Monday, November 06, 2006

today's notes

There was a woman at the grocery store today who looked like Hazel, a woman I worked with when I was 14. My father believed in the development of moral character so he was always dumping his daughters off at the worst possible jobs. We never worked retail or in restaurants or the thousand other jobs one can get in a tourist town by the ocean but we found ourselves in the backs of trucks with migrant workers, in garages or greenhouses in all the places which smelled of people and labor.

And I think we were happy, my sister and I—we have different stories, my sister met her husband when she was 14 and I never dated until I was 16 but there was this boy/man named Little Aaron who believed b/c his father owned the greenhouse he was free to pull us under the growing tables by our ankles and feel our breasts.

I was a smart girl and knew the word harassment but there are things stronger than education, unwritten things like when a boy is 14 and you are15, how he is always younger than you and how you may have to explain to your father that there are some boys you like touching your breasts and some you do not.

I am thinking all this b/c I have been reading books about Nigeria, two young authors who are writing about class and I am always frighten how familiar all this is. How there can be a war and people can kill others who look just like them b/c they were not born with the correct ancestry and this makes sense to me b/c in Maine where I am from it matters what your last name is.

It does not matter if you have money or a good job or an education. You may come back a doctor or famous writer but you will always be someone’s son or daughter—the name no matter how many times you change it will always be with you.

We are so use to the wrong name being one of oppression but what if the wrong name is one of entitlement, one that leads you to the front of the line or the head of the classroom. When I went to interview at a private art school when I was 16 I was in love with the way the paint smelt, all the beautiful white buildings and I thought I could be safe there—fall into my art and as I expressed my fear of getting in, of being good enough the dean laughed and said, we know who you are.

But I didn’t and I ran to a state school. I ran to England, Haiti and then the Midwest and I am still not sure what my last name is. I long to exist in a culture where it does not matter, where people are not judge on skin color or by class and I try to create that culture for my children.

Is it possible? I will wonder this tomorrow when I go to vote. If the people who are voting represent my society. I will remember that when I lived in England my senator grandfather mailed me an absentee ballot with all the boxes checked and a detail letter of my rights and responsibilities.

I still wonder what this is, where it is. Are we all responsible for the life we have created or it is merely doing the best we can with what we are given. Hazel had seven children and one good eye. She always smelt of mums b/c we were both assigned to the funeral plants in the greenhouse. Hazel said I read TOO MUCH and no one would marry me b/c of the way I talked or if they did marry me they would not stay.

I wonder how much we tell children becomes true. There is a whole theory in Gestalt Therapy that a sentence uttered gives energy to its being not so unlike Voodoo which believes language is power, curses are weapons. What did the young Nigerian mother tell her son before she died, what curses or truth did she plant in his head, were these curses or blessings?

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