I was just reading an article, not a great article, not an important article, just an article in a magazine, and the author wrote that she had been told by her dad that she must start her novel by focusing on the characters.
Well, this isn’t a novel, far from it. But, I also just read in the Sunday Times Magazine interview with Chrissie Hynde that the genesis of her autobiography was actually a set of short pieces she wrote for herself after her mother died.
So, you never know. . . .
Do you need to know about me? Does knowing about me strengthen or weaken my positions and arguments? Are you curious?
I’ve already said, so you already know, that I was born in Texas. Not something that has delighted me over the last few years, as the politics of this particular state get uglier and uglier. A state that regularly suggests it hates women so much that I’m glad I was packed up and moved out when I was five weeks old.
Because, you see, I’m not a Texan. Born in Texas is stamped on my passport – both of them, actually – but a Texan I am not.
My dad, a physician with one of the uniformed services at the time, had just been reassigned from his station in Texas to the Navajo Nation in Arizona. My mother, though, heavily pregnant with me, was banned from travelling. So . . . Texas is where I got my made my first appearance.
Five weeks after I was born, my parents headed out to northern Arizona.
I prefer to think this is where I really got started. . . .
I have absolutely no memories of this period at all. None. At. All. But, I’ve pieced together an idyllic infancy based on the stories my parents still tell.
As children of segregated rural south Alabama, their living with the Navajo must have been quite an awakening.
My parents are both extraordinarily intelligent people. Thinking people. Thoughtful people. Intelligent, thinking, thoughtful people who were raised with the ubiquitous racism and sexism that was the South in the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s.
My mother has, at times, confessed to me that, as a child and teenager and young adult, she knew in herself that something ‘wasn’t right’ about the world around her. I expect, though, that like many of us who have a sense something ‘isn’t right’, but who have not been granted the tools – information, education, support – to develop, she was at a loss both to define and to change.
Southerners have a great propensity for shrugging and saying ‘well, that’s just the way it is’.
Living with the Navajo must have provided my mother – and my father, though he is fairly closed lipped on these topics – with an enormous sense of relief that, no, that’s not just the way it is.
People, good and bad, live all sorts of different ways and believe all sorts of different things.
They say, my parents do, that the ‘red gets in your blood’. They are, of course, referring to the red dust of the Arizona landscape.
This is true. It’s in their blood. It’s in mine. I feel at peace anytime I am there.
I’ll never understand why they decided to leave. (This, really, is unfair of me. I understand. The assignment was over; my dad had done his bit. My dad, a lifelong pacifist, was, I’m sure, completely uncomfortable being a part of the uniformed services. It was a reasonable and fair decision. But, still. . . .)
So, with red dust in our blood, we three headed back to Alabama. . . .