6's & 7'S
and all things crazy
My father inherited his adventurous spirit from his mother, who never turned down an opportunity for excitement, and his adventures started early. By the time I came along, he and my mom were in the process of becoming missionaries. When I was two, my parents, three older brothers, and I trundled off to Colombia, South America.
We lived in the northern coastal city of Barranquilla four years, where my oldest brother went to school with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s son, then we moved to Cali, the best city on earth. Our family traveled often, and one almost mandatory trip for anyone living in South America was to visit Machu Picchu.
Around Christmastime in the late seventies, we took a bus through the Andes mountains from Cali to Ecuador, then flew to Cuzco Peru and stayed in a rustic hotel, sleeping off the effect of the altitude. Cuzco is over 11,000 feet above sea level. The next day, a train took us to Machu Picchu where we wandered among the ruins of the ancient Incan civilization and the llamas.
After walking along the paths between the structures, I sat on the ground and looked across the valley to two mountains that were like immense green eggs standing beside each other. One velvety green mountain slid down into the other and the Urubamba River flowed between them, beautiful and enduring. Could it be that, centuries before, a young girl admired that same view?
The trip remains a favorite topic of conversation among our family, mainly because of a certain wooden flute Dad bought for twenty dollars. When my family gathered to go back to Cuzco, he showed us the flute and told us about the man who hand-carved it and offered a free lesson with the purchase. Dad presented the man’s address scribbled on a scrap of paper.
I’d like to think I stood by my dad in buying the flute. On one of the more unusual Christmases in my life, he and I boarded a bus, flute in hand, to search for the address. The weather, sunny and cold, felt refreshing, making me glad I bought a llama’s wool sweater. We traveled Cuzco’s mix of old and new with it’s amazing backdrop of mountains, but we never found the man.
Dad still has the flute, and we all have the memory, which makes that hand-carved souvenir worth a thousand times over the twenty dollars he spent for it in the ancient city in the clouds.
Jeannie Zokan’s debut novel, The Existence of Pity, will be released in October 2016
by Red Adept Publishing.
You can follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorJeannieZokan/
on twitter: https://twitter.com/JoZokan
Her blog: www.jeanniezokan.blogspot.com
And her webpage: www.jeanniezokan.com
I asked for stories about family: the fun, the inspirational, the heartwarming moments that make us part of a family. Author and Poet Michael Meyerhofer shared a poem that will tug at your heart:
I bought a bag of all black socks
with my twenty-first birthday money,
thinking this would save me
from having to match them, sure,
but also the embarrassment
of wearing white ones to a funeral
like I did after my mother died--
same day my father
almost cut my left ear off
when I asked him to help me
remove the rusty latch of an earring
for years I thought was in style.
He couldn’t see straight,
didn’t even register my curse
when the scissors caught my lobe
until my brother stopped him.
Since I was already born
without a right ear,
for which I never blamed her
but now and again the ultrasound,
I’m grateful. My brother
tells me how he wore black jeans
to his rich girlfriend’s
sister’s wedding, how they laughed
so hard he had to spend
the next five years climbing
the economic ladder to Dewey Ballantine,
dinners under a ten-foot chandelier.
Today, at last, I throw out
that last pair, faded like old tires,
plus an outdated silk shirt
that reminds me of the dress
they buried my maker in. Sunflowers
permanently wrinkled by disco.
She looks lovely, said her old roommate,
blond with black eyebrows,
as she pulled me deep
into a Midwestern bosom
perfumed by the Dollar General,
so deep I wanted to cry.
And would have, had I been
brave enough to wear the grief
my mother earned—she who daily
tamed my cowlicks with a wet comb,
even after the milk dried
and I, insufferably ignorant,
stopped believing she was God.
Visit Michael's poetry website at www.troublewithhammers.com.
Visit his fantasy website (actually, not Michael's fantasies, but for his bestselling fantasy fiction) at www.wytchfire.com
I couldn't have been more than five years old when I first watched Nancy Sinatra don her mini skirt and go-go boots, then pony on stage with her entourage of female dancers. At the time, I may not have fully understood the content of the song "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," but what I did understand, in some five-year-old acumen, was that it was possible for a woman to be strong and confident and in control of her own life. And it was all about the boots.
This was in the 1960s, when women were again living on a historical cusp of progress. College admissions for women were on the rise, although women still weren't able to attend Ivy League schools like Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Dartmouth, or Columbia. "The pill" was available as a means of contraception, but in some states, it would only be prescribed if the woman was married and intended to use birth control solely for family planning. Women couldn't serve on juries or open credit card accounts without their husbands as cosigners, and although more women entered the workforce, they received only fifty-nine cents on the dollar to their male counterparts. Women were again fighting for social equality, and the boots that Nancy vowed to “walk all over you” with became an iconic symbol of empowerment and independence. Women could do anything—and still be feminine and beautiful.
Those women in their boots, those beginning to nick the glass ceiling, gave one chubby five-year-old the confidence to take dance classes, the courage to try out for the boys’ basketball team, and the confidence to dream about a future of unlimited choices.
Over the years, I've worn many boots: work boots, hiking boots, SCUBA boots, even one brief encounter with a pair of thigh-high leather heeled boots. I still can't dance, my pony looks more like a mule, and I can’t shoot a hoop with an Uzi, but I've never stopped dreaming and I've never stopped trying. Although I’ve found many, many women in my fifty years to look up to and admire, who further reinforced the idea of women's empowerment and independence, it was Nancy Sinatra who taught me at a very young age to put on my boots. And start walkin'.
In my novel Call Me Daddy, Vera Shatner takes her idolization of Nancy Sinatra to a different level. When she slips on her boots, she becomes Nancy, and in her mind, being Nancy makes her “normal”—powerful. Independent. Add to that a man who feeds her fantasy, and Vera feels complete, at least until the illusion is shattered. But for Vera, the boots are key to her liberty, even if the freedom she seeks is from her own prison of mental illness.
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