Friday, July 4, 2008

DAUGHTER #2

Who would dare to publicize the antics of one daughter and neglect to write about the second daughter’s equally dramatic childhood episodes? I received warm responses to the “Jesus Eat All De Cookies” story concerning Daughter #1 and can’t resist telling a few more anecdotes about my second daughter. These stories emerge even after the two daughters have passed into their 40’s, the second stage of their lives.

Daughter #2, Elizabeth Alice, was the model for one of the two major characters in my book for young adults, SOPHIE’S SOJOURN IN PERSIA, a fictionalized account of our two-year sojourn in Ahwaz, Iran during the reign of the Shahanshah. She is Suzy, the delightful child who yearned for a cat but was told she couldn’t have another pet and was reminded of her misdemeanors with animals – bathing a gerbil in the toilet, which led to its demise from pneumonia…keeping a white rat in a flimsy cage and laughing when it escaped at night, chewed up the wallpaper in our bedroom, then hid in the drier and was rescued just in the nick…etc.

Elizabeth was the comic relief we enjoyed while undergoing cultural shock when we first moved to Iran, making her quaint observations about the culture that somehow lessened the shock of being plunked down in the desert of the Mideast, minus all of our familiar cues; e.g., first and foremost, a language we understood. Elizabeth is the goose girl who ran into the lounge in our Melli Rah home one evening and announced that she had a most unusual radio – one which broadcast in English when she was in America but made Farsi sounds after she brought it into Iran. Her curious nature and unusual observations kept us smiling and encouraged further adaptations to the strange culture. Elizabeth is the daughter who thought that Iranians who walked back and forth, mumbling while they fingered “worry beads,” had to have the beads to “think thoughts,” whereas Americans didn’t need any assistance from a string of beads to think properly.

My sister-in-law, Laurel, who lives in northern California, responded to the story about Daughter #1 with an anecdote about her own daughter, Chris. At two years old, Chris struggled with the fact that her mother, recently divorced, was her only parent. Laurel writes: “We had to ride the bus to the baby sitter, and Chris entertained the other passengers with her bright eyes, big smile, and greetings at 6 a.m. She spoke very clearly, which surprised everyone. However, when Chris reached the age of two and began going to nursery school, she was much wiser and more observant. On one occasion, a young man sat down next to us, and she studied him intently. Then she commented to me that he looked just like her with his blond hair and blue eyes, which was an o.k. remark. But what she said to him definitely wasn’t o.k. She asked him if he’d like to be her daddy as she didn’t have one. On more than one occasion, she’d invite a male passenger on the bus to visit us, giving explicit directions to our house. Luckily, by the time she was three, I had saved up enough money to buy a used car, and we stopped riding buses.”

Fond memories, Laurel says, and most mothers have hearts filled with pleasant, amusing episodes that stay with them for a lifetime. My mother/daughter poems are scattered throughout the chapbooks of poetry I write. I know today is the 4th, and I should be touting the Stars and Stripes but this poem is about Mother’s Day, a few months late, and appears in my chapbook entitled SOARING, published by Border Press:

MOTHER’S DAY

A vase of whites and pinks
because Elizabeth loves pink,

childhood not having been rosy,
she praises me for generous spirit

and I believe her, her father dying
and leaving her nothing except bad memories.

This vase of pinks is for her
as much as for me,

the other daughter sending sky blue pajamas,
all cotton, soft to the skin,

blue like the immutable sky, saying:
to mother for always being there,

for giving us soft colors.
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