Posts Tagged ‘child’

My father lives in a different world than me.

He lives in Mallorca, Spain and the traditions are different in many ways. I always like to hear of the festivities for different occasions, so I sent an email asking him about Christmastide, and whether they decorate Christmas trees.  I received this long message which I want to pass on to my readers, complete with links and photos.  I am especially amazed by the snowflake lights.  At the bottom of the post you can listen to the song my father refers to in this message, sung by a child.

I hope you all have a meaningful Christmas celebration in honor of the Son of God who came to Earth to save us all.

Shalom,

Sister Olive

~♥~

Dear Dottir,

In the last decade or so, yes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, elves and any commercialization possible has taken over.  Even here in this small village, in the little plaza up in town there is a Christmas tree with decorations.

Before this northern invasion, Christmas Eve was celebrated in the church, or quietly in the home, no tree, no gifts just a celebration of the birth and the mother.  Here on Mallorca and in Catalunya, they had another very strange custom. A young child sings the Sybila, a song of the Judgment Day. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Song_of_the_Sibyl 

I have heard it sung many times over the years, because when I directed the church choir we were up in the organ loft, waiting for our turn to sing various Christmas songs from the region.  It is a haunting melody, very difficult for a child to sing, so they practice it for weeks before, no accompaniment of any kind, just that pure “white voice” as they call unchanged voices here. Here it is sung in a little church by a woman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfirOs1RGIc

In the Cathedral of Palma they make a real production of it, with full choir, organ and a young woman singing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aYV_Kqv44g– these may be beautiful, but I prefer the single child in the Deya church, innocently singing about the end of the world.  Every year a different child is chosen.

Before also, the decorations were basically “nerulas” or white paper cutouts like snowflakes, hung across the nave of the church and in houses.  The streets still are blazoned with lights, as traditionally – I first saw them in Barcelona in 1969 and was amazed. Take a look https://www.google.es/search?q=christmas+lights+in+Barcelona&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=nZfRULDuGOyY0QWeuICoBA&ved=0CEMQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=614

As for myself, you know me – Stephanie and I would sometimes walk and look at the world, especially the stars which are exceptionally bright in winter, just appreciating Creation, perhaps lamenting its ultimate passing…

I will be doing that alone this year for sure, and will send my love to you all.  What I see from my balcony is this:

 Poppy's Window View

Where Chopin stayed in 1838 for the winter, so I have good company.

At night it is lit up, blocking the stars until late, when they are turned off.

 Poppy's View at Night

What will you be doing?  Have you found a compatible church where you can enjoy the songs of Christmas?

Lots of love,

Poppy

~♥~

Here is the link for the solo sung by a child, my favorite of the versions so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nANDw8XOHhU

 ~♥~

The Song of the Sibyl

On the Day of Judgment
The good go to heaven for their services.

An eternal King cometh
Dressed in our mortal flesh
He certainly will come from heaven
To judge the century.

Before the judgment is passed
A great sign will show itself
The sun will lose its shine
The earth will tremble with fear.

Then comes a mighty thunder
The sign of a great anger
In a hellish confusion
Rays and cries resound.

A great fire will fall from the sky
In a stench of sulfur
And the earth will burn furiously
And a great terror afflict people.

Then comes the terrible signal
A major earthquake
The rocks will break
And the mountains will collapse.

Then nobody will have gold pieces
Silver or wealth
And all await sentencing.

Death will leave you penniless
And all collide
Only men remain crying
And sadness will cover the world.

The plains and peaks are all the same
Good and bad will be achieved
Kings, dukes, earls and barons
They will have to account for their actions.

And then comes, unexpected
The son of God Almighty
He will judge the living and the dead
The good go to heaven.

The Unborn
Cry from the wombs of their mothers
And with her cries say
“Help us God Almighty”

Mother of God, pray for us
You, the Mother of All Sins
You have the judgment merciful
You have that paradise is open to us.

You who have heard it all
Pray to God with devotion
With all your heart and fervor
That should save us.

 ~♥~

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 Poppy 3

“My father lives in Spain.” “My father is a science fiction author.” “My father founded an international music festival in Mallorca.” “My father tours in Europe with a chamber music orchestra.” “I love to hear my father play Spanish guitar.”
I love to tell people about my father, because I am a bit like Rumpelstiltskin. I try to spin the straw of my life into gold. During my childhood, my father’s letters came to me in thin red-and-white air mail envelopes from a village called Galilea. I thought it sounded like Galilee and imagined this to be symbolic somehow. I hoped it meant he would save me and take me to his world someday.
He would write that he lived in a villa near the cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea, and that from his open windows he could hear sheep bells tinkling and smell the apricot and almond groves. He would say that his friends were all writers, musicians, composers, and artists. When he sent photographs, I thought the island looked like Paradise beside the crystal sea.
He wrote that he wanted to come and take my sister and me from the orphanage to live with him and his new wife. I told all of the other girls in my cottage about my amazing father and his letters, and I began to envision him with legendary proportions. So when I watched television and saw certain dark-haired characters on the screen, I would replace their faces with my father’s. He became James West and The Lone Ranger and Zorro and The Count of Monte Cristo and The Fighting Prince of Donegal. I believed that he would come and rescue me from the horrors of my childhood. But he never did. He was only a charming mysterious stranger who made promises and never kept them. As the years swam past me like slippery fish, I realized that he would never arrive.

Poppy 5 (2)He didn’t arrive for my elementary or junior high years. He didn’t arrive when I dropped out of school. He showed up for a few days while I was living on the streets as a teenager, and then vanished again for years. He didn’t arrive for my wedding or college graduation or the birth of any of my sons. I knew he was out there in the fog somewhere, but I lost sight of his face in my mind.
Then suddenly during his recovery after his first heart attack he began to write to me, so I began to send questions to him about my childhood. I am not angry but I need to know who I am and who my parents are. So now he sends me emails whenever I send him questions. My first message was to find out about the car accident during my childhood, and this was his answer:

May ’60? Studebaker broke down, bought Chevy Bel Air Saturday, accident Sunday on the road to Apopka. Car salesman had lied, saying insurance was good until Monday, but not so. The drunks who ran into us were on their last binge before going into the US Army, no insurance. Chevy a total loss, but at least I managed to avoid killing the Negro children leaving their church just off the road.

He says that he left my mother in 1960 (when I was two) because he “unraveled” from all of their problems:

I had lost both my jobs, an unfortunate car wreck wiped us out financially, and I could see no way out. Of course, fate and the desire for literary and artistic adventure and travel, instilled in us all at university, these things sent me sailing away with Mari to Europe within a couple of years. (The last thing I remember in the house on Julian Street: you were looking out the window from your crib and said: Why is the moon blowing the clouds away?)

Soon after his departure, I was sent to a crippled children’s home in Florida had an operation and wore a full body cast for about a year. My father came to visit when I was there:

About this time (1960?), I made a visit to Florida from NY, and you were in Umatilla Children’s Hospital with braces between your ankles to straighten your hip joint. Your mother of course knows a lot more about this than I do. (You poor thing, all smiling, with a pleated light blue skirt, scooting around with fantastic energy and will.)

He also recalls visiting us in a one-room apartment where we stayed briefly with mother. I remember the place, but not his visit:

1961 Spring- visited you all in your grandfather’s garage apartment in Indialantic, soon after which I left New York for Paris.
Summer 62 – summer 64: I was in Europe and Turkey with Mari, until she had her nervous breakdown in Germany.

He came for Margaret and me during his second marriage, and we stayed with him in Missouri. He published his first story for a science fiction magazine while we were there.

I think in autumn 64 (maybe 65, since when we first returned, Mari spent several months in the Nevada Mental Hospital south of Kansas City) she and I drove to pick up you kids from the house in the country (NC?) You three spent part of that summer with us in Pleasant Hill, Mo.
December 1965 Analog published my first story: Countercommandment. I began writing sci-fi regularly, and when I had sold a few more, and when Mari was working and healthy again, I left for New York. (Her family did not like me, and blamed me for her breakdown.) A year later I went to Mexico for a divorce.

I asked my father where he was when we were placed in the custody of the state of North Carolina, and he replied:

In 1967-68 I was working for the Welfare Department in Brooklyn, caring for unwed mothers and abandoned families, ironically. My supervisor convinced me I could get custody of you guys. Shortly after that, my new wife and I visited you girls in NC, with a view to perhaps taking you with us when we got married (May 1968.)
By that time, not sure when, James was already adopted by your grandparents. When your mother learned my plan, she sent a telegram asking me please not to take you. She was about ready to bring you home with her, I guess.

This message made me rather downcast, because I believe things would have been much better for me and Margaret with our father, but we were destined to return to our mother instead. I ended up in Gainesville alone at the age of thirteen. My father appeared one day when I was living on the streets.

I visited you in Gainesville, staying with Grant. You said somewhere I turned you on to LSD on one of these visits – I always thought it was the other way around, though definitely I remember walking around Gainesville with you, stoned. You visited your trunk on somebody’s porch. I believe you were living in the woods? Reading Shakespeare and Chaucer? Learning guitar? Writing poetry? This is the way it comes to memory.

Wow! Did I really turn my father on to drugs for the first time? Maybe so, but I am sure he made the purchase. I asked him if he or my mother had ever experimented with drugs and he answered:

Your mother and I never used any drugs, did not smoke cigarettes, and only occasionally drank wine with a meal. I first smoked when I started working in night clubs, and drank the occasional Scotch. It wasn’t until I was caring for drug addicts in the NY welfare dept that I discovered marijuana, say in 1967-68.
As for the hippies, yippies, and yuppies, maybe, briefly, from 1968 to 1978: smoking dope, magic mushrooms, long hair, beard, improvising music and life in general. But that is behind me.

After my father’s visit in 1974, I did not see him again until he was appointed by the Spanish government to visit Saint Augustine in 1988. He claims to have lost track of me when I moved to Oregon to attend college, but I remember asking him to “give me away” at my wedding, and sending him birth announcements for each of his grandsons.

I lost track of you when you went to Oregon, or so I believe, and the next thing I knew you were married to a Quaker baker, and had children. When did all this happen? While I was in Galilea?

My father visited me in Saint Augustine during the Christmas holidays just before my sons had reached school age. He had never seen them. He kept hugging them and reading them stories and singing to them. He was just as charming as ever, with his slender body and warm resonant voice and goatee. He told us that he wanted to be part of our lives from then on and promised to keep in contact with us after he went back to Spain.
One night, he went out with a lady from the local cultural events committee and had a few drinks, and began to tell her about what a terrible father he had been to me. The lady quoted him as saying, “I can’t believe my daughter even lets me in the house or speaks to me. But she invites me in with a smile, and gives me homemade pumpkin pie, and lets me help decorate the Christmas tree. I just can’t stand it.”
During this visit my father told me his version of what happened during my childhood. He spoke again of the car accident and my hip defect and how the medical bills began to flood in. He said that while he was working all day and going to school in the evenings, my mother was busy hanging out with her friends. No food was ever prepared for him and the sink was always full of dishes and we were always in our cribs crying in our dirty diapers. After a long exhausting day he had to change our diapers and do dishes and find food to eat. So one night after the anger had been building in him for a long time he came home and found the sink full of dishes.
He called my mother into the kitchen and pulled a dish out of the sink and asked her, “Are you going to wash it?” She stared at him with those cold icy eyes that I know so well, and said nothing. He threw the dish on to the floor where it shattered. He picked up another dish and asked her again, “Are you going to wash this?” Again, no answer. He threw this one on the floor and continued until every dish was broken on the floor.
At least now I know where one of my tragic personality flaws came from. I cannot stand for a man to tell me what to do. Perhaps this is what was wrong with Eve in the garden. Maybe she resented Adam’s authority.
The night my father left he says that Margaret and I heard him threatening to leave our mother. So we tied his shoelaces together and hid his shoes. When he was ready to walk out he had to search for his shoes and untangle the knotted up laces. When I heard this I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
My father says that he returned a year or two later and tried to reconcile with Mother but it didn’t work out. But why did he throw his children away?
I am told that he had an abusive alcoholic father so perhaps he passed on the neglect he experienced as a boy. I am fairly certain we had two parents who did not wish to be parents.
My father was in Saint Augustine for a week or two and returned to Spain where he promptly forgot about us again for many years. My three sons are now in college and he still asks me their names whenever he gets around to calling. Now that he is elderly and his companion is gone he is in touch a bit more. He wants forgiveness but he can still be terribly insensitive.
I have tried to tell him that it’s never too late to start being a father. Once I became weary of him wounding me and cut off all communication with him for over a year. It was the first time he ever had to grovel for attention. During this time his email messages to me completely changed. He had always expected me to address him by his first name, but he started writing them with the greeting “Dear Daughter” and signed off with “Love, Papa.” He had never tasted his own poison before. The poison of neglect and loneliness.
My father tells me he has lived his life well and to its fullest. I have barely survived and suffered tremendously. I cannot imagine bringing children into this world and doing nothing for them in your whole life. I would hate to take that to my grave or to my God. I am not so angry with him now but I feel very sorry for him. He will become very lonely one of these nights. It is his karma.
In a recent telephone conversation my father said, “I feel so guilty because I have had such a good life but I have not been good. I didn’t deserve any of the things I’ve enjoyed. But if you live long enough your evil ways will catch up to you. Mine are catching up to me now.” I felt a warm wave of comfort splash upon the shores of my mind as he said these words to me, a feeling I cannot fully describe.
My father still cares about my mother and he always inquires about her. He loves to look at photos of her and he says that he will never forget the day that he climbed into the back seat of a friend’s car and met a woman with long blonde hair, a low-cut dress, and a classic face like a goddess. I asked my father if he and Mother were beatniks and he sent me this reply:

Well, it was the age of beatniks, all right. But I didn’t know that. When I hitched at age 17 from Florida to Michigan and on to Seattle, to go for a summer job working in the Coos Bay Lumber Camp in Oregon, I had no idea Kerouac was also on the road. And when the lumberjacks went on strike, I turned in my boots and bought the second book I ever bought, The Old Man and the Sea, which was brand new, and best of all, very short.
I went on to San Francisco, but when I went to the City Lights Bookstore, I didn’t know that Gregory Corso, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and the whole bunch were going to be so important. I bought a couple of books, moved over to Berkeley Bowl to set pins in the alley for a couple of weeks before heading on back to Tallahassee to start college.
I did buy my clothes in the Army surplus, and copying a self-portrait of Van Gogh, wore a woolen cap and smoked a stub pipe, walking around the campus with my buddy David Wade, quoting Dylan Thomas to each other, and generally staying independent of all the usual college guy stuff.
Your mom was of the same ilk. She hung out with the art crowd, let the famous Karl Zerbe make a plaster cast of her face, and while he was at it, he pulled her top down, so she said. I wouldn’t blame him. She wore strapless elastic gingham dresses that tested gravity and the will power of mankind itself.

Now I address my father as “Poppy” because it implies both toxicity and endearment. Our communication is much better these days and because of him I know a few things about my parents that I can laugh about.

Poppy 2He still lives in Mallorca and had his first heart attack a couple of years ago while sitting at a café with a doctor. He had a quadruple bypass. After he was partially recovered he broke his foot while building a chicken coop outside his villa. Poppy says his lungs have only have forty-eight percent of their capacity. He is writing more nowadays. I received an email from him when he was finally able to go out for a walk and I replied that I wished we could take a walk together.
He answered my message with these words:

You are walking with me, in spirit. Hopefully one day again in the flesh. Just the two of us on a country road, or along a river, under autumn leaves on fire with the sunlight.
Poppy

IF

~♥~

 

Addendum to “Our Father Who Art in Spain”
Since the time that I completed this story in 2009, my father purchased two plane tickets for my eldest son and me to visit him in Spain. We spent three unforgettable weeks with him there, and I have written a series of journal writings called “Spanishoeprints” about our time together.

Poppy

~♥~

 

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“The suspense: the fearful, acute suspense: of standing idly by while the life of one we dearly love, is trembling in the balance; the racking thoughts that crowd upon the mind, and make the heart beat violently, and the breath come thick, by the force of the images they conjure up before it; the desperate anxiety to be doing something to relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul and spirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessness produces; what tortures can equal these; what reflections of endeavours can, in the full tide and fever of the time, allay them!”
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

English: A photograph of an engraving in The W...

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I am feeling a peculiar mixture of emotions as I prepare to depart for Spain-  happy and overwhelmed and apprehensive to name a few of them.

I feel like Bilbo Baggins after Gandalf and the unexpected party showed up at his door and summoned him for an adventure. There is a part of me that would just as soon stay safe and snug in my hobbit hole, and let brave-hearted folks go to faraway lands to meet a dark mysterious stranger (who just happens to be my father- there’s the rub).

It has dawned on me that I really don’t know my father…but I want to so much.  Please keep praying for me that I will “go out with joy and be led forth with peace.”

“Sister Olive”

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i remember you defending me when people didn’t understand me, i remember recording your singing and drawing you art and you treating them like they were special, i remember you showing up to school trying to keep me from being bullied. i remember going to lighthouse park and climbing trees while you played tennis, i remember you buying me crystals and crushed pennies on our trips to north carolina.

~♥~

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I came across these lovely quotes while reading Twice-Told Tales today, and they really spoke to me:

 The mother’s character, on the other hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of unworldly beauty- a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had survived out of her imaginative youth, and still kept itself alive amid the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood.

…for all through her life she had kept her heart full of childlike simplicity and faith, which was as pure and clear as crystal; and, looking at all matters through this transparent medium, she sometimes saw truths so profound, that other people laughed at them as nonsense and absurdity.

From “The Snow-Image”

English: Twice-Told Tales by Hawthorne. Printe...

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Awhile back, I was trying to remember someone’s name, or should I say the daughter of someone.  My friend, Doris, has a daughter who is woken up each day by the voice of the Spirit.  He will say her name gently, and ask her to wake up and then He will say “This is what I want you to do today…”  At least that is what I’m told.  Okay, okay, it sounds delusional, I know.  But if you really want to go there, that makes me delusional- and you might as well throw in Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and the apostles, Peter, John, and Paul just for fun.  But anyway, that’s not the story I’m telling.

So, I couldn’t remember the name of my friend’s delusional, er, spiritual daughter, and it was bugging me a lot. I was so impressed with the story of her leadings that I wanted to write it down, but I couldn’t think of her name.  I pondered it all day, and it was on the tip of my tongue-  Lolita, no, Laverne, Lucinda, Lavidia, no, no, no.  It was driving me insane.  I finally stopped thinking about it and went to work that evening.  At Hallmark.

That night, as I was bored to tears with no customers, a woman and a little girl came in.  The woman went off to look at musical cards and painted wine glasses and polka-dotted key chains.  Her daughter came over to the counter to play around. I can’t remember what she was wearing.  I only remember the sweetness of her little face with freckles across her nose, and the soft wispiness of her brown hair, and the way her voice jingled, and most of all her playfulness.

First she took the beanie toys and lined them up by categories on the counter, and pretended the birds were jumping upon the row of bears.  Then she set them all neatly back into their bins with her small dimply hands.  Then she took out all of the foil-wrapped balls of candy and sorted them out by colors on the counter. Then she took the stuffed bunnies and lambs from the shelves and pretended they were talking to each other. After she played with each item, she politely put them away. She skipped around the carpet and did a few dainty little twirls.

About this time, seismic waves were starting to reverberate through the dry crust of my exasperated soul.  Her joy was so contagious that within a matter of minutes, living water began to spout its little undercurrents through my bedrock.  I was thinking that I was beginning to understand what Christ meant that we must be as little children to enter the Kingdom of God.

I must admit I was irritated when her mother finished shopping and brought her merchandise to the counter.  As I scanned the stationary and wall plaques and photo albums, I wondered if her mother knew what a prize God had given her. I placed everything into the purple bag and passed it to the woman and leaned over the counter.  I asked the little girl “What is your name?”

“Lydia,” she replied with a voice that skipped down the sidewalk of my mind into the sunlight.

That was the name I had been struggling to remember. God had reminded me of it in such a way that I could never forget it again.  He sent me a delightful little messenger to play with me because I am His child.  Just for fun.

~♥~

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