Filed under: Life
Sheila also asked where I’d lived.
While in college and far from home, I used to enjoy stumping the occasional clueless classmate by telling them I was born in the United States, but I wasn’t born in a state; where was I born?
I would get, Puerto Rico? Guam? On a boat? On a plane? Nope, and not the Philippines, either (I’m not that old!)
And then there was the day my sister, away at school in that same town, got told by the postal clerk that she didn’t have a state birth certificate and Washington DC’s didn’t qualify; they refused to process her passport application for her semester abroad.
Okay, now, that’s like when the aide to the Senator from New Mexico (Domenici, if I remember right) once asked for information from another Senator’s office and got the response, ‘We don’t give out that information to foreign countries.’ (Hello?)
I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, lived in Provo, Utah (that answers where I went to college), then West Lafayette, Indiana (Purdue University), Merrimack, New Hampshire, and now California. I’ve traveled to most of the states in the US–46, I think–and been to eastern and western Canada and, for one afternoon, Juarez, Mexico. Watched an armadillo raiding our marshmallows in Florida as a kid. Saw it snow on the Fourth of July in Banff later that summer.
I noticed Sheila had Topanga Canyon on her list of places she’d lived, and that quite got my attention: Laurel Lee had lived there. Years after I’d gotten her first book, “Walking Through the Fire,” out of the Merrimack Library, I’d stumbled across Laurel’s later ones (I’ve got “Godspeed” around here somewhere, too), and Topanga Canyon was where she’d lived for awhile after “Walking” ended. She wrote of visiting her parents in Fremont. She had grown up in the same not only town but neighborhood as Tara’s dad: the Tara whose name graces one of my shawls in my own book now, whose late Grandma, who would have been Laurel’s old neighbor, I knew. Small world.
When I read “Walking,” I had three kids under five years old. Laurel wrote of her having three kids about those same ages as mine at the time she found out she had Hodgkins, and her husband’s reaction to her cancer being to cheat on her and then ditch the family altogether. Her courage, cheerfulness, and strength were something I wanted more of for myself, when all I had to deal with from day to day was simply to run a young family.
I had no idea… And I’m glad we moved near Stanford before it hit me.
I looked around last night and found out that Laurel had survived longterm after all. Yay! That she’d written another book I hadn’t heard of. Double yay! And then, to my wonderment, that she’d finished college, taught creative writing on the college level, and had married the author of one of my kids’ all-time favorite books in elementary school, “The Teacher from the Black Lagoon.” The man who had truly loved her. Who had stayed by her side as she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer eight months after their wedding.
Had I googled her sooner, I could have told her she’d made a lasting difference to me. I have kept her example of cheerfulness in the face of illness close by for eighteen years now of my autoimmunity. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to see a picture of her and do a doubletake: in that particular photo, she looked a lot like me or at least members of my family enough that I relate it to me.
“Tapestry” is now on its way to my mailbox. I will strike up a reacquaintance with an old friend in these older pages as I wait.
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