Monday, July 30, 2018

Tab Hunter -- the Corrected Memory

Uh, oh. My little Tab Hunter post has opened up a can of worms. I could put it all down to a memory problem, but ... it’s a bigger story than that.

It all started with Tab Hunter dying and my thinking of “My Future World,” the novel I wrote about our married life together. That reminded me of The Little White Closet, the chest of drawers that held all my stories and creative ventures when I was little. Unfortunately, when I was away at college, my stuff disappeared, replaced by my mother’s financial folders. Gone was the novel. That part of the story you’ve heard.

In order to paint The Little White Closet for the blog, I needed to remember the colors of the drawers. So I put the question out on the sibling email. My sister, Allison, and I shared the dresser. We emailed back and forth with images of the drawer layout, trying to remember, but ultimately I had to guess at the color scheme. We emailed about the bedroom layout, the stuffed animals we each had on our beds, the old, clunky TV. It was a real trip down memory lane.

And then Allison wrote this:
I was just looking for that email again so I typed in “Tab Hunter” and I just found an old email of ours from 2014 where you, Barbara, wrote about finding your novel about marrying him.
Pause for major mental readjustment. I’d found it?

Pause for major hunt through boxes in the downstairs closet and … the discovery of “My Future World.” Or the re-discovery, as the facts show: on June 8, 2014, I sent an email to the siblings announcing the discovery of the novel. It’s there, in my sent mail. I even mention my author’s note:

That was 2014. It is now 2018. Where did that memory cell go?

And where did all the false memories come from? Why, for instance, was I positive that Tab and I had 26 children, named alphabetically? The real novel: “You all know he was a bachelor but he finally married a young girl by the name of Barbara Brown. Mrs. Hunter was an actress and a very fine mother of a family of 12 boys.” 12, not 26. And it was not written on a Big Chief pad.

Especially shocking to me were the number of pets: six dogs, five cats, and a bird named Twinkles. In real life, I am not a dog person, not a cat person; I guess Barbara Hunter was. But even she had her limits. Chapter 2: Worse than an Elephant. The boys got a duck and named him Blabby. He jumped on beds, tore pants, and ate greens. He was given away to Uncle Larry and Aunt Dot, who also lived in Hollywood, along with Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Eric.

Yes, Allison was still in New Hampshire, but in Chapter 4, the whole family visited her:

So it wasn’t exactly banishment. Even though the Hunters lived at 62 Maple Avenue, Hollywood, California, they could visit Aunt Allison on a weekend. On the way home, they stopped off in Alabama (Alabama?!?) to visit Barbara’s father.

All siblings accounted for, Dad accounted for (in Alabama?!?), but where is Mom?

Uh, oh.

In college, I discovered The Little White Closet was emptied of all my childhood writings. I blamed my mother. Despite her denials, I “mentioned” her transgression often. Maybe every trip home.

1989: I pack and mail a box of Long Island things to Anchorage. The address label is in my handwriting.
2014: I discover the box with my novel inside it.
2016: At my mother’s funeral, I again mentioned how she’d tossed my writings.
a few days ago: I wrote a blog post and clearly insinuated that my mother had thrown them out.

I absolutely, positively believed my mother had thrown out my stuff despite all the evidence to the contrary. Shit.

Today, I have an announcement: My mother did not throw my stories away. Tab Hunter died without seeing my novel, and my mother died before I could ever acknowledge she hadn’t thrown it away.

Did my mother feel as wronged as I had?

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

My First Crush: Tab Hunter

Tab Hunter died. Proof that I’m in my Third Third … and that Tab Hunter was in his Eighth Eight. (My husband says I have to provide a link so people will know who on earth Tab Hunter is.)

Tab Hunter was my first crush. Sunday nights were Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, followed by Shirley Temple’s Storybook, followed by The Tab Hunter Show. I remember nothing of the show except that I fell in love with Tab Hunter. I must have remembered that it took place in California because …

I wrote a novel about growing up, marrying Tab Hunter, and living in California. It was called My Future World. It was very long – it filled an entire Big Chief tablet of ruled paper. I showed it to my favorite teacher, Miss MacNally. She was young and fashionable, and she followed on Miss Crisswell and Miss Strangmeyer, who were old and fuddy-duddyish and had eyeglasses on chains around their necks.

Only yesterday did I realize that if I showed it to Miss MacNally, I was in third grade and I was seven years old! I remember that because Miss MacNally divulged my secret: she showed my novel to the school psychologists. I came home from school and there were two men in suits talking with my mother in the living room (the room NO ONE ever occupied). They wanted to put me in fourth grade. They wanted to take me away from my beautiful, attentive, wonderful Miss MacNally. I refused. It worked; I was a pretty adamant seven-year-old.

Do you ever look back on things you did when you were younger and you simply cannot believe you could do them? In cleaning out the family attic, my siblings and I were constantly flabbergasted over science projects and term papers we’d come across. Who did this?!? I did?!? And not only because I can’t remember, but because I can’t remember being that capable.

Anyhow, Tab Hunter and I had 26 children, all named alphabetically. I got their names from the big, fat, red book on the bookshelf. It had something to do with parenting, but the back was an appendix of baby names and their meanings. That’s where I found out that Barbara meant “pirate, barbarian.” That must be where the adamant seven-year-old came from.

The only other thing I remember is that I lived in California with Tab. So did my brother and baby sister. My middle sister, Allison, lived in New Hampshire.

Notice that, did you? Allison, with whom I shared a bedroom and slept not three feet away from every night for 15 years (well, since I was seven, that would have been only five years by then) was exiled across the country. I know I specifically picked New Hampshire because it was FAR AWAY.
I love Allison. I miss that she now lives so far away in Berlin. But I guess in addition to tormenting her when we were little, I also exiled her. I was the older sister after all.

I remember coming across another story I’d written. A non-fiction one. Mom asks me to do the dishes. I say, “It’s not my turn. I did them last night. Why don’t you ask Allison to do it?” “Oh, you know,” my mother answers. “She washes them in cold water.”

So for that crime, she was banished to New Hampshire.

I have a few of the stories I’d written. I called them “Golden Books” and made them into booklets.

But the novels? They’re gone. I kept them in the chest of drawers; our mother had painted each drawer a different color. The right side was a cabinet, The Little White Closet. That’s where my stories sat even when the dresser was moved to the basement.

One day, my mother, who was a witty and wonderful and unpublished writer, shared that she had kept her stories hidden under a cushion on a sofa in her parents’ basement. She came home from school one day to discover that her parents had sold the sofa. She couldn’t get them back. Hearing that, I was devastated for her. Devastated.

Years later, I came back from college to discover that The Little White Closet had been emptied and was now filled with folders labeled, “Financial Papers.” My mother insisted, “I never throw anything away!” but my life with Tab Hunter vaporized. I never even told him about our future life together.

And now Tab Hunter is dead.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Time -- Lots of Time -- for Shoes

Walking through an airport, I spotted a zillion people on line. No, not at the security line, not at the gate. They were waiting for coffee. This is a phenomenon of our Third Thirds: people waiting on long lines for coffee concoctions. They didn’t used to do that. And it’s not just airports; it’s everywhere.

I don’t drink coffee, never even tasted it. My parents drank coffee and smoked cigarettes, so somehow those two behaviors got linked in my mind.

So while I don’t stand in long coffee lines, I do waste time. I waste lots of time. I waste time wondering what to do, I waste time procrastinating about doing it. I waste time all by myself, I waste time staring at things. In my oomph-less, sluggish state, I can waste away hours and hours, occasionally enjoying it, mostly beating my immobile, do-nothing self up about it.
But when I finally gather enough oomph to DO something, I don’t like anyone else wasting my time. And I CERTAINLY do not like the Internet wasting my time. For example….

I wear a Nike Air Pegasus running shoe. I have worn it my whole lifetime of running. (The running I have not been able to do because of the knee injury a year ago, but the shoes – like me – were still deteriorating.) I used to go into Sports Authority, pick out the Nike Air Pegasus size 7.5, buy two-for-one, and be set for a couple years. But then Sports Authority went out of business, and online shopping reared its ugly head.

But now that I’m running again – short distances, doctor! – and feeling my psyche lift, I needed new shoes. The first hurdle was with Nike because there are two Air Pegasuses for sale: 35 and 34. Uh, oh. You know what that means. That means Research and Reader Reviews. 35 is the newer version and it costs $120; 34 is last year’s, and it costs $80.

In our previous Thirds, didn’t we just walk into a store and ask for “sneakers”?

Now I have to research whether 35 is a significant improvement over 34. Why did they have to mess with my favorite Air Pegasus anyway?!? So I wander down the rabbit hole of 35s and 34s (just like the rabbit hole of Rummikub versions), and finally decide: go with cheaper.

The millennial daughter – who is not fazed by any of this – tells me to check out Zappos, which I do. I pick my color (Barely Grey/Deep Jungle/Light Pumice), I look at it frontwards and backwards and I listen to Nellie show me about the shoe on a video. Then I place my order. Uh, oh. They don’t have my size.

Next up is Dick’s Sporting Goods. He has a special deal today for $10 off, so I have to speed up my investigations. Dick has different colors than Zappos did, so after looking at all my choices, I pick white/purple. I fill out my billing address, my shipping address, I create an account, I am ready! But Dick says “Only one delivery method is available for this product: Expedited at $24.99.” Oh, I know what that’s about. That’s about living in Alaska. So much for my $10 saving. I ditch Dick.

Then it’s Foot Locker. They have even more different colors. And while “Store pickup not available at any Anchorage locations,” Ship to Home has an asterisk: “*Ships to the 48 contiguous United States.” So it’s clear Foot Locker doesn’t want my business AT ALL.

Two hours later, I’m back with Dick. But this time, Dick is shipping to my friend Sharon’s address in Seattle … for free! I’ll see Sharon in a month, and she’ll have my shoes waiting for me.

As you know, I’m just emerging from a long-enduring state of depression, so you might have thought this might put me over the edge. But despite all this wasting of my time, all this rerun of we-don’t-count-Alaska-as-the-U.S., all this confusion over colors and shoes and 35s or 34s and decisions, decisions, decisions; for a few hours, I had a respite. Instead of inexplicable sadness, I had a REASON. I had righteous frustration. I had FURY. I had faced the shoe lords, and I had taken a stand.

Now let’s see if I end up with shoes.

Monday, July 16, 2018

To Begin

I think I’m getting better.

One day, I woke up and physically felt my depression LIFT. Yes, grand pianos came up, off my shoulders, and floated away. I was going to write about my cure.

But that was an illusion.

Facebook kept telling me “People haven’t heard from Our Third Thirds in a while. Add a post.” Only today did I look at the blog and realize I’ve been “gone” for months.

During that time, I’ve struggled through Ginger Bugs and conquered them. I now have ginger beer! That is a victory. I have planted a garden. That is a victory. Tim and I took a trip, saw Shakespeare, redwoods, and the daughter. That was a victory. Nevertheless, I watch Tim as he industriously builds and plasters and sands and paints and rakes topsoil and seeds and waters and mows. I occasionally do a really good job cleaning the bathroom. That is a victory.

I re-read Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, trying to remember her cure for depression. She discovered a kernel of corn under the refrigerator, found it hilarious, and her depression broke.

I haven’t found my kernel of corn.

A couple of days ago, I went for a run (despite the knee that isn’t supposed to run any more). I only went two miles, but I could feel my body moving through air. I’m not fast, and it was raining, but I was moving through air. That was a little piece of corn.

I got involved in the World Cup. I remembered players’ names, rooted for underdogs, marveled at physical prowess. To watch the last games at Beartooth Theatre, I had to get up at 5 a.m. That night, I had Ideas. I had to write them down. So many Ideas, I never went to sleep. I was so groggy, I ran into the guy delivering coffee to the audience and spilled coffee all over myself.

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas! Having them is one thing; putting them down on paper and drawing pictures is another. It seems that was the insurmountable hurdle. And yet, and yet….

Here I am! I could do it. Something happened. I could physically pick up a pencil and my sketchbook and … begin. I can make no predictions, draw no conclusions, guarantee no results; at most it’s a cure-ish. But I began. I’m here.

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