Thursday, June 23, 2005


Literature of the Romantic period let out early tonight -- first class. The Instructor forgot (perhaps) to make time for our small class of 8 people to have some means of bonding via the usual introduction or "get to know each other exercise." But he seems warm and committed to the complexities of that era, so I'm sure the class will be worthwhile.

Drove home into a Maxfield Parish sky. Parish--and that kind of surreal light--always reminds me of a long-lost friend who tried to kill herself twice when she was in her late teens. I thought about her as I drove into the salmon shadows cast by the residual glow of a northern summer evening. I remember that at age twelve she had one of the best voices I'd ever heard before or since, and that she played guitar and voilin by ear. And I recall that we were close, but I left her behind as she plunged into a deep depression and I was accepted into the outer circles of the "in" crowd. She let on that my desertion was painful, but at sixteen you are constantly making excuses for your bad behavior.

So I arrived home pensive and sat watching my husband perched in the center of the darkening street, binoculars protruding from his head like insect eyes, pointed to heaven in an attempt to see the Saturn/Venus/Mercury conjunction that is currently in the works.

He ran in to call me out to the street, quite certain I shared his enthusiasm, startling me so that I knocked over my purse. Out fell a small standardized photo I recently took at a little shop across from the Federal Building in downtown Portland. Meant to be attached to my application for a new certificate of naturalization, it was apparently a dud, not centered properly, so the photographer (from Bulgaria) handed it to me au gratis.

I'd crammed it into my purse, in a hurry. Today, I stop to look at myself, maybe for the first time seeing this image that I can't connect to "me." It only happens rarely, seeing ourselves as if we are looking at a stranger. I see, in equal measure, my mother and my father. In similar distribution I see Germany and Mexico, the oppressed and the oppressor--two roots of mine that are far underground, and unknown to me. I see a woman who is no longer young. There is life drawn into the angles of my face now--I see my grandmothers. It seems to me, as I sit examining my face, that things I've worked hard to suppress all my life, are laid bare.

The other night we watched Spanglish, an OK film that made me think of how much things have changed, how much more acceptable it is to be an immigrant than when I was growing up in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I used to be so proud when people were surprised that I was half Mexican. Now I'm ashamed that I can't speak Spanish. Like the girl in the film, I remember my own conflict with the humble origins of my parents.

I tuck the photo--surely not one of my better shots--into my desk drawer and join my husband out in the street, straining to see the pattern of the incandescent planets floating dangerously close to each other, high up in the inky-blue of the new millenium sky.

Guten Nacht, alle.
Via Con Dios, mi hermano.


At 2:00 PM, Blogger Rowan said...

That was very beautifully said.


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