Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Thank You, Mother Maybelle


My own sasanguas are blooming now. They don't get enough sun to be early bloomers like my neighbors' but they are beautiful and soon the camellia japonicas will begin blooming and they are the most beautiful of all. 

Because I am going to the beach for the weekend and it is far too late to lose thirty pounds and/or get plastic surgery, I decided to get a pedicure. Jessie and Lily were able to meet me and we had a great time, as we always do, chitter-chattering, our feet and calves being attended to, our toenails made pretty. I always feel like new feet have been revealed to me after a pedicure. I am rough on my feet as are we all, really. Feet are miracles in my opinion. They are asked to do so much throughout our lives and we do so little to show our appreciation for them. 

After we were all prettified, Lily went off to do errands and Jessie and I went to Costco and then had lunch at the seafood restaurant in the same complex of shops and stores and it was good as it always is. 

One of the things I really missed in Denver was seafood. This was before I became a vegetarian, of course. But I had never realized how much fish we ate in Florida. The cafeteria in the dorm served glorified fish sticks which was pretty disgusting and I remember getting trout in a restaurant once. It came with hushpuppies and I truly wanted to go into the kitchen and show the cook how they were supposed to be made. Ironically, I do not even now make very good hushpuppies but I guess I had a high opinion of my abilities at that point. 

I was homesick. Not in the sense that I missed my family home- far from it. Home was what I had escaped from with the horrible man who had abused me and who, even after he stopped, made me feel threatened and vulnerable every day of my life. He abused my mother with gaslighting and he abused my brothers with his cold creepiness. And my mother, as unhappy as a woman could be, swallowed it all and carried on, going through bouts of depression herself, many of which led to her spending days in bed, often with vague physical ailments. I loved my little brothers and I had many, many dreams of rescuing them and I felt incredibly guilty about leaving them when I went off to Denver but it was go or die and I chose to go. 

But yes, I was homesick. For fresh fish and for large bodies of water, salty and sweet, for trees and flowers and people who didn't laugh at my accent. I was homesick for those friends who had been my true family and I was grieving for that boy. I wanted to be loved so much. When someone is sexually abused, they learn in a most literal perverted way that their power is in their sexuality. At least that's how it was for me. And I had already lost all my innocence at this point and it was the early days of the pill being available and there was no AIDS or herpes and well...sex was just sex. 
I had a friend once who called having sex with lots of guys "random sampling" and in a lot of ways, that's what it was like. At best, some of the sex I was having was vaguely pleasant. At worst it was just...nothing. And the boys who thought it might lead to something more romantic were never the boys I wanted. 
I am not ashamed of any of that. As I said before, I know exactly why I acted the way I acted and honestly, it wasn't that different from how anyone acted. I remember a girl in my dorm who had joined a sorority and scored a relationship with one of the guys high up in a fraternity asking me for sexual advice so that he didn't get bored and uninterested. 
Strangely, this question mystified me. If they really cared about each other, wouldn't the sex just be grand no matter what? It had been with my first boyfriend. The one I had loved.
Ah well. Perhaps I should have had a few tricks up my sleeve when I was with him, too. Perhaps he would have stayed faithful and true if I had. 
But I doubt it. 

But back to being homesick- I realized I was homesick for things I didn't know I had loved. I had always hated country music. Just hated it. The stepfather had been a big fan and I associated it with him. But once I went over to some people's house and they had a copy of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" by The Nitty Gritty Dirt band and for those of you who do not know, these young guys sought out some of the most venerable bluegrass musicians and asked them to play with them on an album. Vassar Clements played and Bill Monroe, Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl and Randy Scruggs and so many more and somehow, some way, when I first heard those songs with mandolins and banjos, auto harp and guitar, something inside of me, some knot of grief and love and authenticity broke and I cried and cried. 
Music has always been important to me and I have said that in some cases, it has saved my life. That is the truth. And I don't know if this album saved my life but it gave me a piece of myself back that I had been hiding without even knowing it and that, too, was part of my ultimate decision to leave. 
I had no idea I would react that way to this music and it wasn't just the music. It was the voices of the musicians who had been recorded discussing arrangements and parts. Their deep accents soothed my soul and I felt like I could fall back on them and rest. 
Up 'til then, it had always been rock and roll for me. And there is no mystery about that OR about how this roots music affected me. As Keith Richards once said, "Country music and the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll."

Or something like that. 
And it was also around this time that I found and fell in love with B.B. King, whom I love to call my daddy. 

So the cold winters and the people who seemed so exotic and foreign and fascinating to me began to wear down my soul. I took ice skating as a physical education requirement and the only person who was as bad as me in the class was a girl from Hawaii whom I could hear crying in her dorm room next to mine. If I was an alien from a different planet in Colorado, what was she? I still think of her. I still remember her name. 

But was there a way to go "home" without going home? I couldn't figure it out. And so I just kept on with it and kept trying to figure out how to make a life that was bearable in this place and I found myself, like my mother before me, spending hours in bed. I went to see a psychiatrist who was an advisor for the Open Clinic and I'll never forget him asking me if I wouldn't be happier if I lost some weight. And oh, y'all. I was not fat. I was beautiful. And when I finally made the decision to leave and told him, he warned me that leaving Denver to go back to Florida might sound great but it wasn't going to make me any happier. 
Thanks, Dr. Whatever-Your-Bullshit-Name-Was! 

Tomorrow I'll try to write about how I found my ticket out. 

Oh! Here are the greens I picked for our supper tonight. 


They are no longer micro-greens but they are still tender and delicious, eaten raw. 


Turnip greens with the sun shining behind them as it sets. 

One last thing- Mother Maybelle Carter. And others. It can still make me weep to listen to it. 


Love...Ms. Moon

34 comments:

  1. When my kids were little, "Dance Little Jean" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band always made me cry. I like Keep on the Sunny Side too, but it never brought tears.

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    1. That's the thing about music- there is something that catches each of us.

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  2. Your life is so different from mine, different experiences, close to a different generation, it's amazing to read. Thank you for trusting us with it.

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    1. Oh thank you. That means a great deal to me.

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  3. I imagine you sounding like Mother Maybelle Carter - do you?
    Thank you, again, for sharing your story. It must be bringing up some painful memories. Hopefully the music soothes you.

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    1. No. I do not sound like Mother Maybelle but I sort of wish I did. Especially when it comes to singing.

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    2. And yes. This is very emotional for me. It's a little scary.

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  4. your story/ journey has me absolutely captivated. I can't even say more. I look forward to more......the next installment............when you feel it and are ready to share. Otherwise........glad you are meeting your lovely long time heart women for a much needed reconnection
    Susan M

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    1. Thank you, Susan. This may be a slow story.

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  5. Mary have you heard Iris Dement?I am not a fan of new country but u do like bluegrass. Love your stories.

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  6. I was never sexually abused but I did learn that sex=power, or so I thought. When I was growing up my dad always told me I was ugly and stupid, a backhanded compliment I understand now but as a child, I took his word for it. I was always skinny as hell. But I hit sixteen or seventeen and discovered I could make some boys do things, like that's any great accomplishment, but at the time I thought it was.
    I'm glad you trust us to tell your story Mary. It can't be easy writing it. Sending hugs and love.

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    1. The things we learn as girls, as young women, are so culturally influenced, aren't they? And our behaviors as young women are influenced not only by culture of course, but how we were raised. I do think that a girl's relationship with her father is very important and it can wreck her or give her the self-esteem she needs on her journey through life.

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  7. Southern gal- in DENVER! Glad you got so homesick that you left that city forever. I remember one good thing about Denver when I was a child- the trolley to the toy shop. That's all. Denver is no place for sweet sincerity, for a darling southerner - good job settling into the life of Mer Moon , a garden, a whole bunch of lovely family and a nack for being a great teller of stories. Thoroughly enjoying tales of your life. Thank you.

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    1. I certainly never took the trolley to the toy shop! I did love the botanical gardens though. That was a place that smelled more like home.

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  8. Music has saved me. I have to have it.
    Take your time with your story.
    Thank you:)

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  9. I vaguely remember hearing that however many years ago, but by someone else and I don't know who. Dare I say that although your past is always part of you, you have now found your own sunny side of life?

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    1. It is a very classic song from Mother Maybelle's era. It may be quite old, I do not know. It's sweet, though, isn't it?

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  10. I love all this memory spinning. And that Maybelle Carter makes me think of my one true love, a Tennessee mountain boy.

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  11. What a horrible thing for the psychiatrist to say. I feel certain a counselor wouldn't say something like that today. Thank goodness for greater awareness and knowledge. (One hopes!)

    The line in your story that caught at me was "there was no AIDS or herpes and well...sex was just sex." So much of my youth and romantic life was hijacked by AIDS that an earlier time to me sounds positively dreamlike.

    I'm not a huge fan of country music either, but that old-fashioned authentic country is a different thing in my book. Do you remember Ernie Lee? He used to play the guitar and sing on the "Breakfast Beat" morning news show in Tampa back in the '60s and '70s (Channel 13, I think?), and he was a country singer from the old school and I loved listening to him. I have his music on my iPhone even now! I will listen to Mother Maybelle when I get home from work later.

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    1. I saw a pyshciatrist once who told me that I needed to gain weight. A lot of men seem to believe that a woman's worth or happiness is dependent on her weight.

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    2. Steve- I don't think he actually said those words in one sentence but I certainly grasped his meaning. He was a shit.
      I do not remember Ernie Lee.
      There is a huge difference between what we have come to think of as "country music" and what its original roots were which was mountain music, really.
      Pixie- I wonder why that is.

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  12. This is one of the songs that made me begin to play in a band - and stop again. I do not need to press the "Play" arrow to hear it. Thanks for the memories, your story and your courage!

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    1. Do you ever still play or sing, Charlotte? And hello. I don't know that I've ever seen you here before.

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    2. I have been lurking those last four years or more, all the way from Denmark - that's the lovely thing about blogging. And no, I do not play any more I never sung, as I sing like a broken bottle.

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  13. I think some of this story is universal for those of us who grew up at that time. I relate to so much though my details are different. But the escape,
    the drugs, the sex, the trying to find our way, the depression (though I wasn't depressed so much as miserably unhappy, a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

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    1. I know that most teenagers really do feel like misfits. But when you're going through that period of life it seems like everyone around you has it all together, doesn't it? At least it did to me.

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  14. Oh Dear Mary Moon. Thank you so much for your way with words. Reading your posts on a regular basis helps my mental state improve Greatly!
    I remember well hearing NGDB the first time! Oh my word, such wonderful memories. I am not a southern girl, bur grew up in rural NM hearing quite a bit of 50's country music. Did not resonate with me at all. THEN I finally heard NGDB and others, and felt it. So sweet.
    Indeed, thank you Mother Maybelle.

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    1. Hello, Nana Su. Thank you for your kind words. I do appreciate them.

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  15. I'm loving these memories you're sharing with us. Thank you, Mary. You have such a gift for words.

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    1. Knowing you for the reader you are, Jennifer, I really do appreciate that.

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  16. 37paddington:
    Crazy to recall that once upon a time sex was just sex. What a different world our kids were born into. I’m so sorry home was so fraught for you growing up. How could it not follow you to Colorado? Still, you made it my friend. Enjoy the weekend with the ladies!

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