On a recent trip to Hawaii Island, Niece Lia took her Aunties on a hike through the rainforest in Waipio Valley. So much of the walk felt like a misty Hobbit-Land. We rested here under the Banyan’s umbrella. My sister Judy and I both took this shot but mine included people and Judy’s elegantly shows the path and depth. We share. So here’s to Judith Sunderland-Yorkey and a winning shot!
I simply had to reply to this Daily Post: “We all have that one eccentric relative who always says and does the strangest things. In your family, who’s that person, and what is it that earned him/her that reputation?”
One eccentric person? We have a whole family of eccentric people. In fact, I can’t name one person in our family who isn’t eccentric. That’s probably what keeps us all together. We’re all odd.
Recently, my niece, Jaquelyn Sunderland, posted this sign on Facebook: My doctor asked if any members of my family suffered insanity; I replied, no, we all seem to enjoy it.
And that’s the bottom line. We’re all enjoyably eccentric.
Imagine the whole family, and we now number close to fifty in the nuclear family, in one room for a holiday dinner. Or a picnic outside. Now that would make more sense. Along with outside, we’d have fireworks and a bonfire and bottles of wine and probably bourbon. For example, you shoulda seen the family gathering on the farm a couple years ago with rain and mud and planks across puddles. And music. Lots of music. Our own private Woodstock, you could say. Just us.
Yep. A little eccentric. The whole batch of us. And proud of it.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to starting?
What an interesting question, let alone prompt. It came out on July 1st, and I grinned and shook my head. No. There’s nothing I haven’t wanted to do that I haven’t done.
I’ve made visual arts and movie arts and writing arts. I’ve lived in Hawaii and Mexico and Europe. I’ve run businesses and I’ve failed at some. Succeeded at others (never could make visual arts work but I have made movies and writing successful to one degree or another). So what haven’t I started.
Well, for one, I’ve not taken the first step in walking the Elysian Way. I’m not even sure it exists anymore. Walking through Ephesus would be cool, however, and I’ve not gotten around to that, either.
I’ve wanted to climb the white layers of Santorini, and visit the monasteries on Mount Athos, but only men are allowed on the Holy Mountain and a sex change seems a step I’m not likely to begin.
In fact, traveling the Aegean Coast is still on the bucket-list. But that dream may go the way of my mother’s dream to travel to Africa. She traveled a lot, too, but never made it there. She did, however, manage an ocean cruise in the Pacific. So there’s hope. I did make it as far as Dubrovnik in Yugoslavia (when there was still a Yugoslavia and Dubrovnik a beautiful city) but not to Greece.
And if we’re talking travel, I’d like to “do” northern England and see the land where the Sunderlands came from. Oh, and Warsaw. That’s Poland, not Indiana. Cliff’s family is from Warsaw.
So, yeah. I’m pretty fortunate in the doing category. But as you might guess, doing everything you’ve wanted to do usually means, or at least it means in my case, never having a full-time job. Never having a full-time job means you’re short on the dollar category and long on dreams. Traveling to fanciful lands usually takes dollars. Dreams are free. Ergo.
That is what, dear readers, keeps me from following up on those to-dos.
Avoidance. That’s what I thought when I saw the prompt. Write about anything that comes and don’t edit. I’ve fallen behind on my posts. And whether I say it’s too busy or life got away from me or whatever it is, I know what it really is. Avoidance. I have to write the third part of the post about my mother dyig and I don’t want to. Or rather i want to but I don’t. Don’t want to go into the pain or the remembering or the letting my mother die because she said she was ready or writing about death. It look me damn near a year to recover. no more than a year. obviously, ten years later, I’m still there. Not recovered. I also know that “one never gets over a parent’s death.” Okay fine. But the point is, I’ve quit crying and grieving. My life’s pretty good. I’m happy. I like writing with a sense of humor and it’s hard to write about my mother dying with a sense of humor. Maybe that’s the task. To somehow write this with a sense of humor? not. So what then. Wait more? I don’t even know if the last of the three posts will fit into three posts. There’s the going back to Wymore, seeing my mother having a mini-stroke, seeing waiting watching as she took last breaths, cleaning up the room, oh, that was days later, after the dying and the cororner and the waiting and the calling. Well. Maybe not much later. I packed up all her stuff into boxes and brought it home with me. Said boxes, ten years later, as still in my basement under and pile of other boxes. And if I open it. Or if i even find it, it will still smell like her. No doubt. So then what? What do i do with a pair of blue stretch pants? or a white sweatshirt with flowers on it. What do i do with more stuff? That’s part of the avoidance. I guess I could give myself permission not to go down there and sort through all the boxes. my kids photographs are down there somewhere too and that leads me to wondering if all the baby photos are now covered with mold. I don’t Even want to find that. More avoidance. Cleaning out the cashes boxes along with teaching classes and bulding a memoir and oh, yes, a poetry book that I just decided what it could look like with my photos and poems….whew. Thankfully, i’ve passed 400 words. I could have stopped a sentence sooner. And not had to whine.
Where would I go if I could be magically transported? Hawaii – just went; Paris – maybe; Mexico City…..yes!!
I lived in Mexico City for three years and had several residences during that time – or at least some. The first “room with a view” had no view. It was small, big enough for a single bed, a chest, and a door. No window that I remember. No colors either, rather the maid’s room on the roof of a building above where my director, Sergio Olhovich, who took me to Mexico the first time for a role in his movie, lived with the family. Not much to describe.
My second room was the city apartment of a friend, Jeff Pinochet, who had a big house in Cuernavaca and a thirty minute drive south of Mexico City. The town apartment was bigger than the maid’s room: a living room, bedroom, small kitchen, on one of the main boulevards in the city. It was a dark apartment and I usually kept it dark. That was my dark period after deciding to live in Mexico. I found the British Library, checked out books, and sat on the floor reading, the books scattered on the floor and stacked on the coffee table. I only had a suitcase of stuff.
The third apartment happened because my friend Laura, who had worked on the same movie I’d worked, only she was a location scout, offered it to me when she was going to Palenque for three months to scout locations for another movie. Laura was far more in demand than I. And her apartment had two bedrooms. I took over one. In a neighborhood street market, I found a small unfinished table and carried it home, balanced on my head, and set up a writing space in front of a wide window overlooking the garden. I’d spent a couple of weeks teaching English at the Coca-Cola offices in the city and had a bit of money to spare. A wonderful and light-catching willow grew in the garden. Another family lived in a small back addition, and one evening I watched them celebrate a quinceanera (15th birthday), complete with fireworks, for the daughter. In Mexico that’s a big deal, welcoming the girl into adulthood with a beautiful dress. One afternoon when I was feeling distressed with my continued poverty and fretting over what in the world I was doing staying in Mexico instead of returning to New York (where I had an apartment with windows facing the street-and a desk), a slice of sunlight hit the willow and for one glorious moment, the magical tree sang light as if to reassure me of my choice.
And then, magic really did happen. I was hired by a travel agency as secretary to the American-born manager, Pepe Lobo. That wasn’t his real name, his real name was Joe Wolf, but he went by his Mexican name. He’d arrived in Mexico shortly after the revolution years to work on a railroad and he told stories of being paid in big silver pesos the size of oranges. Pesos weren’t quite that valuable when I got there. I think I earned 100 pesos a month for my part-time work in the mornings, typing letters and making a lot of mistakes. But the job came with an apartment on the top floor of the building. That was only four stories up, but I could take an elevator to work every morning and leave at lunch. I moved my table there too, into the back bedroom with a window. After a year there, I asked Pepe why in the world he’d hired me since I remained a troubled typist. “I didn’t hire you for your typing,” he said. “I hired you for your looks.” Oh.
I moved my writing to the bedroom and the bed to the living room because the first night after I moved in, I discovered a disco lived on the ground floor, behind the travel office, but directly under my bed. The music began at ten each night and went on until 4 a.m. In the living room, in a dark corner, the only sounds that woke me were the trucks rumbling through the streets in the early morning. The only earthquake I ever experienced came in that apartment. My sister was visiting when the overhead light began swaying and the room trembled. “Is than an earthquake?” she said. “Nah, I replied,” rather nonchalantly. “We’re built on a lake bed. It’s just the trucks.” “No,” she said. “That’s an earthquake!” Oh. The back bedroom window looked out over the city’s buildings, this in the Zona Rosa, the tourist part of the city, and in a corner of the building next door, a Jacaranda tree exploded into purple bloom each spring. If you know Mexico, you know that the dry season comes in the spring and the city hot and dusty and dirty after months of no rain. But in that worst of seasons, the Jacaranda bloomed unfailingly each spring, a promise the rains would come soon.
But the very best part of that apartment was a wide-spaced terrace beyond the front door. No one came to the fourth floor except the maid who also cleaned my apartment, and I could sit out there undisturbed and watch the sky and the city come to light each evening. Four blocks away, the Angel of Independence on Reforma Ave. flushed into illumination just at dusk. But even better? Across the street and two buildings away, King Kong graced the roof of the Banana Republic terrace and in his hand, lolled Fay Wray, long blond hair streaming from his grasp.
One summer, after a particularly brutal storm, I sat outside to view a clean-washed city and discovered King Kong had lost his arm; Fay Wray escaped at last.
Yeah. Send me back to Mexico, magic transport. And bring my husband with me.