“…That Our Flag Was Still There.”
Star Spangled Banner
The Republic still stands. I stand in the cold sunrise, taking shot after shot of my flag, while reciting The Shema. My morning ritual before going out to the barn to appease the hungry beasts. I’m still recovering from the shock and grief. I’m getting there.
In my small, rural corner of Western Oregon, life just keeps plugging along. The Christmas tree season is in full swing. The calves I sold are all doing well. I get lots of pictures from the owners. A few of the summer lambs are headed out today and the rest leave next week. The garden is its usual disaster, one that disappears from sight under mounds of mulched leaves. Or, at least it will, if it ever stops raining long enough to run over the leaves with the mulcher thingy.
It’s a good time to have stuff to do to take my mind off what the future might hold for ALL Americans. I make it a point to not live in the past, to live my life forward. Last Wednesday, I missed a turn and smashed head first into a massive brick wall, apparently thrown up by angry Canadians trying to keep illegal Americans out of their country. I live a lot closer to the Canadian border than the Mexican one. I don’t recall that we paid for that wall, but maybe we did, disguised as school bonds or something. Hard to say. But, it was the first time in I can’t even remember when, that I stopped living forward, and stood rooted in place, wondering just exactly what the hell had happened.
And I was angry. Angry enough to tell one younger brother that I hoped he got just exactly what he deserved for voting for it. He probably told our other younger brother not to talk to me, because I’m pretty sure that one gave it the state of Wisconsin, and gladly. He’s very much the spitting image of our racist, bigoted old man, a man I loved fiercely in spite of him being a raging alcoholic, in spite of the hateful things he said about non whites, the man that kept any and all of my non white friends from coming over. If he had ever found out that I was dating a black guy back in the day, I’m not sure, but there might have been blood.
Yep, I grew up with that. But even from an early age, I knew it was wrong. My dad was 6'11", an All Navy basketballer, and a Golden Gloves boxer. Luckily, he was a happy drunk for the most part. By the time I was in the 4th grade, I was 5'7" of pure, solid muscle. Sadly, I never got any taller, just wider. All through school, I was the protector of a motley assortment of weirdos, nerds, and the special ed crowd. I didn’t belong to any particular clique, being a brainy jock, which in the 60's and early 70's, wasn’t a ‘thing’. It’s a very Jewish thing, the whole siding with the underdog thing. We’ve been there more times than we care to count. But I couldn’t bring these outcasts home with me, not unless my dad was deployed at sea. Those 6 month tours were good time for me and my friends. My mom worked a couple of jobs, so we free ranged all over the place without adult supervision. Got into the usual kid type trouble, nothing terrible or arrestable.
My best friend, Paulette, was the most beautiful creature ever, with milk chocolate skin, HUGE green eyes, and the coolest hair. She understood why there were months when we could only hang out at school. She was used to it. Her folks were super brainy types, her dad was a squadron commander at the same air station my dad was stationed at. Her mom was some sort of scientist type, working on something impressive from home, I don’t recall what. She was always at the electric typewriter — you youngsters can google ‘Smith-Corona’ if you want to know what that is — typing madly with delicate sheets of onionskin paper and wadded up carbon paper — yep, look those up while you’re at it — wafting all over the table and floor around her. She too was the same delicate beauty as Paulette, just about 20 shades darker, like 85% dark chocolate. We always got a big hug when we walked in the door, and there was always loads of food, snacks and such, as well as cranberry juice. Lots of cranberry juice, and I’m sure there was a reason. A warm and quiet home, lots of love. A sactuary, if you will.
Paulette’s mom told of times when it wasn’t like this. When their cars had been vandalized, and eventually firebombed in the driveway. Bricks flying through windows at all hours of the day and night. Once, a big tree in their front yard had been toppled onto their house, causing massive damage. And, never had one single neighbour seen or heard a thing. Not even the chainsaws it would have taken to fall the tree. They were the only people of colour that lived in that neighbourhood. It was a very upscale area, large, stately, expensive homes on large lots. In a well to do suburb of a large Midwestern city. And the white rich people were angry. Paulette said that her dad drove her to school because the bus wouldn’t stop to pick her up, probably thinking she was a maid or some other white people servant. her dad asked for a transfer to California, and her mom took a sabbatical from the prestigious university she taught at.
I remember the first day of school, and walking up to this exotic creature dropped amidst us ordinary, rough rural kids in this dinky, uncultured central California town. She cried when I said hi and introduced myself. I couldn’t figure out why, until I spent enough time with her to learn what her looks had cost her in terms of friendships and childhood joys. We were in 7th grade, the fall of 1972. We stayed fast friends (in spite of my dad) until my painful farewell as we headed to Esfahan Iran in the summer of 1976, where we lived until the end, in 1979.
I’ve lost touch with Paulette. I know she was stronger than she looked, but when I heard the news last Wednesday, I was struck by a burning need to find her, and to once again be her protector, to stand with her, old, fat, white Jewish cattle rancher woman that I am, and dare anyone to mess with either of us. Just as I did for those 4 wonderful years we had together. Protector of the tribe of misfits. A solid wall of brawn, not afraid to take on all comers that thought it fun to mess with the ‘reeeeetards’. Surprisingly, in all of those years of school, I only threw one punch. It was a doozy, but a ‘tough’ new girl heard that I was considered the tough girl, and wished to dethrone me. I never asked for the title, didn’t do a thing to keep it, it just was put upon me. Karen walked up to me at lunch one day, and started talking crap about my tribe, then reached out and slapped me upside the back of my shoulder because I wouldn’t turn around to confront her. I was ignoring her, trying to enjoy my lunch. The punch was pure reflex, and she hit the ground hard. She got suspended, I got detention. A few weeks later, Karen became part of my tribe. That is how it seemed to work out, always. I never went looking for a fight. But bring one to me, and I would rock your world in bad ways.
The fight arrived on my doorstep last Wednesday.