Mary Beth Writes

7/7/2022

To remember hard stories truthfully requires bravery.

I’m reading The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson. We bought the novel at the Heritage Center of the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge reservation. Pine Ridge is about two hours south of the Badlands and as I read this book I see the stark, beautiful landscape out the car window. I see the little gravel turn off at Wounded Knee, where 500 American soldiers massacred 300 Lakota Indians in 1890. Where, in 1973, Native people held this place for 71 days until the US government moved in and destroyed the tiny town that was there then. We met, at that turnoff, a woman who remembers the day her house was plowed over.

The Seed Keeper is a strong story told through the voices of four native women. Each woman, in her own time and way, is trying to integrate her story into her time and it is fraught work.

Reading these compelling stories is making me wonder about our fraught time. How much of the deceitfulness of the Trump administration was welcomed and supported by people who wanted to win, not remember?

The dad of the Seed Keeper main character says:

Personally, I remember stories of my family that are harsh and must have been difficult to endure. I can say my dad lived a hard childhood as the oldest kid of a new widow during the Depression. Saying those words is not the experience of a decade being often hungry, exhausted, worried about his mom and little brother. His experience deeply affected how he raised my siblings and me, affected what he expected of us and the fears he must have wrestled in the night when we were sleeping in our cozy beds in our nice bedrooms in our lovely home.

Our nation was won by dozens of battles fought by men who then came home and didn’t talk about it. It’s intense and weird work to live one’s life on top of repressed memories. It’s easier to put on made-up macho rituals than to deal with the demons of wars fought well and fought badly.

Carrying and sometimes firing an AR-15 is easier than, well, a whole lot of things that apparently a lot of men don’t have the bravery to say or admit. Cruelty is the power of the weak and pathetic.

...

Are women often more enduring and strong because we fail so early? There is a story out there of who we should be – and so many of us failed at that so early. It’s almost a rite of passage for teenage girls to realize they are never going to attract the coolest boyfriend, wear the best clothes, or weigh the right weight. Our hair, acne, scars, shyness, mouthiness, and other so-called imperfections teach us to move inward, figure out who we are, then live that life. Women who don’t do this work live lives trying to fulfill the story written for them, instead of their own.

In my 20’s I was friends with a remarkably homely woman. Frizzy hair, complexion like mashed potatoes, terrible clothes, she even had a wart on her nose. Everyone liked her. She was an underpaid social worker who enjoyed people, laughed a lot, and loved to eat in diners. I was having breakfast with her as she described a mutual friend who was absolutely beautiful and who  was going through another bad breakup with a toxic guy. Bev leaned back and said, “I always feel sorry for women who are beautiful right away. They don’t get the time one needs to know who one is.”  

In the novel a very old woman talks about the horrors she experienced as a young woman. She thinks about telling her memories to her daughter and grandkids as they harvest their garden  on a beautiful early fall day. She decides to not tell those stories because what she experienced and witnessed was too horrendous. She doesn’t want those stories to be in her grandkids' heads. 

At the end of the day, she and one of her granddaughters walk back to their little home where they discover people in shock. The two youngest boys of the family have been kidnapped by state authorities to be delivered to Indian boarding school.

Trauma trips through generations.

Our nation was founded with energy, vision, and hope. Our nation was founded on sanctimony, greed, and slavery.

Here we are.

Half of us say our history isn’t our history.

The other half says,” Listen up.”

...

The rez dog Len refers to and yes, that pup got part of Len's salami sandwich. Len shares. 

 

 

Comments

While we were there, we saw a wary old Rez Dog who looked like he’d seen some stuff in his days. I don’t know that, of course, but sometimes it takes an old dog to help you remember the true things that really happened.

Interesting to hear your friend Bev's take on women who obtained their beauty too soon. I went to school with a girl who was incredibly beautiful and incredibly thin. Blond and baby blue eyes. My mother saw her at my junior high graduation and talked about her beauty for the next 45 years. This from a woman who heaped compliments on girls with brown eyes, dark hair and dark complexions. Guys fell all over this girl. It seemed to me she always was going to have it easy. Over the years I have heard little snippets about her: her husband came home one day and announced he wanted a divorce, her father became mentally ill, she has gained weight. I hope her early ease didn't leave her ill prepared for these challenges.
Mary Beth's picture

People address a beautiful young woman in different ways than they do those of us who are more ordinary on the outside. I think a person has to be very tough and wise to take praise and strong positive attention and that current of sexual attraction. A kid in middle school doesn't have the chops for this. We are lucky if we get some years to just be ourselves. I was considering this the other day when reading Sleeping Beauty (via facetime) to our little granddaughter. That story is of a beautiful girl raised safely by three wise and loving women who keep her away from premature attention. She's friends with all those cute lil animals before that prince whose ready for a GF.

As always you give me much to think about. All around us, we want to be given one version of history, how different we would be if we all accepted that: "Our nation was founded with energy, vision and hope. Our Nation was founded on sanctimony, greed and slavery." Patricia
Mary Beth's picture

Thank you very much..

This past June, in my sister's township in OH, the conservative majority of the Forest Hills school board banned anti-racist, and/or identity based teaching in the school. They, unbelievably, called this a “resolution to create a culture of kindness and equal opportunity for all students and staff". Teachers will not be allowed to give assignments that nudge students to consider their race, socioeconomic class, religion, gender identity, sex, sexual preference, ethnicity, or culture as derogatory, to force kids to “admit privilege of oppression,” or to reflect, deconstruct or confront their identities. The board also cancelled the predominately white school's Diversity Day. 300 students walked out of class and held a protest, creating their own "Diversity Day". I told my sister that the board's "resolution of kindness and equal opportunity" is really a resolution of blindness and denial of opportunity.
Mary Beth's picture

This is happening right here in Waukesha, also. Scary and crazy beyond anything we could have imagined.

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Stories, Q Club, Us

The photo is not by Len or me, its from I Love Canada on FB. I've seen a sky like that just once. 

11/21/2022

Last week I read two books about young people who left their homes. They experienced some good and too many rough experiences and they couldn’t go back until they figured out how to not be who they used to be. Both novels knocked my socks off.

The People You Keep by Allison Larkin

Covid Diary #979 - Still Paying Attention?

11/17/2022

Yes, it’s been 979 days since Friday the 13th, March 2020, when everything changed.

Last Saturday one of our kids visited for several hours with their kids. It was fun though our kid looked tired. They said they’d taken a Covid test that morning and it was negative. They figured it was the wine and rich foods they’d shared the evening before with friends at the end of a very busy week.

Next Day - What Are You Seeing?

11/9/2022

It was a late night last night, wasn’t it? Len worked at a polling place 6:30 AM until 10:30 PM. He said the actual experience is a lot like working retail (which he has not done since he was 22). Stand up most of the time, pleasantly say the same thing over and over. Wonder if lunch is soon.  

Professional reporters and pundits are talking a lot about “what just happened”, but heck, we are noticing interesting things, too.  Let’s talk about what We The People saw and heard and are watching now.

Here are some things catching my attention.

Election Day

11/8/2022 

So many times I’ve thought things were going to be okay, and then they weren’t. My dad had that heart attack and the kid who was MB back then told herself to not overthink the drama because things always turn out more or less okay. Then the next day he died.

We lost a pregnancy far enough along that we had a name picked out and a crib in which to put that child. For a week I had all the misery and cramps that go with miscarrying and I still thought somehow it was going to work out okay.

That Beep-Beep-Beeping Moment.

In spring Len got a $100 traffic ticket when he turned right at a corner we’ve been turning right at for seven years. However, construction had started and there were orange barrels and cones everywhere – plus a small sign NOT facing the street Len was on, telling drivers to not turn there.

Len went back later that day and took photos. Len called the city to mention that if they posted a sign that actually faced the traffic, the city could save the cost of the cop parked there ticketing drivers.

Lake Superior Fairy Castles

By the way, HAPPY HALLOWEEN today! 

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10/31/2022   Fata Morgana

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