Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ROAD HOME


During the holidays and throughout the past few years, I’ve heard enough ranting about the end of the world and how we’re living in the apocalyptic age to inspire my own rant refuting that subject. I think I hear a lot of fear mongering in the name of religion going on, but as I said at Thanksgiving, I prefer to enumerate blessings, so I’ll leave the end of the world to the fundamentalists and concentrate instead on present-day Joy, a fruit of the Spirit, St. Paul says…and, he adds, “the rest is dung.” Amen. There–that’s as close to a rant about naysayers as I’m going to write.

One of the events that gives me much joy and renewed belief in the humor of the human spirit is the reprinting of a collection of essays, a la southern style, entitled ROAD HOME, written by my good friend, Janet Faulk of New Iberia. The book should be in print and ready for distribution by Border Press by late December and will appear on Amazon.com. Here’s one of the vignettes entitled “Ticket for Life” from Janet’s book:

“TICKET TO LIFE
If I’d had fifty cents more in 1963, my life might have turned out differently. Beauty queens are important in small towns, and they gain their titles in various ways. In my hometown of Clio, Alabama, the beauty queen nominees collected money in tin cans set on counters all over town; the kind you see in hometown grocery stores and locally-owned convenience stores. Votes were a penny apiece. In the first grade, my opponent in the “Homecoming Princess” competition was Carol Roberts. She was a pretty, prissy girl from a well-to-do family, plus she had more collection cans, strategically placed around town, than anyone else. My mother thought that it was fairly obvious what the outcome was going to be, and she just hated knowing that her daughter really didn’t have a chance to win.

I have no recollection of how nominations came about, or how I ended up in the competition at all, except that I probably was as cute as any of the other little girls. I had a big dimple in each cheek and a spray of freckles that fell across my nose the way a sprinkling rain dots dusty porch steps. My light brown hair was fine and soft. I wore it pushed back with a hair band, the colorful plastic kind with big bad teeth, and the band let a little wisp of bangs slip out over my forehead so that when it was hot or when I was exasperated, I’d poke out my bottom lip and blow and my breath would make the soft hair dance.

I must have been a popular girl because I remember boys would wait at the foot of the gigantic silver sliding board for girls to come flying down, and sometimes they waited for me. Actually, those boys had a bad habit of yanking dresses up as the girls would land square on their feet in the dusty sand at the bottom of the slide, but when they were told by the teacher that such conduct wouldn’t be tolerated, they went to cracking head bands, which may have been more socially acceptable but certainly was more painful. Popularity does come with a price.

On the final day of the beauty contest, the money that had been collected, practically all coins, was poured out onto a table in the front of each class. The anticipation was high. When the judges counted the money in the first grade, I had lost the contest by fifty cents. I must have been a little disappointed, although I don’t remember it, but my mother was totally outdone with herself. She still has guilt about not adding another handful of change to my collection can.

It’s probably just as well though, because I think that somewhere along the way, by some conscious need or unconscious act, we are issued lifetime tickets. These tickets are instrumental in defining who we are, how we are to behave, which experiences in life we are going to be able to take part in, and how we will synthesize these experiences. And, like an all-day-ride ticket at the state fair, there are always restrictions. Right away, the folks around you – relatives, teachers, and friends – become cognizant of the ticket you’ve been given, and during your formative years they keep reminding you of it.

My theory is clearly proven when you consider all the unattractive girls that you see vying for one beauty queen title after another. They have the ticket to enter. Important people in their lives have told them that they are beautiful, and indeed, after years of hearing the same message, it becomes ingrained in them. Like Carol Roberts, who went on to participate in many other beauty contests, they believe they have the “prettiest hair” or “the most beautiful eyes” in the world and must act on that belief in order to please the ticket masters, who over the course of a lifetime, become unidentifiable, and the ticket itself becomes questionable.”

As I said on the back cover of Janet’s ROAD HOME, these stories are authentic tales narrated with a strong southern voice. Charming vignettes told with “wisdom and delight”! The picture above shows both front and back covers. The photograph was taken by Janet Faulk, and the design of the book was done by Martin Romero.
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