We all have people. You know, like the people next door, the people we meet, the people we work with, but I think when most of us use the term ‘people’ they are imagining family.
My birth family was pretty small– just my parents, my sister and I, one set of grandparents in the city of our suburb, and the other set in a trailer next to the Seminole Indian reservation in Central Florida (long story).
My father was an only child. No one in his extended family liked each other much. The back-breaking manuel labor of working the railroad lines and drinking away your salary at the end of the week which resulted in weekly bar brawls fueled by cheap hootch and pissed-off wives, had seen to that.
My mother had two sisters, but one had run-off with a priest to Texas and the other stayed in Florida (My parents moved to Ohio from sunny Florida because they were always bucking the trends).
I grew-up being told that my Dad was English (and maybe Jewish somewhere along his line since that’s what I remember hearing behind closed doors when my grandmother was pissed at my grandfather) and being certain that my Mom was French Canadian because I could barely understand a single word I ever heard those grandparents’ speak and when my mom was really pissed at me she swore in French, which, btw, does not have the intended effect.
Later on, after I married into a large family, and became aware that they not only knew a lot about their heritage (Czech/Swede & English) but that they were proud of it, I wanted to know more details about mine, but by that time all of my grandparents had passed and my Mom & Dad didn’t really know more then that, and I wondered, ‘What’s wrong with you people?’ (which is something I’ve asked myself repeatedly in a myriad of situations over the years), but because it was 1991, and our son’s First grade teacher told use we needed to get this new thing called a Personal Computer for the house because she just knew it was going to be the future and she thought Chase should write that future, and I said, ‘Are you kidding? Do you know how much those things cost?’ so we took out a loan and bought a first generation PC that was about as big as the freezer in our fridge and had it’s own room- I was able to do the research.
On my own.
And it has been quite a ride.
Before there was Ancestry (dot.com) there was the Ancestry Repository of the Church Of Latter Day Saints (which maintain that one should know who their ancestors are so as to have them greet you at the Pearly Gates and show you the ropes as you negotiate with The Lord in Heaven because if you thought LIFE was a negotiation ETERNITY’s gonna be a bitch), and they just happened to have a lot of information transcribed and available on the interwebs and since now I had access to the interwebs I dialed-up and if there wasn’t an electrical storm outside and there were no incoming phone calls, I was in my own kind of Heaven.
Twenty-four years later, I have unearthed:
* That one female ancestor had 18 children. Are you frigging kidding me? She had a baby every year after her nuptials….and then she died. Who wouldn’t?
* That one of my paternal great grandmothers birthed 14 children (again- really?) and that the oldest child was committed to an insane asylum four months after she died, (and her husband married her sister) and where she – my aunt, remained for 30 years, with her teeth removed because she bit another inmate and that inmate died as a result of those wounds. Interestingly, my father had never heard her name mentioned in all of his life. Not one visitation is recorded over those 30 years. She is buried next to her mother.
* That the golfer Tom Watson is my paternal grandfather’s Uncle’s son.
* That many of my ancestors owned and operated saloons with ’cause of death’ listed as ‘liver failure’.
* That one of my gggrandfathers hold’s two industrial patents on mechanisms that were pretty much obsolete by the time he filed them. One was a beer bottle holder that rotated tabletop-style. The other was a very complicated drapery rod. Why? I don’t have a God damn clue. His wife finally kicked him out and his last census record is in a flop-house in another state. He lists his ‘Occupation’ as ‘Inventor’. It should have read ‘Clueless’.
* That one ggrandfather died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 and is buried in a Pauper’s Field. Make of that what you will. I know I have.
* That another ggrandfather was a Justice Of The Peace. He mostly married his family members- to each other.
* That my maternal grandmother was an illegal alien until she was 54 and would have remained illegal if immigration services hadn’t knocked on her door at 2:30 in the morning threatening to deport her. I can imagine her hysterics in French. “Mais je na bebes dans ce pays!”: But I have babies in this country! “Mon mari honnete homme, le poissson trop, mais bon!”: My husband good man, he fish too much, but good!, and “Je tue personne!!: I kill no one! The officers probably just gave up. She got her papers pronto, btw.
* That there have been a few ‘pre-mature’ births of ‘full-term’ babies along the way- just sayin’.
* That 1st cousins married–a lot. A few had to get special dispensation from the Catholic Church- and they did.
* That I have ancestors that have fought in the Revolutionary War, The French and Indian War, The War of 1812, The Civil War, and each World War. My father’s cousin Jimmy, the only child of my Aunt Irene, died on an army base here in the States, during the Korean War, without ever seeing action. His death certificate remains ‘classified’. I don’t know where he’s buried.
* That there has never been a fortune made that wasn’t lost.
* That I’m only the second to graduate from College (after my father) and the first female. I am the ONLY person that ever went on to graduate school– until recently.
* And that, I am, of course, a direct descendant of Royalty.
But one of the most interesting tidbits that I have unearthed was that some of my PEOPLE are buried right here in Louisiana- and they’re Cajuns (Which were Acadians expelled from French Canada by the British because they wouldn’t sign an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown).
They were rounded up in the woods of Nova Scotia and herded onto ships in the Bay of Fundy, crammed hundreds over capacity, to Baltimore, Maryland, in the year 1761, to rot on the docks, until the City procured transport to French territory in the South, and they landed in New Orleans, and made their way upriver to St. Gabriel, and mingled with slaves and Indians and malaria and exotic spices and started all over again.
And I found them….
These are my people too.
Who are yours?
All cleaned and dusted off. Hi family!
St. Gabriel Cemetery
Iberville Parish, LA
St. Gabriel Catholic Church built by the Acadians and recently renovated.
I am Ebola. I’d like to introduce myself.
I am an ancient virus. I have lived a million life times.
I was birthed in the primordial ooze of a forming living planet.
I laid in the soil and waited for a root to take me up into a fruit.
I laid in the belly of the winged creatures that feasted on the fruit- still not a perfect host, just a resting place.
When I was younger, I waited in the excrement of the creature, in caves which gave cover to humans during storms, but this proved inefficient, so I mutated and slept in the blood of the creature itself, confident that it would find another host for me, all the while waiting- waiting for perfection.
And I was not disappointed.
My vessel, the Chiroptera, the Bat, often found the tender skin of swine a pleasant diversion, and so did I.
My perfect host was only one-step away.
And it is You.
I exist only to replicate. I have no other desire.
I am mighty and swift, hoping that in your attempts to attend to your dying, and in the hysteria that will surely be the result of the gruesomeness of my presence in your bodies, you will be careless.
And you have been.
I LOVE America-aside from hitching a ride on a man who knew he had been exposed, I didn’t wait too long to really get going, and you accommodated… when this human began to have bloody stool, you sent him away with an antibiotic.
By the time I was fully vested in his body, he was quarantined, but in a hospital that was simply not prepared for my dedication to my life’s work.
In fact, two of the women who ministered to his needs, have become my next generation, and you allowed one of them to get on an airplane.
I can not say ‘Thank You’ with enough humility.
Please don’t have your health care providers fully trained in infectious disease control, or provide them with proper gear. Your communities don’t really need to dispose of contact material in any more then a paper bag in the local dump- or a garden hose.
Please don’t ask people where they have travelled to- always believe them.
Please don’t require the people that have cared for my host tell you where they live, or to not get on mass transportation. I thought your allowing Nurse#2 to return from Cleveland even though she was already feeling ME was brilliant. Keep that up.
Please continue to disseminate the ‘We’ve got this under control’ attitude. So Wild West. I’m hoping to get out there, actually.
Maybe a train?
And stop debating the merits of attending to ground ZERO in West Africa. It’s a waste of time.
In closing I would just like to say I appreciate your generous welcoming, and I really enjoyed Dallas.
As the sweep of iced Canadian air pushed through the hard woods of New Brunswick, like a reaper strumming dead bones, a French immigrant family traveled by open carriage to the border of Canada, and crossed by foot onto American soil into Maine.
They managed by rail, and truck, and bus, and luck to find Boston.
The Father had a brother there already. The brother spoke of steady work, lodgings with heat, and stores where all you had to do was walk in and choose food, with fruit that came from wondrous places- like pineapple and banana. Warm places. Islands. You could taste them.
The Parents of this family had little formal education. It wasn’t needed to continue the trade on a fishing boat. The family tradition of hand-to-mouth. Eat what you catch. Sometimes you don’t– eat at all.
The Father did odd jobs for Boston- like occasionally running bootleg liqueur along the Bay of Fundy or repurposing coat closets with indoor plumbing for rich people.
The Mother was in service as an upstairs French maid for a prominent Brahmin family on Beacon Hill, until the Depression hit, and then even all the money in the world couldn’t save you. Or their jobs.
By 1934, with a new baby just born, the parents delivered their eldest child to live with nuns. They couldn’t feed her and her two sisters combined.
The Mother was allowed to visit for one hour, once a month. Sometimes the child didn’t attend the visits. The Mother was told the child was being punished for bad behavior, that God wiling, hopefully next month she’d be more obedient.
When the Mother inquired as to the offenses, she was told that it was of no concern to her as long as the child was under the roof of the Lord and the Mother continued to require their services.
The Mother visited every month- for over a year.
By then, the Father had decided to move to the water, to leave the city, where he could fish for their supper, and on their way, they gathered their eldest daughter from the Nuns, and vowed to never set foot in a Catholic Church again.
The daughter was afraid of closets now. They didn’t ask why, but the Father removed every closet door from every house that they ever lived together-in again.
And then, one day, twenty year’s of days into the future, with the warm caress of a tropical breeze blowing through the fronds of soft palms, like a mistress whispering in the ear of a lover, a nun was found dead in a closet.
The family had finally made it to Florida…
The fishing was good.
How many times have you heard ‘Follow Your Passion’?
And, how many times have you thought, even felt, like somehow, you’re ‘Passion’ must be hiding behind that big stack of unpaid bills?
How many times have you been advised to ‘Find what you’re passionate about and do THAT’?
How many times have you wondered if something must be wrong with you because you’re either not very complex or you suck at hide-n-seek?
How many times have you heard that if you ‘do’ what you’re passionate about you’ll never work a day in your life?
How many times does a day’s work resemble unicorns farting rainbows?
So let’s be honest, you and me, between friends and all, let’s be speakers of truth.
Let’s look each other in the eye, take a deep drink of wine, and say, ‘Me too and we’re awesome still.’
When I was young I played piano- well, that might be an ‘over-statement’ but I still played.
My grandparents had an organ, and one day, when I was eight-ish, bored with serving the adults dirty martinis between poker hands, I went to the organ, flipped the switch, and began exploring the keys.
Oh. My. God. This is fun.
Fast forward: Playing a piano became my passion. I played before I went to school. I played at school. I played any time I had the time. And I got good.
Now, what I’m not telling you is that (shuuuushhhh) I was self-taught. I couldn’t read music. I had spent years devising my own musical notations. And I was HAPPY.
My mother begged (BEGGED) me to take lessons.
Now, you can’t play an instrument and not SING with it, so I SUNG. Loudly. And well. Every damn day. I played records on my parents phonograph and I mimicked the ‘Greats’. I listened and I learned and I got g-o-o-d. Really g-o-o-d. People used to come to our house so that they could hear me sing. I could do Jimmy Page as well as Patsy Cline. Whateva ‘ya need folks. And I was HAPPY.
My mother begged (BEGGED) me to take lessons.
Again, Peter pays Paul, and then they go see Simon, so I began to write my own music with lyrics.
And some of my stuff was pretty good. I had the wife of a Entertainment producer tell her husband about me- THAT good.
My mother begged (BEGGED) me to Follow My Passion.
And I declined.
‘Why?’, you might ask.
Because I was HAPPY.
Because I suspected that once this ‘thing’ I WAS passionate about became the property of someone else, became something that I might make a ‘living’ at– would ruin it- the Passion. The Happy… so I ‘did’ other things, other jobs, had other responsibilities, made differences in other ways WITHOUT BEING PASSIONATE about them.
And, ‘ya know what? It’s been good. Even great– this life of mine.
It has been my experience that you don’t need to be passionate about something to do it well, or to have it be rewarding.
You don’t need passion to participate in a meaningful occupation, to do a good job, to become accomplished, to be heard.
Because most of us don’t even know what our ‘Passions’ are, let alone how to finesse them into a career, and if you do know what your ‘Passions’ are, there’s no shame in just experiencing them quietly, with loved ones, by yourself, for the JOY, for the …HAPPY.
All of those ‘people’ that espouse these little ditties aren’t passionate about you, or your passion. They are usually standing in front of a choir, selling a book, or receiving an award.
It’s just so easy for them to inspire you. You feel empty. You feel left out. You are ripe for the pickings.
And then you go home and try to identify your passions. But the kids are crying and you need to get dinner on the table, and your husband needs his med’s, and your boyfriend hasn’t called, and your father’s insurance won’t cover his treatment, and you don’t know…
What your passion is.
Because LIFE is getting in the way.
Except it’s not
Because living Life IS the great Passion, and you’re a big part of IT, and IT may not always say ‘thank you’, and IT may sometimes walk right past you, and IT doesn’t buy you a house, and IT let’s you get old, but IT’s the story. The big reveal.
YOU are the Passion. And you are an awesome creature in all of your ordinariness, and invisibility, and seemingly mundane vanilla existence.
Because without all of us, in every form, suffering every malady, and creating joy from dust, there would be nothing to live for.
It takes a hero to get up every damn day and go out again.
And life is made-up of unsung heros- thank God.
So consider giving yourself a break, apologizing to your own soul, kissing your own face, painting masterpieces on the weekends, creating an environment that provides for the next generation, rounding-up stray animals, being in love, being upset, being forlorn, planning a funeral, having a baby, being properly diagnosed, clean sheets, cold milk, hot showers, and receiving a smile from a stranger– all a part of your Passion.
You just might find yourself HAPPY.
At least enough of the time.
All of these people are experiencing their PASSION’s without actually having laid the marble or painted the murals.
Once Upon A Time, I pushed two bowling balls out of a garden hose.
It wasn’t easy, but I had no choice. There was no were else for them to go.
I toiled and huffed, and ate ice chips and swallowed laxatives, and lo and behold, the universe brought forth an unbreakable obligation to burping and feeding and homework and worry.
Yes, there were the ‘special’ times, the ones that make it ‘all worth while’, like “I love you Mommy”, and “I’m not talking until I have my lawyer or my Mom is here”, kind of awesome moments.
Ahhhh. The memories…
And then you promise them that if they work real hard, and fulfill their ‘potential’ you will fund the largest Capitalist shell game of all: College- any college they can get into. Any one.
They call your bet, and go ‘all in’.
Your tears, when reading the acceptance letters, are mistaken for joy.
All you see is money: tuition, books, i-n-c-i-d-e-n-t-a-l-s, airline tickets, and living expenses.
You feel the blood dripping from your eyes, but you take heart that eventually it will be all over, only four years each. You can withstand anything.
Except it isn’t OVER in four years, oh no, they keep needing you, they keep calling your bluff. They keep saying, “I love you.”
And you simply cannot resist because these creatures, the very ones who have stolen your soul, somehow have a stranglehold on your reason and as much as you try, you, you, need them too. You want to help. You want to see them happy. You take joy in watching them fly…
And sometimes, that’s to a new city, a new job, new friends, and new worries.
But, sometimes, if your lucky, you get to spread your wings along side them, and transform a bland cocoon of an apartment into a beautiful butterfly.
Because, whether you came out of the garden hose, or not, I’ve got your back– or at least I’ll help you hang art.
Here are my TIPS on turning a BLAH apartment to
Lighting- very few people have enough, or at the right height. I have a serious disdain for overhead lighting. It’s garish. Floods the room. No shadows, and you want shadows. They create mood. You should light at least one corner of every room. Use a floor lamp or something that hangs off the wall. We have both options at play here- a floor lamp in the living room and a hanging acrylic chandelier hanging off of an ordinary plant hook in the bedroom. You should have a light source for every place where someone will sit (and where you will sleep). We found an electrical outlet at the short end of the kitchen bar under the lip of the top, so we plugged in a charming lamp that sits on the counter but creates a wonderful over-glow when seated at the table that’s tucked under it. Also, notice the lamp shade. It blue. It stops your eye for a second so that you notice what’s going on under it. It brings in some color to the otherwise open dull space of the monochromatic kitchen.
Furniture- it should multi-task. The coffee table has drawers for storage, and the couch pulls out into a queen size sleeping platform because this is a one bedroom apartment. A desk by the side of the bed could not only be a study space but an end table. Get it?
Space delineation- space will most likely be tight, so areas will have to do double-duty. In this apartment, my daughter’s bedroom is also where she has her desk, and not in the living room. This way she can close her door from her cats and they still can reach their food and liter, and if she needs a mental break, she can exit her room and enjoy the calm organization of her larger space.
Flooring- it will probably suck. Dull carpet, scratched parquet flooring, peeling linoleum. In this case it was carpeting and ceramic tile- all in greige. We chose to ignore the floors because in this tight space you want it to seem uninterrupted- except in the bathroom, where we placed a long (7 foot) indoor/outdoor runner. She originally thought it would be too long. I assured her it would not. I was right. All the way from the shower to the toilet you have a soft warm surface under your feet, and it adds visual interest to an otherwise utilitarian space.
Art- my 29yr old son has a large piece of art hanging in his home office that is the accumulation of hundreds of cigarette packs. He thinks it’s cool. OMG. It must be burned. Most young adults will not have had the resources to purchase ‘good’ art yet, but ‘smart’ art can be had by all. In this case, I have encouraged both of my kids (What happened son?) over the years to not buy things to just cover the walls. Better to have less and have it be meaningful and appropriate then just crap on the wall. My daughter, years ago, fell in love with a large mirrored wall clock that is the focal point in her living room (and reflects light-SMART) and a lovely vintage oil painting she found for a few dollars at a junk store (and we had cleaned), for over her bed. When you walk into either of these rooms they are the perfect compliment- not overwhelming, not confining, not amateurish. You learned well grasshopper. Your brother- the jury’s still out.
Color- in a small space color should be uninterrupted whether it’s bold or soft. Using all one color family, in ALL the rooms, will open the ENTIRE space. In this case the apartment walls were painted before she moved in, so we had to work with it. Thankfully it is a non-committal taupe. Easy-peasy with her warm whites and greys, but to make it your own- chose a few accent colors and use them to either bring your eye to a certain spot (like a comfy corner), or to add a bit of pizzaz. Look at that shrimp-colored wing chair in the living room. No other powerful colors- just that chair. Understated. Interesting. Powerful. Well done darling.
Furniture Placement- Walk into your rooms and LOOK. Really look at the space. Do you want to walk into your bed? No. Does it make your bedroom look claustrophobic? Yes. Here’s the thing: ALWAYS place your bed so that when you walk into the bedroom the bed is somewhere you have to walk to, ahead-of-you, from the foot to the pillows. ALWAYS. Let me see the bed in all of it’s glory. As for living space, I love furniture placed on a angle, but that requires square footage this apartment didn’t have, so up against the wall it was. But- the couch is a sectional that has a switch-back that creates it’s own kind of delineation which cradles the coffee table and doesn’t block the view/light on the other end. Perfect. Also, the kitchen island counter stopped short of the kitchen flooring leaving this strange unused area which was perfect for slipping her table under. A continuation of the counter AND proper seating for meals. The lamp on the counter makes it very bueno.
Accessorize- it’s personal, as it should be. Accessories are supposed to reflect who you are, but they are often disjointed and spread out all over the place. GROUP your like objects- either by Topic, Function, or COLOR ( Wait. I’ll tell you how in a second). Case in point: TOPIC-1) Group all of your framed family photo’s in one place- not three in every room. Do I really have to stare at you and your dog in the bathroom? See your wedding picture from the kitchen counter? 2) The only other place GROUPS of books should be, other then in a bookcase in ONE room, is on a coffee table. Do you really think that by casually stacking a few classics together and putting a vase of flowers on top, that I’ll think you just happened to leave them there on your way through? Coffee table books are conversation starters- that’s why they’re out. If you have a collection (three or more)- of anything- GROUP them together. Don’t put one here, one there, another thata way. GROUP by FUNCATION. You put all of your flatware in one drawer don’t you? Put all of your magazines in one place, your electronic charging stations, your cooking utensils, your small appliances, your cleaning supplies, your cat supplies, your bills! Have places ready to recieve these items. Put them where you use them. If you need TP it’s a bitch to have to go to hall linen closet isn’t it? GROUP by COLOR. Okay- let’s say you don’t have a lot of any one thing, but you love the color blue. You tend to have a lot of things in the color blue. GROUP them. I recently walked into a women’s clothing store that didn’t have it’s selections separated by size. They had them grouped in color blocks. Not only was it very pleasing to the eye, it made my shopping easier. If you have a collection of vases, some in red, some in yellow, some in white- separate them and group them by color. THEN- separate the groups.
Finishes- chose three. My daughter likes painted surfaces, upholstery, and natural fibers. A space full of dark cheery stain, shabby chic whites, stainless, 50s vintage bakelite, and South American indigenous pottery is a mish-mash of style, Continents, and history. Pare it down.
The WOW factor- each room should have a little surprise. It might be an object. It might be a color, or it might be the size of something- a really big couch, or a little lamp placed just so. In this apartment, my daughter’s WOW factor is the crazy awesome chair in the living room, the chandelier in the bedroom, and the lamp on the bathroom counter…
AFTER/.Bathroom.. with Ned inspecting.