As usual, I have come to Missouri without a jacket. I had a lovely Eileen Fisher ready to throw over my arm and carry along. I knew that the variable weather of the Midwest would plague me and I provided for that, right up until the moment of departure. Alas.
But I’m here.
Today I will see folks with whom I spent my first school years. My recollections of that time vary like the weather here. The four or five girls who treated me with kindness stand tall amidst the blurry images of jeering bullies. Some whom I remember with fondness have died, one just a few weeks ago. I missed last night’s evening gathering. Today’s event takes place in a park. That jacket would be handy, I tell myself, with no small measure of amusement.
Social media reminds me that I haven’t created a birthday fundraiser. Ah, but I have! I’ve published a collection of essays and the book release takes place next Saturday, with ten percent of the sales going to Rose Brooks Center. I’ve been volunteering in various capacities for that organization since 1980, and I’m both honored and humbled that my friends keep making donations year after year. We will also raffle prints of the accompanying photographs by Genevieve Casey to raise additional funds.
Last night as I slipped into sleep, a memory flashed through my mind. I stood in front of a room filled with tired teachers, come to LIncoln College (now University) for my talk on pending legislation that would create an order of protection for victims of domestic violence. I stood in front of their weary faces, wondering what my twenty-two-year-old-self could tell these adults that they didn’t already know. I drew in a breath and disclosed my anxiety to them, watching those faces ease. Many had doubtless been wondering about my qualifications. When the ripple of laughter died, I assured them that family violence fell into the category of my knowledge.
I would be fifty before I became certified as a guardian ad litem to represent children of conflict and protect them from return to abusive or chaotic homes. The courses that I had to take starkly contrasted with that single, nervy lecture I gave in a dingy basement classroom in 1977. Over the years in which I tried to help the children assigned to me, I came to deeply understand the neurobiology of trauma. My education gave me some understanding of my own challenges as a survivor, perhaps too late to pull myself from a lifelong tailspin.
But maybe not. As I like to think my mother actually said, Where there is life, there is room for improvement.
So: to the point. I’m not creating a separate “Facebook Fundraiser” this year. But I do invite my friends to find a program in your respective communities to which you can make any donation that you are able. In my adopted home of the California Delta, I can suggest WEAVE. For Kansas Citians, of course, I encourage you to attend my book release if you can, but if not, please consider an independent donation to Rose Brooks Center. Anyone living elsewhere can search this site for centers near them. I note that October draws nigh, a month dedicated as National Domestic Violence Awareness month in 1989. I have mixed feelings about “months” for commemorating disease and ugliness, but if that motivates you to donate, I’m all for it. Of course, if you cannot donate, you can always volunteer. Most agencies have some work that you can do. Any effort augments the slim resources of such programs.
For my part, I’m going to make some scrambled eggs in the spacious kitchen of an Airbnb into which my tiny house could fit three times over. I’ll make my way to that reunion by and by. Tomorrow my sister and I plan a drive to Gillespie, Illinois, where my mother spent her childhood. My mother often sent one or two of her children at a time to stay with her parents, to keep us safe, and give us a chance at some semblance of normalcy. I credit her for that.
On Monday, I turn sixty-seven. I have no plans other than continuation of my nostalgic tour of St. Louis. Tuesday morning will see me driving across the state to Kansas City, where I will begin the preparations for our book release event on Saturday, September 10th, on what would have been my mother’s ninety-sixth birthday. I think she would approve of the party that I plan to throw in her honor.
It’s the third day of the one-hundred and fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.