Friday, August 19, 2011

BIRTHDAYS: PART II et al

     I know.  You must be thinking - and justly-so - "Didn't she say she was going to continue this birthday commemoration 'on-the-morrow'."  Indeed.  And it's four days of morrows that have come and gone.  As did I.  Have to "go", that is.  Things come up, must be addressed.  So my husband and I were forced by circumstances to take a brief road trip.  And I detest long drives.  In truth, Phil was doing the driving, but aside from having the time to think and read, the experience was uncomfortable, cramped, intrusive and LONG. Yup.  But we finally got to My Wits' End and actually, though I hate to admit it, we got a lot done once there.  It was necessary 'housekeeping' stuff;  got it over with and I'm back - pointing out the obvious.  And continuing my birthday tribute, this time to my 'bestest', oldest, high school friend - Kathy D.
     (You know that having-opportunity-to-think-on-road-trip thing I dropped?  Devil's ALWAYS busy, as Mom used to say and right now he's nudging me to share my thoughts re: this phenomenon occurring during the macadam-burning travel.  But I'll stay the course.  Besides, you already KNOW that Robert Frost - old and beautiful "road less traveled" - was Dr. Howard Jones' English teacher.  During the endless drive, though, I read a friend's blog in which he went on about HIS jolly good fortune of hearing and - get this - having late afternoon coffee clutches with none other than William Faulkner whilst buddy Monty Joynes was a student at UVA in the early sixties.  Well, just you wait.  I've shared my exposure to Tony Ardizzoni but the 'morrow' is coming when you'll get to know Professor/historical scholar/published and honored author Alf Mapp, Jr. who was MY creative writing instructor.  But I digress.  Imagine. . . .)
      Kathy - at the risk of foundering around with cliches - is, like my Mom, one of those people who, if you're REALLY lucky, 'happens' into your life - and stays there.  We attended a VERY small, private, ALL-girls 'academy' in Brooklyn.  It was a link in a chain of such schools administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph which is a Catholic TEACHING Order of nuns - not to to be confused with the cloistered variety, dedicated, SILENT - save a sung psalm or two - hard-working, producing - bread, scarves, whatever - whose SOLE mission is prayer; or the Nursing varieties whose assignments are self-evident (think Blessed Mother Teresa) or the once-prolific mendicant varieties who devote their lives to raising money for the underprivileged, ill, generally needy.  No.  The "Josephites", as we familiarly termed them, were educated to be educators.  Did you know that the primary meaning of the word "educate" - from the Latin "lead out" - is to do just that, elicit the knowledge the student either owns or discovers and produce a 'learned one'.  I recall thinking - with Kathy, "Thank GOD!", because if it by ANY stretch meant to "infuse" knowledge, we would have most assuredly graduated as a group of well-groomed, "good" and cerebrally-empty young ladies prepared to pursue office work, an MRS or - with a LOT of help, TEACHERS.
     (Bye the bye, Monty shared - graciously - that, in addition to his proficient/prolific writing accomplishments, Mr. Faulkner serve at Mr. Jefferson's University of Virginia, as the TIMER for the track team AND  - in an interesting glimpse of biography, was an equestrian extraordinaire who met his unfortunate demise as a result of complications from complications of a horse-riding incident in his home, Oxford, Mississippi.  You will learn, dear reader, at a more opportune time, that Alf Mapp, Jr., "Jeffersonian-biographer" extraordinaire, and a prudent man as well - perhaps because, like Mom, suffered severe mobility issues secondary to polio - lived and wrote until January, 2011 at the age of eighty-five.
      Now in addition to her inner and OUTER enviable Irish beauty - auburn hair, sleek, agile body, laughing eyes and dazzling smile - Kathy was hopelessly, naturally, genuinely funny.  She not only saw/found the humor in everything around her but projected that amusement with words, reactions, expressions - verbal AND facial - to those of us fortunate to be in/part of her 'company'.  We laughed, giggled, 'hid' outbursts all day in response to her comedic style, observations, way-of-being-in-the-world.  She was Captain of the Cheering Squad, active in the Arts - NATURAL pianist, actress, dancer - and LOVED to organize and execute parties - in and out of 'le scene academe'.  An only child, product of an early divorced set of parents, she many reasons NOT TO BE the Kathy she was.  But she had a PLAN.  Very simple, actually:  I plan on being happy.
     (I'm finding that Kathy's "plan" has been shared by some rather successful/talented luminaries.  Monty also shared Mr. Faulkner's ("old gray fox") layered and deliberate methods of behavior during Q and A sessions that often followed his readings or speeches.  In one such exchange, in response to Monty's query as to whether the author was in the habit of viewing films whose genesis were his novels.  He wryly responded that it was not in his contract.  He was not REQUIRED to see the films.  Even today, recalling the exchange and the hint of a smile aborning on William's face while responding, Monty smiles too because Faulkner was smiling because he knew Monty knew that the author had in fact written the screenplay for "Sanctuary", a film derivative of his last novel.  But THAT hadn't been the question.  And I recall a passage in Alf Mapp's (pictured at right) "Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity", in which he reveals how Jefferson - very close FRIEND of James Madison - when asked for design assistance on Madison's home-expansion/improvement plans, gave Madison a rendering of a magnificent entrance - which happened to face Monticello, Jefferson's home - in which the height of the door was just shy of Mr. Madison's height, causing him to "bow to Jefferson" every time he went out.  And WE thought they were ALL about government!)
      Kathy and I sat in the last pair of desks which, of course was invaluable strategically, because we could more easily conceal our antics.  Now they were innocent - the pranks - but set a poor example and caused mayhem among our 'holy penguin mentors'.  We ALL hated the imposed school uniforms - navy skirt/vest/white blouse/stacked-heel oxford navy shoes AND navy blue beret - so donning one huge, fuzzy, ORANGE slipper on hand for a Friday sleepover and risking a stroll passing the open door of the Principle at the end of a lunch period netted all manner of chuckles.  That I WAS 'CAUGHT' and once again stripped of my Pope Leo Honor pin was a small price to pay.  Because I was NO fan of these women.  Why?  How about "No, you may NOT be a cheerleader.  You would be an occasion of sin."  This because I had "bosoms", you see.  All that jumping around, you know.  WE ONLY PLAYED OTHER GIRLS' SCHOOLS!  WHOM was I tempting??? 
      Well, despite their objections, I went on to Georgetown after graduation and Kathy went to Queens College - they LOVED that.  A heathen institution.  And don 't you know, Kathy was the Captain of THEIR cheering squad until the end of Freshman year.  Kathy had married her "steady" since beginning of HS Junior year, Willie, and they were expecting Nora, their first of SEVEN wonderful children.  They've been loving and laughing for lo these forty-some years.  I stopped counting when they had their 20th grand peep. In fact, Monday, they welcomed Annabelle into the clan.  She's beautiful - just like, no, ALMOST AS beautiful as her grandmother.  Kathy still makes me laugh, serves as an iconic example of brave and strong womanhood and inspires with glorious tales of her special little student - yes, SHE TEACHES still - an autistic little guy, now functioning one-on-one with Kathy, since pre-K, in the second grade.  I'll always feel blessed to have been in her grade.  Would that I could be in her class.  Later, Lorane. . . .
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