“It’s when we’re given choice that we sit with the gods and design ourselves.”- Dorothy Gilman —

Observation 3- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25x30 cm (10x12)

Observation 3- ©2003- graphite on paper, 25×30 cm (10×12)

The story continues……..

In spite of what many would have us believe, truth, I have come to realize, is quite singular.  My truth, your truth, it is all true. We hold our memories and beliefs tightly to our breast believing that they fortify us within our self-created history.  The illusion of our created lives is like a crystalline cocoon within which we wrap ourselves, reflecting that singularity. Unknowingly we assume we are safe, but reality comes along every once in a white with a little silver hammer.  Tap, tap, tap…it goes, and cracks begin to form.

When I speak of being socially ignorant, it is the truth.  I have memories of making friends in school but never being allowed to see them after school.  There was little free time in school to chat with the exception of the bus ride to and from school, and my classmates were never on my bus. Unfortunately, I had already become a quite child and listened more than talked. I remember being allowed to go to parties, but only to enter the room, say hello and leave, for Capitán was waiting for me in the car.

I had the freedom of a bicycle, but that was eventually taken away when I never would come home in time, riding until it was dark, not wanting to come home.

I did have one special friend and it took my family a long time to find out. She was a year older than me, German/Ecuadorian, and lived on my bike route. We met by accident one day and found ourselves to be kindred spirits.  On my first visit to her house I immediately fell in love with her family, they were intellectual, musical, loving, kind.  I never told my family about them for fear they would stop me from visiting. It was a secret I was able to maintain for several months. They had a beach house and would go there often on the weekends, one day during vacations; I just went with them, lying about having permission.  It took my family 4 days to find me and of course that was the end of that friendship.

Sometime during the flight from South America to New York to Zürich and then a train journey to Fribourg, Switzerland I became a fearless Pollyanna – ready to conquer anything that came my way. Very few people spoke English or Spanish when I arrived at school. Since classes were taught in French, I learned the language quite quickly; then Italian and German within the year.  Two years at a prep school, because I was so young, and then to the University. I remember very little about school itself, one of my many memory “holes”.  Capitán had already written letters documenting my “mental disorders” manifested by cheating, lying and my overall delinquent nature, so teachers accepted me with trepidation.

I would learn much later about the letters Capitán would write to family members, my employers, my friends for the next 10 years saying the same thing and worse, laying the groundwork for the epiphany to come. But I get ahead of myself.

At the time, I processed it all just like anything else that was distasteful, uncomfortable, or hurtful: I ignored it, shoved it into a file drawer, made it disappear in my memory and moved on with life.  I was experiencing the illusion of joyous freedom and in spite of letters written or hard teachers who reminded me what a failure I was, I made good grades, earned a degree and made friends.

Not just one friend but three! Classmates with whom I would spend breaks and holidays, from skiing in Gstaad, Mont Blanc or Zermatt, to city hoping in southern Italy, to museums in Spain, a weekend in Paris, Easter in Athens or a summer in Germany.  I saved all the meager funds Capitán sent combined with money I earned helping other students with math or chores enabling me to travel and explore.

Everywhere I went I felt I had been there before. I knew the streets, I never got lost, everything was familiar, everywhere felt like I had come home.

In 1967 change arrived in the disguise of a letter I received from old friends of my mother who were currently stationed at the American Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. They extended an invitation to come and spend a long weekend. Eagerly I took the train from Fribourg to Belgrade looking forward to a new adventure.  Two days after I arrived they sat me down and handed me a plane ticket to Texas.  Telling me my mother had lost custody of my siblings but had managed to gain custody of me (I was still underage) but there were conditions. They explained I had a choice. I could return to school and continue with my studies or I could leave tomorrow, return to the US and live with my mother.  If I chose the first, Capitán would pay for the schooling but regain custody.

I think it was late September when a Marine Guard from the Embassy drove me in his green MGB to Zagreb where without a second thought I boarded a plane to the US and the unknown.

Tap, tap, tap…and the first crack appeared.

 

 

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