of the center, the neighborhood’s Christmas parade was going on, so it was just one of those magical, wonderful days to be alive and to be part of a community.

“Would you like to buy a copy of my book?” she asked.  She was eight years old.

The bazaar was teeming with booths and tables of handmade jewelry, and crafted dreamcatchers (damn it, I make dreamcatchers!), and exotic crystals, and one-on-one healing sessions of every kind, from Reiki treatments to spirit animal readings. I’ve always been a sucker for a craft faire, especially if the general bent is New Age-y. I am crystal and sage mama. Always have been, and this was like a miniature version of the Whole Life Expo.

I’d already pocketed a few choice purchases. Knickknacks that would add to the energy and color and boho spirit of the 700-square-foot home I call my Zen cottage. I’d just made the silent promise to myself, “No more. You’ve shopped plenty now.” But who says “no thank you” to a little girl?  And a book?  She didn’t have a booth, I saw no inventory; she’d just planted herself in a corner.  I needed to see where this would lead.

“You have a book?” I asked her.

“Yes, I’m a writer!” she offered proudly.

“Well, okay then. How can I possibly say no to that?  How much for one of your books?”

“That’ll be one dollar.”

As I handed her a dollar bill, she proceeded to pull from her knapsack a single piece of notebook paper, folded in half.  I could barely contain a giggle. The title on the “cover” was The Little Fairy, and was adorned with the drawing of a stick figure sprite, some clouds and a sun.  I smiled so wide at my purchase, making sure to show her my delight, and couldn’t decide if it was more precious or ballsy.

I opened the folded piece of paper to reveal the story inside:

There once was a little fairy and she loved to fly.
But her wing got stuck on a rose bush and broke.
“Oh no” she cried.
She was sad so she went home and tried to fix it but she couldn’t.
But then she knew someone who could fix her problem.
“Can you fix my wing?”
“Sure.”
The End.

Whaddaya know, a lesson in conflict resolution. Made as simple as it truly is, if we adults could only manage to find our way around the viscous clouds that apparently go with adulthood.

“What a wonderful story,” I said to her. “I hope lots of people buy your book today.”

“Thank you!” she blushed.

I couldn’t rid my brain of this little girl for the rest of the day. Was it her creativity that I found so irresistible?  Or her unbelievable tenacity to assimilate with the adult world around her of product and consumerism? For certain it was her purity of spirit, and the compulsion to put her unfiltered, uncomplicated, I-don’t-need-no-stinking-booth carpe diem spirit, and her entitled (I write, therefore I am a writer!) energy into the ether.

“What’s your name?” I asked her, before I walked away.

“Angie,” she answered.

“No kidding.  My name is Angie too.  Except that everyone calls me Angela now that I’m an adult.  But look here, we have the same name.”

All Angie could do was giggle.

“May I share something else with you?  Not only do we have the same name, but I’m a writer too.”

“Where’s your book?” she challenged, without even a moment’s pause.

“Well…I….I…..”    I didn’t have a ready answer.

She just smiled, and let my “well…” hang in the awkward air, waiting for a conclusion that never came. I smiled back, wished her the world, and kept on roaming, but with my tail somewhat between my legs.

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I had absolutely fallen in love with this little girl’s mighty chutzpah, and decided that her book would have an honored place hanging on my refrigerator door behind a magnet, reminding me always. Reminding me always.

I see grace in everything. I just don’t see the wisdom in not. Because it is a paradigm that functions to create an environment where I always feel taken care of.  And on that day, with that encounter, grace was in full action as I was taken care of by a young girl who taught me, in no uncertain terms, that I needn’t ever question my deservedness.  A rose certainly doesn’t.

Neither did Little Angie.

 

 

 

 

References:
Victoria Thomas of Agape Center
Center for Spiritual Living Granada Hills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, is a recipient of the Heritage/Soulword Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

 

Ommmmmm


She was not allowed to hurt anymore today.

 

 

 

 
Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, is a recipient of the Heritage/Soulword Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.  Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

 

A Glimpse of Grace

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Last year at Thanksgiving I published an article about the song Amazing Grace, which seemed fitting for a holiday meant to honor gratitude.   This year, as we prepare our tables, I offer you a remembrance from one of my own Thanksgivings past.   A consummate illustration of grace.  And which, in whatever form, is always amazing.

Autumn, 1978.  The Jonestown massacre had just splashed across the nation’s newspapers, and my mother protectively drew her family into her bosom in an almost hysterical way.  She was due to be the keynote speaker at a conference in Atlanta just a few days after the coming Thanksgiving.  She often traveled for business, leaving us to hold down the fort, but this time decided that the whole family would go with her, take off early, and make a little vacation out of it.  On Thanksgiving morning, we piled into a roomy, rented twenty-six-footer RV mobile home, and headed east on Interstate 10.  I had just gotten my driver’s license, and my stepfather promised that I could have a try behind the wheel of the behemoth, probably somewhere out in the desert, where there would be fewer other cars for me to endanger.

My mother and her best friend Dolores (whose kids were with their father for the holiday, so she was joining) had packed the RV with all that would be needed to prepare a turkey feast, and with Dad at the wheel the women immediately commenced to cooking in the small kitchenette of the RV.  The plan was that wherever we were by the time dinner was ready was where we’d stop and have our Thanksgiving dinner.  The two of them took up the whole middle section, which included the kitchenette on one side of the RV and a large table for eating on the other, against a huge picture window, and which immediately got covered with all the food preparation.  My sister Pam, brother Mike, and I were mainly relegated to the back, an area that was much like a large restaurant booth and table, around which we sat with our many board games, and stared out of the large back window onto the vista of road behind us.  Above us were pull-out bunks for sleeping.  Mike ran back and forth between the stern to riding shotgun with Dad.  The women kept begging him find a spot and sit still.  Yeah, good luck with that.

The whole way across California, and by the time we hit the Colorado River, Mike and I had just about exhausted the adults with our impressions of bits from our favorite TV shows and hit songs, and I even shared some of my teen-angst poetry with Dolores, who seemed genuinely interested in it, though I’m pretty sure none of it was very good.  She was just great that way.  Pam had her head buried in a book, a constant place for my bookworm sister.

My stepdad was a bit of a video recording fanatic, so from the moment he invested in his new camera our family wasn’t given much peace or privacy.  On this trip Mike was in charge of the camera whenever Dad was doing the driving.  And while Dolores would shy away any time Mike aimed the camera her way, my mother was in her Norma Desmond element, always ready for her close-up.  Pam and I hammed it up whenever Mike aimed the lens our way, and Dad couldn’t help micro-managing Mike’s shooting technique from the driver’s seat.

“You’re not doing it right. Here, let me show you.”

Mike ended up being responsible for lots of accidental vérité-like shots, but then, frankly, so did my stepfather, who often forgot that the camera was still on when he’d lay it on its side to go do something else.  The shot would be a thrilling twenty-minute study of an ant crawling across the sideways table.  Andy Warhol would’ve been proud.

And all the while, the women cooked.

Cooking was a calling for my mother.  If she was in the kitchen, we knew an old-fashioned jubilee was about to happen.  At home I had often watched her when she’d make her monkey bread.  And sometimes she’d even try to teach me a few things.  It would be an all-day affair.  Learning to scald milk, which is a delicate procedure that requires precise timing and a hands-on skill.  Feeling the yeast between my fingers and dipping it in the lukewarm water.  Adding just a pinch of sugar to the softened paste, then watching it dissolve.  Separating the egg whites from their yokes, and adding them to the yeast paste.  Watching the miraculous alchemy of flour and milk and yeast and eggs become dough, dusted then kneaded.  The sensual nature of my mother’s hands to the sticky white mixture, and the way she’d dip her fingers into the velvety flour in order to handle the doughy mound, was artful.  She never rushed it.

The soft mound was then left in a glass bowl to rise.  She would always declare the watched pot never boils edict to me whenever I wanted to stare at it while it rose, but all I wanted to do was stare at it while it rose.  And once it was ready to be brought back out to the wooden block, perhaps an hour later, she would knead it some more.  A rolling pin would lay it out large and flat, and the flick of her wrist was something to see.

Next would come that part of the ritual in which the whole family was encouraged to participate.  We’d each take a diamond-shaped cookie cutter, several of which she’d collected over the years, and carve out squares that we would then dip individually into a pot of melted butter, and place in a Bundt pan.

Layer upon layer of little buttered squares would fill up the pan, which would then be placed in the oven, until some forty-five minutes later the bubbling brown masterpiece, with the molten jigsaw puzzle resemblance, would be a most aromatic table centerpiece quickly devoured.

This age-old Southern-tradition side dish is called monkey bread because when it’s turned over and released from the Bundt pan onto a bread platter it merely needs to be pulled apart with one’s fingers, not cut with a knife, and that was an especially enticing notion for us kids.  My mother made a pretty spectacular monkey bread.

I loved watching her stand back and enjoy satisfying her family’s bellies, and I knew that this, for her, was a kind of sacred meditation.

So, though we were all having a ball driving through town after town, on this holiday mobile-home odyssey, singing songs, telling jokes, and either ducking or mugging for the video camera, my mother never lost her stride or focus in preparing our food.  Dolores was equal to the task with her revered soul-food pigs feet and hot-water cornbread, but it was my mother whom I’d watched and studied for more years than I’d ever put into homework, so her talent was palpable for me.

Before long, the RV cabin started to fill up with the aroma of turkey and oyster stuffing, and yams laden with marshmallows and brown sugar, and sweet potato pie, and collard greens and cabbage, and macaroni and cheese, and lima bean casserole, and the famous monkey bread (which was actually prepared at home, and brought with).  It was insane and inexplicable how Martha and Dolores had managed to accomplish all of this culinary breadth in the tiny kitchen of this moving tin-can.  And that fact was only a testament to their cooking prowess.

It was still daylight but inching toward dusk by the time dinner was called, and we were in the middle of the desert somewhere in Arizona.  I’d finally been given my turn to do the driving.  I hadn’t killed us, or anyone else, but I had made a few precarious lane changes that had my mother and Dolores yelling at me, for almost losing a bowl or a dish to the ground.

“Sorry!” I would yell, while secretly giggling and feeling my oats.

Dad filmed the whole thing, laughing at my cowgirl driving and Martha and Dolores trying to hold onto the pots and pans.

I continued to drive only until we spotted a rest stop with a cluster of picnic tables off the highway.  I parked.  We all stepped outside.  The air was cold and crisp.  Colder than we Angelenos were accustomed to.  We bundled up in our various parkas.   There was no one in sight.   Because who plans picnics at the threshold of winter?  In the middle of the desert?  On Thanksgiving?

We all unloaded the many suitcases that my mother had packed into the undercarriage of the RV, and dragged the heavy things out to one of the picnic tables.  While Mike and I immediately commenced to chasing jackrabbits, and while my stepfather found his challenge in keeping up with a camera perpetually glued to his eye, my mother, with Pam’s and Dolores’ assistance, began to unearth from the suitcases her prized Dutch linen table cloth, the eight matching napkins, her silk Damask table runner, crystal water goblets that had been carefully bubble-wrapped, silver place-settings and napkin rings, china, candles, and an ornate candelabrum.  I mean, this thing could rival anything that ever sat on Liberace’s grand piano.  It was like watching a magician pull the kitchen sink out of his top hat.  And she proceeded to transform the prickly, cactus-surrounded dust bowl of rough and tumble nature that we’d claimed as ours for the afternoon into a dining experience for kings.  And thought nothing of the peculiarity in the whole affair.

My stepfather managed to capture all of her nutty splendor on tape (though it is fairly heartbreaking that some nearly 40 years later that cherished video footage has been lost).

She then yelled for Mike and me to stop chasing rabbits unless we intended on capturing one to go with dinner, which had us screaming in mock horror, and she bade us help her unload the RV of the many hot platters and fragrant casserole dishes and steaming pots and containers, and we took them, in several trips, over to the finely dressed table.

And right there in the middle of endless Arizona horizon and desert stillness, save for the periodic lizard or tumbleweed that might scamper by, and as the sun began to set, leaving us with only a dusted dusk and my mother’s candlelight, we bundled up in our coats, we sat to a king’s spread, we bowed our heads, and we held hands as Martha prayed, “Thank you for blessing this food that we are about to receive, for the nourishment of our bodies, and for the love and communing of family.  Amen.”  We raised our glasses to toast the feast, dug in to ridiculously mouthwatering fare, and absolutely loved the crazy novelty of it all.

Grace was not a word often associated with my audacious mother.  But like catching a shooting star in one’s periphery, I would see, just here and there in my growing up, brilliant evidence of it.  Sometimes in only tiny, fleeting swatches.  At other times still, as with our never-to-be-forgotten wilderness Thanksgiving, it would scream out in bold strokes of wild color, like a magnificent comet.

 

 

From the upcoming “Fiercely Sweetly”
© 2014 angela carole brown

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, is a recipient of the Heritage/Soulword Magazine Award in poetry, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Refractions of Light: My Quandary with Memoir

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Look in the mirror.   And tell the story.

To write or not to write the memoir is a topic often bandied about; and usually what’s discussed or debated are the ethics of such an endeavor.  James Frey’s  A Million Little Pieces  is probably the best-known controversy in recent publishing history.  He created a national scandal, even involving Oprah, by pushing the envelope on the ethics of telling the truth.  Lauren Slater purposely challenges our notions of truth versus embellishment versus downright deception, in her book  Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir,  by questioning whether fact equals truth, or is just one by-product of many that delivers a truth.   Charles Mingus’  Beneath the Underdog  doesn’t read like memoir at all, but like the most artful turn of poetry, at once urbane and plebeian, which has begged the question:  Just how “creative” is his memoir?   Yes, loads have been written and discussed on the subject.

I confess to being baffled at all the uproar Frey’s book created.  I once wrote a novel, a piece of fiction, that was told in first person from a child’s standpoint.   And at one juncture in its development I had toyed with the playful enough conceit of calling it a biography “as told to Angela Carole Brown.”   And with, frankly, never the intent to genuinely deceive a public, as it would all, by design, come out in the wash, and just be this piece of fiction turned on fiction’s ear.   But at the time I was considering it, the idea seemed harmless enough while achieving that sense of urgency that a true story intrinsically has on the psyche.   It never even occurred to me that such a conceit could be somehow profoundly damaging to culture, as I am someone who believes that truth does not always equal fact.  A universal truth can be unveiled in the very best of fiction.   So, yes, I was a bit puzzled over the degree of James Frey’s “crime.”   Yes, he exaggerated his story.   What exactly did that take away from us?

One of the rumors I’d heard throughout this scandal was that Frey had originally submitted his manuscript to the publisher as fiction, because though it had come from his own experience he admitted to greatly embellishing, and therefore thought it was best to submit it that way, and that it was his editor who suggested it would be more marketable as a memoir.  Whether or not that rumor is true, I think the greater point here is just how easy it is for a “true story” to be rendered true, false, real, deception, whatever, merely by the way in which it is framed.   And that perhaps Truth isn’t subject to perception and window dressing, but is the oak beneath it.

I have my own quandary with the memoir, but it looks nothing like the above.  Because though, as I’ve said, I never really saw the injury in James Frey’s “true” story, this article is not about to be some confession that I , too, have written a lie and called it memoir.  No, I have not done so.  And I’m not saying, by my take on the Frey scandal, that I’m a proponent of deception.  He exaggerated some details.  A memoir is supposed to be the truth.   I get that.  Only that perhaps Frey’s deception really didn’t merit the public slaughter it received.   He wasn’t writing a history book.  He was sharing his own personal experience for the greater purpose of the message it had to offer.

I only even bother to mention this particular avenue of the dialogue on memoir, and my take on it, because to write a piece on the memoir and not to acknowledge its most road-tread of avenues would be to plant an elephant right in this room.   And no, I never did publish the “biography as told to Angela Carole Brown,” nor in its pre-published state have I remained with the idea of that conceit.  To be honest, the reason I abandoned the idea (which was only a momentary entertaining anyway) is because such a gimmick would only distract from a story I believe is compelling on its own merits.   Its day will come.

Here, finally, is my quandary.  As a writer, I am primarily a novelist.   It’s only been in recent years that I have even begun to entertain the notion of the memoir.  And what I know about myself is that my issues with self-value have often created a twisted knot of identity assertion and confusion whenever I have entertained that notion.

Simply put, I’ve lived in the belief, for my entire writing life, that memoir was reserved for people in the public eye.  After all, why would anyone’s story be interesting to a total stranger unless it was that total strangers already know who you are, and this is, after all, a culture of fame-worship?  The irony here is that most of the memoirs I’ve read were written by writers who had not been especially well-known prior to a publisher finding something powerful in their story and taking it on.   And yet, the belief in me seems to be gravely deep-seated, and likely more a reflection of my own self-worth than anything.

I’ve generally tended to journal.  But I’ve never been that person who opens the notebook ritualistically at the end of every day lived, dates the log entries, and into the golden years can boast volumes upon volumes of my life on paper. No.  It’s been erratic and sporadic at best.  Something just hits me as worthy of documenting.  And I may not be hit again for several years.

The first of those incidents in my life that I felt strongly enough about documenting, in a way that I could easily envision as a book, was the death of my mother.  It was, however, almost a decade after her passing before I felt clear enough to unfold it in the written form.  It’s a book that I’ve more or less finished, though I’m not quite ready to put it into the world yet, and the reasons are more personal than they are about marketing and pacing strategies.

What continues to fascinate me is that the entire time I was writing it, a balls-to-the-wall battle was going on between my two selves: the Left Self, we’ll call her, who argued that everyone has a story, and every story has value not only for the one living it, but in the written form to be shared with others; that every story has a lesson, a light bulb, a dawning, to offer, if written with authenticity and purity of goal.  Every story has universality.

Right Self argued that no one cares about your story if you haven’t already made a name for yourself; that our present culture just doesn’t operate any other way.  And who do you think you are, anyway, to think anyone should care about your story?  That it’s only delusions of grandeur and self-importance that would make any writer think that her unknown life holds any interest for the average reader of books.  So stop being so narcissistic and wallowing up your own ass, and write a great piece of fiction, instead, that will be universal enough to resonate with an audience.

Well, fiction IS what I’ve generally tended to write.  And while I’ve always been a proponent of the idea that (though fictional) a great novel carries truth within it, just as I said above, I also believe that memoir is a very different animal indeed, and has a place.  The question for me became, does it have a place documenting Joe Blow’s ordinary life?

While these two Selves warred, I trudged forward, anyway, with my first stab at memoir.  Because something in me believed that my story had a message for the world.  One about the layered complexity of the mother/daughter dynamic.  One that examines grief in all its nuances and bumps.

Right Self, of course, just kept whispering, “self-indulgent.  Who cares!  You aren’t the first to write about grief.  And only the grief of Joan Didion or Frank McCourt or Edwidge Danticat is going to fetch an audience.  Go work yours out in therapy.”

Right Self had a point.  But I kept on writing, kept on trying to defend Left Self’s creed.

Since the writing of my grief memoir, which still sits on the proverbial shelf, I’ve written one other, not counting all those journal entries over the years of isolated mini-stories and experiences, which has been published.  I felt a little more qualified to write that one, though that idea discombobulates my brain because the fact is I am qualified to write about any part of my life.  It’s my life.  Who knows it better?  Yet clearly I am still being influenced by Right Self in determining whether I have a worthy story, and by extension a worthy life.  Isn’t that really what’s going on, Angela?  So I guess what I mean to say is that I was finally writing about something that might count as sensational and unique in the eyes of a society that craves sensational and unique, whereas death and loss and grief is not especially.

I’m truly bothered that I allow myself to reduce my merits to that graph; but, well, there it is.  The point of all this (all this being a good chunk of why I write) is to work that out.  I’ve already been writing, already producing content.  Now I’m just bobbing around in the waters of trying to get read, and trying to figure out the puzzle of how to get that done when I am not Joan Didion.

In any case, my unique story (the second stab at memoir) is that I donated a kidney to someone who might’ve died without it.  I saved a life.  This wasn’t done for sensationalism, but it was sensational, in every sense of the word, and in anyone’s book.  Yet what I wrote about was not the “hair-raising” or “breathtaking” aspect of such a deed.  All the adjectives any good sell-line MUST have these days.  The real story is about how the deed managed to save my life too, as I had been living in a profound spiritual malaise at the time this need presented itself.  And so it is the story of an ordinary and flawed human being struggling through the landmines of life.  Not about heroism.

And that’s when I realized that I was writing a book, yet again, that had Right Self’s eyes rolling.

“Who cares about your self-exploration!”

Right Self is mean.  But then so is the world.

I also now really understand my relatively new penchant for writing about myself, after years of writing fiction.  Because when I look back on the grief memoir that sits on the shelf, waiting for polishing  –  and courage  –  I realize that my flaws as a human being are not only on parade in that one too, just like with the kidney book, but truly are the nucleus of all my stories, it seems.  And it is suddenly clear to me that the gravity of my need to tell MY stories exists as a way of granting permission for my life to be made valid, and my flaws to be expunged if not transformed.

The act of storytelling, and my own stories specifically, may well be of no interest to anyone who doesn’t personally know me, but it is first and foremost, for me, an act of healing.

Now here’s where I will chest-spread.  I also believe that such an act of storytelling requires a special kind of bravery.  And I think what separates the women from the girls is the ability to resist self-aggrandizement in the writing, to look in the mirror, and to tell the story.

Of course, there are those who would say that the very instinct to write a memoir, in and of itself, is pretty self-aggrandizing.   Well, that’ll have to be.    It still requires walking a road many would shudder away from.

I read quite a bit of memoir when I was preparing for writing my first one, especially those dealing with grief.  There were the ones I was floored by, like Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and the Lauren Slater book.   These were examples of startling perspicacity, the very seed of the brave and gnarly self-reveal.

And then there were the ones that were so much “Isn’t my life blessed?  Even with all its precious dilemmas?  Don’t you wish it was yours?” that I could barely get through them without choking on the propaganda.  I won’t name them; I’m not interested in being cruel.  But they were such obvious cases of fear and inability to see the pearl in authentic confrontation with the shadow that I felt deeply for the writers, if not the writing.

William Giraldi speaks in a recent Poets & Writers issue, an article on Louise Gluck, of knowing oneself en route to becoming oneself.  That “the facts of any life are impotent and ineffectual until literature intercedes, until it takes hold of those facts and twists them into the light, casting a refraction that allows us to glimpse them anew.”1

From the same article comes a quotation from Stanley Kunitz: “The empty ones are those who do not suffer their selfhood.” 2

I see both of these sentiments as revering the act of vigilant self-inquiry and the level of courage it takes to face Self, and to mean that only through that kind of bravery can any writing truly arrive at an important place.

So, my question is, could bravery possibly count as a worthy enough star in the memoirs of the unknown?  Might that be my sole hope for believing that I could tell my stories to an audience that would bother with me?

Or is the better question:  Should I care?

Maybe I should just be writing.  And healing.  And sharing the experience.  Because the experience of leaping out from a prison of the internal through words is like nothing else I can describe.   For all the criticism that both of these writers have received in their writing careers, I imagine that James Frey and Lauren Slater, both, understand that sense of liberation.  And I suspect there are resonant ears and eyes out there, just waiting for me and others like me, hungry for a tale that could very well be their own, for what it might dare to examine.   We just need to find each other.

And then, to be able to let go of all else.

Alas, my running theme in life.

 

 

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Notes / Works Cited

1. 2. Poets & Writers, Sept/Oct 2014 Issue; Internal Tapestries by William Giraldi.

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.

Nene & Me : A Love Story

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Last night I spent hours going through all the footage from a (sort of) one-woman show I wrote and produced years ago called The Purple Sleep Cafe, and which I was fortunate enough to have filmed.   And I was going through the footage so that I could edit together an excerpt from the show that was about my relationship with my childhood friend and true savior during a difficult childhood.  I had idolized and now immortalized “Nene,” but she never knew about the show, as we’d lost touch in adulthood.   The last time I saw her (which was one of the only times since childhood) was at my mother’s memorial service twelve years ago.  We promised to keep in touch, and did for awhile, until eventually, as will happen, numbers got changed, leads ran dry, and we lost each other again.

She ran across my mind yesterday, and because of the advent of social media I realized the real feasibility of finding her.  So I excitedly culled through the show footage of my tribute to her, so that I could post it on YouTube.   It was actually a most joyous several hours of going back down Memory Lane, not only of the show I’d done (which actually climbed as far as Off-Broadway!), but of a childhood made special ONLY because of Nene’s presence in it.

The thought behind this effort was that I would get this footage up on YouTube, then find her on Facebook, reconnect, and send her the link to the video, which she has never seen.  It would be the perfect way back to her.

Today I went onto Facebook, and sure enough (as is the magic of Facebook), found her.  Only to learn, from a post that her daughter had made, that she passed away 6 months ago.   My stomach rushed up into my throat, and I’ve scarcely breathed since.   Who knew that in finally posting this footage, that it would end up being a memorial tribute instead of the entree into a reunion?

I sure do want to embrace the idea that true cosmic connections have occurred – that I would think of her, and put forth the labors to construct this gift, so shortly in the wake of her passing.   But I am, instead, bitter and resentful of my own gut and gumption not to have pursued finding her before now.  After all, how old is Social Media already?    That lesson we’re all taught, time and time again, of not waiting for inspiration, but leaping now?  How many more times do I have to lose someone without the chance to reach out, before finally getting that lesson through my thick skull?

I do realize I’m being very self-punishing right now.   The news is only hours old for me.   Perhaps I should’ve waited until I was in a better place to write here.    Except that I simply could not wait another instant to share this footage, to celebrate my friend, to lift her up, and call her glorious.   The bitter part of me says: “too little too late.”   The part that is full of grace says: “look at this remarkable gem that you get to keep forever, of this time in your life, this love of your life.”    I am grateful for grace.  And I am forever grateful for this love of my life.

This is a memoir of sorts, of one of the most special friendships I’ve ever had.

 

 

Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD.   Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog.   Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.