Hard Heart, Soft Soul…

Posted by on Oct 19, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Hard Heart, Soft Soul…

To Meet Mother Love…

When I took Marilyn to meet my mother in Santa Fe I’d forgotten about Marian’s jealousy. For 75 years she was desirable and witty and made people feel good when she was around. Rocking as she walked with a cane tamed her some but her laughter was still strong. And her wicked side. So here’s Marilyn the singing nun and professional nurse, and lover of children, meeting Betty Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, with a drink in one hand and a sword cane in the other, a gift I’d gotten her at the Rastro in Madrid in 1960 as a wall ornament. There was a Sevilla sword hidden inside a hickory wood cane with a carved deer antler handle with a release button. Since her hip operation, one of the first in Santa Fe when St. Vincent’s was on Palace Avenue, she used it for dress-up to toddle around with.

We walked into mother and Betty’s adobe on Calle Paula out by Quail Run at five, and by 5:30 Marian is saying how very much Marilyn looks Black Irish, and how all the servants at the family mansion in Oswego when she was a child looked a lot like her, the cooks and butler and groundskeepers and chambermaids. Marilyn might not know what Black Irish means but she sure can’t miss the twist of the words. Mother prattles on about how Marilyn’s forebears had no doubt boated over during the Potato Famine, and how if her family had only known they might have had the coachman meet them at the docks and offer them jobs.

Marilyn excuses herself and goes out on the porch where I find her weeping. I’ve just told Marian to knock it off or we’re leaving, and she does her bewildered innocence look saying all she‘s doing is trying to make my Black Irish friend feel welcome and at home. I say she may as well have drawn the sword and run her through. Mother laughs gaily and toys with the flower on the bone handle shank of the cane that unlatches the blade to be drawn. She looks up at me coyly.

A few years later Marilyn and I are driving west to our home in San Diego from a visit to Minnesota and she suggests going by to see Marian and Betty. I think her admiration of their turning a local 12 page pamphlet into a five color international glossy magazine overrode her memory or good sense, or maybe she was curious as to whether she’d only caught Marian on a bad day.

It is late summer where in the afternoon a storm usually rolls in from the Pecos Wilderness over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Half the sky to the north and west is turquoise blue and the other stacked with blue-black thunderheads. When we reach the plaza a mortar barrage of lightning hit setting off burglar alarms. Indian vendors under the Governor’s Palace portal throw rugs and themselves over their stuff as straight line winds channel down Palace Avenue into the plaza streets kiting umbrellas, hats, souls, paintings and folding tables.

We’d hear the crackle of the lightning and feel the shock, big hail side-winding in and more burglar alarms coming on; and now the big siren from the fire department just behind us comes on. I’d lived in Santa Fe since 1944 and never seen anything like it.

It is over in five minutes, the sideways hail turning into a hard rain, then a downpour where we can’t see beyond the hood of the car. When it clears the streets are rivers, so we hang a right onto what is now the Palace Acequia and boat toward Albuquerque. Ten miles out of town at La Bajada the sun is out, the sky turquoise blue and the air crisp and warm; Marilyn’s been saved.

The next year we returned with my little son Zachary to spend a day. The relationship Marilyn had with my children was a part of life neither ladies’d had, my mother and Betty’s mothers crisp and cold and proper dames embarrassed by being mothers.

This time Marian isn’t tracking too well, so when she opens the front door and sees Zach she gasps, bends over before him with arms open, ‘Oh, my Johnnie, my Johnnie, they found you, they found you, it’s your mommy, I’m your mommy!!”

On the porch where the piñon firewood was stacked, where Marilyn had wept that first night from mighty hurt, my mother says to her in tears and breaking voice, ‘Thank you, Marilyn, oh thank you. I wish you’d been my mother. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please forgive me.’ They hug and cry.