Book blahg Life blahg Navel gazing

I finished Marlena. One wee little chapter left when I finally crashed out last night and I stole a few minutes at lunch to knock it off. Did I like it? Yes. I think I did. Still processing. Sad? Yes but not overwhelmingly so. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Marlena dies, because we are told about that right at the start of the book and it is reiterated many times throughout. I’m not sure why. I remember being told in a high school English class that “it’s not a tragedy unless it’s Shakespeare.” Sorry Mrs. Ewing (who was a great teacher and I loved her) but I beg to differ.

I won’t say much more mainly because I’m not sure I can coherently verbalize my thoughts, at least not yet and anyway, read the book!

I do remember being a young child in a small northern Michigan town and making friends with a few kids that The Commander didn’t really “approve” of (Marlena would definitely have been one of them, living in a barn and sorta taking care of a much younger brother with no mother around and a dad cooking meth in a railroad car out in the back 40). The Comm was a bit of a snob in those days, a college educated Detroit native from when Detroit was in its first heyday, and I was kind of flummoxed when she complained that one of my friends “didn’t even know how to make a J.” Whaaa? And yet I kind of knew what she meant even at age six. We were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but our shabby little bungalow was always warm and clean and there was always enough to eat and I vaguely remember being spanked a few times but never anything approaching a beating. There were books and magazines and atlases and encyclopedias and a record player and when I *needed* a piano (and yes I did), The Comm wrangled a good one and figured out how to shoehorn it into the dining room. And my dad would take us flying in rented planes sometimes. Some of those “J” kids I knew lived in squalor and were probably beaten up regularly. They didn’t have pianos or even books and they definitely did not fly.

As a tween and young teenager, I kind of envied the more popular of those “J” kids. I *wanted* to be friends with them. I wanted to live on the wild side a little bit and not always have to “remember who I was and act accordingly” as The Commander would often remind me to do. Who am I, I wondered? Alas, I was an awkward nerd (or “brain” or whatever it was we were called in those days) and after a disastrous episode in 7th grade when I let a couple of those girls copy my homework and Mrs. Loye caught us, I sort of came to my senses. I sometimes still wonder who I am but I am much further along than I was in 7th grade.

I’m not exactly sure where I am at this point but I cannot close this without reminiscing a bit more about my mother, The Commander. When I was 10, she took a very part time teaching job and in the next few years, she got a masters degree in education and took a job teaching at my high school. She taught home-ec related courses but was a pioneer in that she started a school store and an in-school child care program. She got to know some of the kids who were in that former “can’t make a J” category and developed great compassion for people who were maybe a bit different than her and hadn’t had as many opportunities, etc.

But then… The last few years of her life, she kind of became snobby again. This time it was maybe more toward people who had *had* advantages throughout their lives and didn’t, in The Comm’s estimation, live up to them. But also because they had strange shoes or other clothing or weird hair or their bodies were too fat or skinny or whatever. Sorry but I am laughing my *ss off at this point, being one of the people she was judgemental about. In my case, for wanting to dress more flamboyantly than she would’ve preferred.

Just wait until you see my LED light-up skirt, moom! Love you!

But also, read Marlena because what happened to her is what can happen to any spirited young woman who does not have reasonable parental/community support and even some who do.

One Response to “Book blahg Life blahg Navel gazing”

  1. Margaret Says:

    The book sounds intriguing, but even more so, your memories of your mom. What a multi-faceted and fascinating woman. I wish I had known her; she sounds like a KICK.