Everyone always knew me as the fun, happy-go-lucky kid without a care in the world, careening down the street on a skateboard and swerving away from anything or anyone that got in my way – Opening the door into my consciousness is another story altogether because it’s not easy.
What is my story? I mean, really? Just the other night, I sat at an Irish Pub in Belmont with Belo, my fellow student at NDNU – we had shared our stories and words in graduate creative writing classes – his story the most amazing of all – Belo was assaulted in San Francisco while working at a bar in the Castro in San Francisco and, as a result, he is now completely blind. His memoir and stories revolve around his journey and begins two weeks after he realizes he is now completely blind and his life has changed drastically.
Belo’s stories were always among my personal favorite – he’d have me or someone in the class read, and at the student readings when we all got to read for 20 minutes, his reader was right before me. I hadn’t actually seen Belo since we graduated last May – so reconnecting with him and my professors finally was truly inspiring.
So there we sat in the Irish pub, me, Belo and Kerry, one of our professors who really wants me to pursue my children’s fiction story, “The Fate of Stubs” about the young girl in San Francisco who can’t have a three-legged guinea pig. The story takes place in the 1960’s in San Francisco, of course. But in the end, I went for the creative nonfiction about the struggling single mom with four kids – there are so many stories and people say that sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.
Among my stories in my massive collection, 250 pages of which formed into my creative thesis for my master’s program, reside so many struggles, fun, music, love and adventure – and the door creeks open in certain areas, letting my consciousness in, allowing a bit of light and insight – yet the door hasn’t burst wide open yet. I’m opening it rather slowly – my mother always said I was stubborn and that I always did everything in my own time.
Well, c’mon. I’m going to be a Grandma and still I haven’t done anything with all the material I have. It’s time. I used to promise my kids when we struggled and sometimes barely had enough money for groceries or rent, “Some day, I’ll publish a book and we won’t struggle anymore, and we’ll be able to go on real vacations and have a lot more fun!”
My kids were so trusting, they believed me. They believed in my dream…but really it was a way to keep the hopes alive that we wouldn’t lose our place to live, and the dream always burned in my heart…yet I wasn’t able to quite get my hundreds of words out there, get them over the edge.
Last year when I read from my work, I looked out on to the people at the beautiful Ralston Hall Mansion at NDNU in Belmont – and I saw, mixed in with students, my son Jeremy and my daughter Megan, my friends, Phoenix and Debby – and my long-time friend of 30 years, Heidi, who had flown down from Washington to be there for my reading. “Do you want me there for the reading or the graduation?” Heidi had asked. Of course the readings…that’s what’s really important.
Two of my kids couldn’t make it – so when I read the first piece about leaving Germany with the kids to start a new life as a single mom when the kids were young, who did I look straight at? Jeremy. Then I read a piece about trying to get out of the house with three kids in grammar school and a full-time job ending with the “Bong Incident,” a very funny piece about finding a bong in my kids’ bedroom and throwing it out a second story window.
The stories are there, and the door has opened – but what is it about, really and truly?
Melody grew up in San Francisco in the 1960’s right near the Haight Ashbury – she and her friends and siblings played among the hippies and the sounds of conga drums beating and constant music playing, along with smells of patchouli and pot blended with the eucalyptus trees in Golden Gate Park. Melody always pictured herself being independent and living the Bohemian life – she told her mother she admired the people standing on street corners playing guitars because they were doing exactly what they wanted to be doing. Of course, Melody’s Mom, although she was cool and loved the Beatles and the Grateful Dead, freaked out.
But life didn’t work out the way she expected it to, as often is the case. Melody married a guy in the military she met on a BART train going from San Francisco to Hayward – and ended up living in Germany for several years.
Then a few years later, she left Germany with three kids, $200 and seven suitcases and ended up being a struggling single mom. Yet memories of her childhood never left her – both the good and the bad, nor did the music or her love for the Beatles…as she and her kids struggled to survive in a harsh world that wasn’t always kind to single moms, there was always music, fun and adventure. She has a fourth kid along the way and her mother passes away suddenly – and they make a big move from Oregon to California, close to San Francisco where Melody grew up.