Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Sort of Homecoming

I try to speak honestly as possible, so when we awakened on the Greyhound bus after a short doze, I can tell you a combination of relief from the end of a long and confining ride from Cali and sheer delight at all that we left behind and more, lying ahead, made us stretch those fingers out over the seat as we crossed the Georgia line!
After a thousand miles of prairie and desert, the lush swale of pine trees on either side stirred the memory child inside. Eight years had flown by since we could spend anymore than a few days here, where Angela (the Marc Kane) and I both grew up. We’d been back twice to bury my Dad and my Aunt Linda, and once, we pinballed from house to house before tilting again for the Coast.

Even thoughts of our rediscovered and continuing ideas and plans, Kayden’s company from Arkansas on, a daydreamy re-envisioning of Ghost Rider and the Defenders versus the Satantic rocker/ demon pawn, and pure meditation could only do so much to relieve two and a half sunburnt, cramped and even occasionally air-conditionless days. It was a kind of sweet torture, to heighten the joy of seeing Mom, of eating a bowl of grits again, of feeling a bit of gentle rain after none in months of San Diego microclimate, to feel roots reaching back throughout the past century to a slower way of life and quieter places with no less sheer nature and beauty.

No lack of consistent sleep could restrain the vibrations: we were home!

There’s the one you carry in your heart, so you can be at peace wherever you travel, whatever the change of time and place. Then, there’s that sometimes shifting locale, concealing layers of memory, as much a part of your inner life, a place not everyone has, really, a place so familiar as to seem like barely noticed wallpaper one day while you dream of the many elsewheres. But One day, you find it, sometimes filled with those you knew, filled with people who recognize the same things, though this place, too, may undergo its share of changes. In American culture, it’s practically considered stagnation, to find too much the same again in a city. Yet this is the South, too, abiding place of touchstones kept as a reference point to people remembered, days past.
I was thankful for every single bit of it. Eight years of becoming my own person away from here had made it an old friend, and how are you, old friend, anyway? Friendships that have grown in potential, family ties that could use a good firm tug…all the professional concerns aside for a moment, there were a LOT of hugs to give, bread to break, time to spend together, laughs, memories, and new ones to make.

There was Mom and Dad’s best guy friend Billy, awaiting our late bus in the rain, at the Dalton terminal that’s not quite a terminal. We hit Cracker Barrel on the way home---it’s where you eat in lieu of grandma, or now great-great grandma’s, country dinner. I said the blessing over breakfast, and thanked the Lord for everything that is Georgia. You may criticize, and anywhere has details to sort through, arguments and lives that are hopefully let to live, if you don’t care a lot about what people say. It’s stringent at times, for the truly adventurous, and yet…it’s so many old things no one quite wants to throw away, along with a lot of changes that sometimes needlessly scare those conditioned against them.

Can’t you find the charm in Gospel preachers, telling Bible stories, reminding us of the cloistered elderly, evoking values that may be found by many ways, yet all for the yearning of a better world? Do you know the birds, the Crape Myrtles in bloom, the waves of heat and the cool breeze of relief, the weeping willow, the sensation of being a rock skimming the surface, not dragged down by the long lingering life entangled beneath? I dressed quickly in Dad’s old clothes, as my dress shirts had not arrived (and never would!), and proudly accompanied my Mom to church without any sleep. It’s my roots! It’s a chance to do something with Mom. It’s a place to center my mind for a bit on spiritual concerns, as they reflect in my own inner being. Something once so confining becomes an easy choice, a matter of fact chore not unlike mowing the lawn---maintenance of the beauty of appearances, through simple action. What I am need not evaporate nor be pummeled by oppression, not when there’s no need to take in negativity, real or imagined. The mysteries of my own intrigue sit quietly in my pocket. Out of sheer nostalgia, and the desire to overjoy my Mom, I’ve eagerly taken to church attendance more regularly than many of the actual members!
Then, the shopping trip…Mama takes Angela out and surprises her by handing over most of her purchases, all made in the spirit of fun. Girl friends! Finally, another lady with sweetness and vitality to do things with. Besides, Angela’s her other daughter now, too!

And the photos…I was bleary the day Mom began pulling out everything, from her great grandparents to her and Dad, a closet full of significance. Days of my childhood fall out onto the bed, even memories before of photos revisited, of times gone by before I was born. I hope to dig back into them again…it was so great to be the people who could share them.

Cutting the grass spawned a song, based on Frank Miller’s best Daredevil story, fans say, one I should complete. The push mower just made me want to sing, and riding the other mower in the back yard later gave me lots of cover to bellow my new melody, too.

It’s not cool. I’ve been cool. I’ve been edgy enough; I could still blow minds with a few things I think about. My future’s relatively unconventional. But I have values and integrity, too, regardless of post-modern modes and outrĂ© considerations. There is so much that will haunt you if you do not take it out of the pile and make peace with it.
Mom’s Pilgrims meeting at church on the last August Tuesday is a story unto itself. Watch for my blog about Free Trade, and one former lady lawyer’s efforts to meet needs in Haiti and Afghanistan. Let’s just say, elderly Southern women can really cook, and I had to have two plates of small portions to approach the grandeur of their generous sharing. We even had Pastor Mac sit with us, and for him to impress the Marc Kane herself with his earnest demeanor is no small feat! He was refreshingly forward thinking. Our Korean War vet companion was entertaining too, though without his Thirty-Aught-Six, he’s not likely to join our Sri Lankan expedition!
Peace has been predominant here in the nearly three weeks since arrival. The fun of being kidnapped by Dixie and Charlie for Steak and Shake, a weekend full of visitors, and a house and yard filled with animal life just increased that sensation: “I’m grateful for every last thing I sense.”

It took almost a full week for a touch of exhaustion to expose me to an afternoon where I missed just one person. California, it seems, will take some time to unpack---I just gave it a shot, three days ago---I shouldn’t miss her. Suddenly, a restless nap couldn’t compare to being with Angela, who was riding to the store with Charlie, and we would’ve been much too full of company then for any sad preoccupation. It would take me until Dad’s birthday to finally give in to a gesture between us. I don’t know if she loves us or the game she plays on the Internet, so why worry.

Meanwhile, I got to meet the Goddesses, my sister (in-law)’s god daughters, talented and full of promise and humor. I got to break the ice with them as well as anyone does; they are a big part of why we’re here! It’s that generation just coming up that really needs to hear about the bigger picture, to see small town people who went out into it and plan to dive back out there unafraid, who love them and their families and celebrate things back here as good, too. We need to demonstrate you can go out and take a big risk and hold onto your self, changing all the while into someone stronger. A future film maker and artist just might take a cue from us and reach their potential much sooner than we could!

That’s not all. Mama and Papa Bowman remembered being the young idealists, the hippie-type folks who enjoyed singing, playing, dancing with their kids, in an old-time family sing-along. To play our songs for people I respected so much, to accrue their praise before they even knew those were our babies, was a fine feeling right there beside the big hugs. The walk through Dixie’s volunteer flower garden was another of those pleasures I’d day dreamed about in San Diego, as Georgia, my past, became more and more, my future.

Our Gay Boy friends came down to share delicious Pizza Hut, and the Goddesses’ parents came over for a galloping chat filled with enormous raw potential and alternative ideas that owe to science and comic books rather than tradition, and my head reeled as a new idea came loose and more of my plans unlocked in excited anticipation. This was before we spent the next day of four frolicking with a four year old daughter of a friend who Dixie considers family, and safe to say, we four adults embraced a much-needed playground work out with real gusto! Angela came away enthusiastic about her two new gal pals. It seems we’ll be watching our favorite show and much more with cute new friends!
I even got hired by our California friend Nikki, who remembered our D’n’A comic and my sketch of her, to make a brand new, hilarious comic book! We brainstormed online, and the next night, after a walk in the yard earlier by myself, I had a cohesive plot to draft. I’ve drawn the character designs since then, and before this night ends, I’ll start committing my fervent stick figures to paper in story sequence. I’ll try angles and storytelling tricks and envision and revise. My friend Mike loaned us Avengers Assemble by Busiek/ Perez and, hot dog, Lee/ Kirby’s Fantastic Four Masterworks Volume Four, with an annual full of pin-ups and the origin of Doctor Doom himself just for starters! The delight of that energetic early storytelling set the tone for the sheer fun I want to put into Nikki’s project, which will be the best Christmas present ev-ah for her man. Her ideas were a blast, too, just one absurdity to follow one joke after the next, like Christmas lights she pulled out gleefully as I strung them around the tree. Perez (and Pacheco) really inspire you with modern techniques on how to lay out a page and detail a figure, while Kirby can pace a tale you can’t put down, filled with Lee’s melodrama and wisecracks. It was a fateful one-two punch for me to peruse as I finally caught my breath a few days.

Speaking of Christmas trees, Mom never put hers away for the past years, so there’s THREE throughout the house, full of old ornaments and new. We’ll be here for Christmas! It hasn’t been like this in fifteen years, honestly. The white one in our room is so pretty. Ah, we have space…after eight years in one room, I can barely convey to you…!
If my bag hadn’t been found in Chattanooga, our party may have only gotten quieter rather than ending, but one Chinese buffet of delights later, I was drawing a picture of someone sweet I want to know better, in the back of Mom’s car on Interstate 75. To avoid an accident, we mapped some lesser used byways and I navigated while Mom drove, admiring the quaint charms of Ringgold and highway 41, famed in “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers. Mom even saved our lives from an 18 wheeler and reported him for running us quite nearly off the road! She’s still “with it.”
So my shirts turned out to be filched, our vitamins opened by said scavenger…but Mom surprised me with some Good Will treasures a few days later. Besides, we were trying to put together a Labor Day Weekend cookout with lots of good songs and many more invitations than could be redeemed as we moved locations back to the house and hoped for no more rain. I was so reluctant to attend the Pow Wow after so much exposure to, well, people, and thought, “ah, a craft’s fair…but, it’s a chance to do something with Mom!”
So do I have time to tell about the Pow Wow, and the Great Spirit’s rewards to us for going with Mom? Or my old friend who was bright and strong and in need of a good friend, the girl I’d lusted after from middle school on, surrounded by her two kids and nephew as the Cherokee descendents gave a colorful grass dance, and the Marc Kane held a bird of prey proudly?

Not to mention seeing my cousins Lora and Patricia again Sunday, and my beloved uncle Roger, and my cousin William and his wife I’d not yet met and their little two year old Haven, and singing with and for them and catching up…I mean, this is why I can’t let blogs pile up!

Would you believe I enjoyed my dental visit? They cut off my whatever it was on my gums from a “hyperplasia” that usually occurs only in pregnant women (alas, no joyous news there, folks :-D) and I absorbed all they revealed in their routine check-up, my first since I was thirteen. I plan to drop off cards for our Elton John cover band. My intern surgeon was really cute but I tried not to stare as she worked. I wish her well if she goes to Lima. I read about Tarot decks when no one was around. I bought some bread for us and Mama and the cookout on the way home with her.

Did I mention I love Mama so much? We sit up with her every night, this week, playing Pollyanna, a game that’s nearly a hundred years old. She tells bathroom story funnies and tales about her tempermental Grandpa Huff, and we laugh about any ol’ silly thing late in the night. She sits up with ghosts, yes, but they are happy ones. Not one of those people would feel bad to see her laugh so with us, being a family again, what remains of our little family. Being the last of your immediate family, telling about trips with people who have all died, could be a much more morbid business, but instead it just feels like home. You know how the people you talk to about other people kind of sit in for those people, essentially? You ask them to carry the water, so to speak, to carry on the memories for you, of those you loved and lost? Do think of that as you talk to others, and try not to burden their presence over much with old antipathies for people once in your life. Invite them to celebrate those who touched your world.
Make yourselves some new memories. We are, none of us, here forever, nor nearly so long as we might take for granted and think, sometimes.
What can I say? I write these things to share something of depth in life, to refresh you with details of a life not so unlike your own, perhaps. It’s just one long letter to a friend, just to say: “we’re in Georgia, and everything’s all right.”

Good to be with you, friend.

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