Maybe it doesn’t matter

I haven’t been blogging lately because I’ve been editing a story I started way back in 1998.  I have no idea how many times I’ve edited this particular story but after years and the countless renditions, there are only a few sections I can reread without finding a word or a phrase that stops me in my tracks with it’s banality. Any sensible person would have given up and moved on to puzzles they know the answers to but not me.The story is based on the contentious relationship between my grandmother and my Auntie Dottie who had more in common than they would ever have admitted during their lifetimes.  Both were on their own emotionally from an early age; both were not shy about giving their opinions, and both were far braver and willing to take risks than the men they married. 

They spent the majority of their lives in a small town that, on the surface, is postcard perfect New England.  However veer off Main Street and the stray dogs scrounging for food will tell the story of a town that strains to stay true to the qualities once so important in small town America:  respectability, civic duty, and charity. The decline began after WWII when the mills and factories supporting the town began closing. Many of the young men who went off to war, didn’t return.  They moved to larger cities where their GI benefits went further.  The situation worsened when increasing crime and corruption rates in nearby Springfield Massachusetts made the hills surrounding the town appealing for commuters. The resulting increase in property values forced families who’d been squatting peacefully in the woods down into town and on welfare. You can probably guess the rest. 

My grandmother was born in the town during its years of prosperity but her parents were fresh off the boat.  In fact, they probably jumped off the boat. Letters from relatives in Sweden suggest that Great Gramps was in trouble with the Swedish military. Since he was a milliner by trade, maybe the Swedish army didn’t like his hats.  Who knows?  Great Gramps was a man of few words and none of them Swedish.  When his wife died young leaving him with a teenage daughter, he promptly boarded the girl at a “teaching” hospital in Springfield where she would learn a trade and not be a burden on him.  Years later she would return to the town with her husband and daughter to take care of him and there she would stay the rest of her life.

Dottie showed up on my grandmother’s doorstep in the early 1950s, married to her soft-hearted son and pregnant. She hid her painful past with a laugh that could trigger a tsunami and lived life in fast gear as if knowing she would die young. Any money she and my uncle earned was immediately spent on gaudy, flashy items which were far out of the arena of necessary.  In my grandmother’s time the things Dottie became legendary for would have gotten a woman shunned and ostracized. But the town was changing. 

I spent the summers of my youth in the twilight of my grandmother’s world and the emergent reality of my aunt’s.  I’m not sure if it’s the story of a relationship or the story of a town.

Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Do you ever keep returning to a story again and again knowing you may never get it right?

4th of July Rehash

For the next few days I’ll be driving hither and thither and won’t have much time to blog so I’m going to leave you with links to Fourth of July posts from the last few years.

July 2013, Dog Daze

Girl in hat watching parade.

Girl in hat watching parade.

Seuss

Performers from Seussical

July 2014, The Girl with the Flag in her hair

Last year for some reason I did not write a Fourth of July  post.  So here are some random pictures from the 2015 parade:

Ladies

The Lafayette Fire District can never be accused of age discrimination!

I like to joke that there are more people in the parade than there are in the town.  Often we have no idea why people are marching or who they represent. I suppose it doesn’t really matter!

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Anyway, that’s Fourth of July in small town America!  Happy Fourth to all my American buddies and Happy Monday to everyone else!

 

 

Dog Daze

Girl in hat watching parade.

Girl in hat watching the parade. Pollyanna?

On the Fourth of July we always walk downtown for the parade with our neighbors and their dog.  Our neighbors have the coolest dog in the world.  If he were a human he would be Cary Grant – suave and sexy but with a playful side.  With his golden, slightly curly fur, he charms all the lady dogs and the young studs too but steers clear of German Shepherds.

Dogs

Patriotic dogs posing for a pic. Is the big guy Jimmy Stewart or Mike Tyson?  Cary Grant wants to know.

You can never tell when confronting a German Shepherd – he could be either a Jimmy Stewart or a Mike Tyson.

Like Cary Grant, our neighbor’s dog doesn’t approve of exercising in the heat and often wrapped his silky body at my feet in the shade.

Gaston April '11_035

Gaston aka Cary Grant

Before they fell in love with Cary Grant the neighbors had a black dog, not sure what breed, who they called Toby.  One day Toby came up for a visit.  When I said “Hi Toby!”  he glared at me.  “My name is Jack,” he said.  Well, not in so many words but with that look dogs’ll give you when they think you’re a nitwit. Toby’s human equivalent would have been Humphrey Bogart, mysterious but trustworthy, a hopeless romantic with a cynical shell.

Ducks

Our July 4th festivities always include a petting zoo.

At the time the neighbors had Toby/Jack I had a dog named Berna, short for Bernadette.  She was a shelty-beagle mix I found on the bottom of a heap of pups at the pound.  Her siblings had more energy and looked much more eager to be rescued but I’ve always cheered the underdog and in this case, the bottom of the heap dog.  She puked and pooped all the way home.  She always stank.  She couldn’t be car trained or trained at all for that matter.  She’d run onto freeways, get her head stuck in Costco sized mayonnaise jars and dig up every living thing I tried to plant in the back yard.  But her crowning achievement was a spot on a Channel 7 news story  exposing the water wasters of the East Bay (this is a long story which illustrates the depths of depravity a film crew will go to get a  scoop). Guard dog, she was not.  Bay at the moon dog, she was.  Escape artist, par excellence.  When I put my house on the market the first agent scowled “get rid of the dog.  You’ll never sell this house with her in it.”  I got rid of the agent.

Berna

Who would  Berna’s movie star equivalent be? Angelina Jolie?

Anyway – enough about dogs. When I started blogging I resolved to leave politics, grandchildren and dogs off my list of subjects and here I’ve gone and broken my vows. Nevermore, I swear.

DixieDevils

Can’t have a parade without a jazz band on a flat–bed truck!

The next best thing about the Fourth is how it brings out the rebel in all of us.  Who doesn’t love marching down Main Street in a happy riot of fellow citizens, for a few hours, owning the streets.  What a sense of freedom it is.