Archive for October, 2010
Shortly before my great uncle turned thirty, he left for the old country in search of a wife. He traveled from city to city and village to village looking for the right girl to start a family with. When he’d arrive at his destination, he would call upon the priest and ask about the single young women of the place, requiring only that they be industrious, not too attractive of face, and God-fearing. He was a hard working jeweler, suspicious, and a bit on the thrifty side, and he wanted a wife who wouldn’t give him any trouble.
In that entire land of available, plain-faced girls, only a handful were found to meet his standards. My great uncle picked the prettiest of the bunch, because she had a lazy eye, he used to say, and he pitied her. He bedded her, found her to be a virgin, and married her right after. As he wanted to be seen a man of social standing and wealth, he refused the dowry her parents had prepared, even the linen, and requested that she not take a single article of clothing or memento with her. They sailed as husband and wife for America, and her parents could not believe their good fortune.
For the young wife, the doorway into the new world changed her life. My great uncle however, was disappointed. The girl he had married out of the generosity of his heart turned her back on all the good he had done for her. She soon caught on to the new language, and taught herself to read and write. She observed the fashionable women coming in and out of the jewelry shop and wanted to be like them. She bought rouge for her cheeks and dancing shoes. Yet she did not neglect to bear her husband two daughters and then a son before she announced that she would have no more children, but a mink coat instead. After he reminded her what a good, obedient wife was supposed to do, he gave in and got her one.
Years later my great uncle left for the old country again. He wasn’t widowed, nor was he divorced, but he was in search of another wife. He bought himself property and built himself a grand house out in the middle of nowhere. The girl he found was young, still in her teens, and not set in her ways. He married her and the very next morning sent her out with the cows.
Regardless of how he mistreated her, the girl didn’t complain. She bore him many children and my great uncle was happy. As so he remained until the day the communist government came to power and took every bit of his land, and all of his possessions. Then he remembered the wife and the children he had left behind in America, and wrote letters of love, pleading forgiveness. But the slighted woman would have none of it. She burned them in the fireplace, laughing at the absurdity of the man, put her mink coat on, and left for the opera.
This is a Magpie Tale.
When I was a child I was afraid of every shadow. Maybe it was cultural, maybe it was generational, but the adults related to me thought it important to threaten me with either kidnappings by gypsies, monsters, or goats (apparently they liked to eat little children and came out at night), anytime I wanted to do something they didn’t feel like doing. Certainly, one of those three was out to get me, waiting until I was alone and then snatching me quickly and throwing me in a sack carried for just such an occasion.
I was a timid child and maybe not so bright, because I must have been twelve when I finally figured out that it was all a big, fat lie. Still, the damage was done and I continued sleeping with a night light on for many more years. To this day, to be alone in complete darkness raises my hairs on end, and every little creak is a monster’s footstep.
When the movie Psycho came out in the nineties I went to watch it with my husband, thinking that I was an adult and to be scared of something make believe was indeed silly. Maybe I actually thought that or maybe he insinuated something to that effect, because there I was popcorn and pop in my lap, waiting for the movie to begin. And was I brave? Let’s just say that for weeks after I only took a shower if my husband was home, preferably standing there and talking to me. Even now, if I am on a trip somewhere alone, that shower image pops in my head and I choose to bathe instead.
The funniest thing about this is that I am around people in the autumn of their lives. I am right there when they pass from this life to the next, and I often am the person who takes the pulse and listens for that last heartbeat. And did I mention that the house I live in has been used as a hospice and still is? Yet, none of these things frighten me. I go through the dark house at night and feel no fear. There’s nothing lurking in the shadows.
But ask me to watch a scary movie and I will have a month of sleepless nights.
Also (and totally unrelated)… I am super excited to announce that one of my posts is featured in the current issue of the Creative Nonfiction journal. Hurray for me! Here is the link to The Woman.
After an early, misty morning trek to our favorite bakery for croissants and coffee, we decided that the best way to spend the weekend was at the beach. My husband and I have very opposing views of what constitutes a perfect day at the beach. I tend to be drawn to gloomy, stormy weather, relentless crashing waves and pelting rain. After an invigorating, brisk walk on the water’s edge, I look forward to the coziness of the beach cabin, with its crackling fire, mugs of hot coffee and cocoa, countless board games, and hours of staring at the incessant waves from the comfort of my wing chair, open book ignored in my lap while I daydream of lighthouses, hurricane lamps, and a wind that is howling and knocking at the windows.
My husband, on the other hand, wants meltingly hot days where he doze off to the lively chatter of kids playing in the sand and seagulls calling to each other overhead. Later on, he wants to fly the kite with the kids, go in search of dripping ice cream cones, possibly have a game of beach volleyball, and maybe even go surfing.
Because we know a happy marriage takes a lot of work and compromise, he’s willing to accept stormy evenings, and I suppose I’m willing to have a couple scorching hours late morning.
When we arrived at the beach, there wasn’t a cloud to be seen directly overhead, although the horizon was a steely gray. We both smiled uneasily at each other, he, most likely, wondering how soon the rain would fall, while I was worrying that the clouds would dissipate before the wind would blow them our way. No sooner did we spread out our blanket, than the northwest wind began to roll in off the ocean, cooling the air immensely and sweeping sand into our faces. Yet the clouds were still a distance away, and the azure of the sky lingered on.
And then the rain came. First one plop and then another. The mountain whose road we had meandered on, had donned a cap of foggy gray descending in waves, it seemed, down the side. We quickly sought shelter and listened from our cozy spots at the rain tap-tapping on the window panes, snuggling deeper within our blankets, and sipping our hot drinks, content for the moment, to watch the last summer storm push through.
This is a true Magpie Tale!