Friday, April 14, 2006
Happy Holidays! & One Random Thought
However you celebrate springtime fertility rites, enjoy the meal.
On another post, long ago, I stated that I lived on the wrong side of the tracks in a rather snooty town. In fact, I grew up on the wrong side of those tracks. The monetary divide between my family and those of my friends was great, but -- for the most part -- people were more interested in being loyal to fellow community members than to social class. And, frankly, we were not short of our characters, so being the poor kid was sort of my "hook." I did fight like the very devil to pretend that my family was just the same as everyone else's, but fooled only myself. My poor kid status made me one piece of the town tapestry, just like the depleted fifth generation spinsters, giving piano, dance, and art appreciation lessons in the oversized houses left to them by their parents. While there were a thousand little indignities involved in being at times rather alarmingly poor among the affluent, this town remains my idea of home.
This is a rather small town, in which I could (as a child) ride my bike to the local liquor store to purchase cooking sherry for my mother as long as I had a note. And I remember very distinctly being ratted out by the neighbors for "clearly having wanted to curse" in PUBLIC. Not at all lady-like, that. Keep in mind that the news of my public display of temper reached my home before I did.
One particularly odd part about this tiny place almost nobody remembers hearing of, although you've all heard of it at one time or another, is it's ability to attract famous or infamous people as residents. When I was a kid, a not-yet-elderly super-famous movie actor bought a house there. (We walked past his house quite often on the way home from school, but the man never went out to fetch his mail! I still think of him as a northern Boo Radley.) When I was a teenager, a woman famous for her troubles and legal issues bought a house there, and we all knew her children. This situation was a crash course in social skills, as we had to somehow not talk to them about anything that would bring to mind their mother's almost daily appearances on the news. There was an "Italian Businessman's family," who were great for contributing to church charities, and brought with them all the federal agents who walked and jogged and parked up and down the street in front of their house all day. A man who made his name faking lunacy built an extraordinarily large home we all considered horrifically gaudy, but nobody objected more than the girl whose parents owned the previous "biggest of the big houses." She was vindicated when he promptly went bankrupt, sold his house to some record producer and had to build his mini-empire back up again. Two old opera divas lived across the street from each other, and indulged in competitive gardening and entertaining now that their voices were altered by age. A lesser branch of one of the old "Captain of Industry" families held a home there for some time, and all the old men would tell you about them. The old men were great gossips masquerading as historians,in fact. When you introduced yourself at a town party, the old men present would get together to consult, then reconstruct your family tree for you, with colorful anecdotes. (Not good if your grandfather was a "bit of a roue," as a friend of mine learned. Nobody wants to know that.) A modern artist of some repute placed an enormous self-portrait statue on her front lawn. It was a nude, and after a brief scandal surrounding the statue, it was just another aspect of this odd place. The cable television actress who lived in the town was either loved or hated by those of her generation, depending on her relationship with those people in high school. The guy with the goat in his yard was fine by us, as long as the goat hadn't gotten free to chase us down the street in quite a while. Everything and everyone eventually became a normal, everyday feature of the town. I'm most proud of the fact that the town rallied around a local in his need during the last days of his life, and supported him in a nationally debated legal fight. (I still won't have anything to do with the company that contributed to his early death.) Despite generational wealth, and even generational clannishness (you only get to say you're *really* from that town if your family has lived there for more than two generations), the community was open and caring and surprisingly liberal. But now a republican agitator has moved in. There goes the neighborhood.