And please remember…I write because…to quote Cyril Connolly…”it is better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
Since very early childhood I have been told that I “don’t play well with others.” Today, in my golden years, those words have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Solitude is my friend and comfortable companion. I don’t play well with others. And…well…I like it that way. Oh sure, every so often I venture outside my hermitage looking for compatible friendship. I occasionally run into someone with potential for building a lasting relationship. In 1977 I met my soul mate and, being an only child of older parents himself, he understands me perfectly.
However, I have learned, with very few exceptions, friendships and relationships simply don’t last for me. Sooner or later I say or do something that offends them—or they do or say something that offends me. At which point “I’ll just take my little red chair and go home..” Then it’s back to playing alone. Over the years I’ve wept, worried and wondered why. What is broken in me that causes others to tuck tail and run when I show up or speak up? What is broken in me that makes me demand certain specific characteristics in others?
Since being alone is more comfortable for me than chasing behind the departed friend or family member, begging to know what I’ve said or done this time or trying to explain my expectations…I withdraw to my comfort zone and write, or draw; concentrating on being contented in my solitude. As I’ve grown older my attempts at socialization have become more infrequent. At this point in my life there’s a certain amount of apprehension regarding interaction with others. I simply don’t seek out social situations any longer.
During this past winter, as I spent hours scanning my Daddy’s 35mm slices into my computer; looking at photos from the very early years of my life, I recognized some things that put it all into perspective for me. After a couple of months contemplating those photos and mulling over the early years, I’ve come to this conclusion…I grew up believing I was 35 before I was 5 years old.
That explains it...
Well…a lot of it anyway.
The first six years:
Born at the end of WWII, when times were hard and money was scarce, I am an only child of older parents. Mother was in her mid 30’s and Daddy was in his 40’s when I came along. It’s safe to say I was something of a surprise. A welcome surprise? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s too late to ask. They’re both gone now. Most of the memories conjured up by the photos neither deny or confirm what a late in life child contributed to their union.
My parents ran Lily Lake Lodge, a Cottage Camp. high in the Colorado mountains. During the winter (September to May) we were often snowed in for long periods of time. I’ve seen it snow 18 inches on the 2nd of September and waded through 24 inches of snow on June 10th in the Rockies.
In Winter, Daddy worked for the US Forest Service and was away from home a good bit. Mother kept the home fires burning, and was my only companion, except for Micky our Cocker Spaniel. The world revolved around ME and precocious doesn’t begin to describe little e. We read together and colored together and played dolls together. I have my mother to thank for my vivid imagination, my love of color and design and my sense of style. Get a load of that bodacious bow!
During the summer the cabins were filled with adults (and, occasionally a few families) from all over the United States and Europe. Mother did all most all of the work…the cooking, the cabin cleaning, the laundry, etc. I tagged along behind her or made myself adorable for the guests. It must have worked because I amassed a doll collection of enormous proportions from admirers everywhere. The dolls were for looking at, with a couple of exceptions, and I gave them away only a few years back…most in fairly good condition.
Daddy supplemented their income by driving a tour bus from Estes Park, over the Continental Divide, to Grand Lake and back several times a week when the road was open. He carried his 35mm camera with him and his slide collection contained hundreds of photos of Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area. He had an artistic eye and there are some great shots of scenery and wildlife.
There were also a good many slides showing numerous guests, mostly adults. And sure enough…whenever there was a photo op, guess who showed up in the middle of it. That was the first thing I noticed. Then I discovered my propensity for posing, even at age five. Always the center of attention was e.
So far as I knew, everything was perfect. I started first grade in Estes Park in the fall of my sixth year. That’s where I first learned “playing well with others” was going to be a requirement.
During that winter, things must have gone horribly wrong in my parents world. They lost the lease on the Lodge and were forced to relocate. I was shielded from the drama, but it must have been intense. From the beautiful mountains, with fulfilling work and, from the evidence in the photos, a happy life to the high plains along the Santa Fe Trail. All I know is that very little of our life went with us…not Micky…not my playhouse or my dolls…not my friend and winter playmate. Nothing was ever going to be the same again.
This is hard to write, but stay tuned…the next post will cover School Days.