When I was a little kid I bounced. We had a chair in the living room, a knobby green upholstered chair, where I spent large chunks of every day singing and telling myself stories. I’d slip my hands into its cool sides, my fingers brushing against crumbs under the seat cushion, and bounce my head against the chair back for hours, singing and imagining adventures with my friend, Superman. At night I sang and bounced on my pillow for at least an hour before I could fall asleep.
A more observant family might have been a little unnerved by it. I know now that it was my way of calming myself in the midst of chaos. I was an odd, lonely child holding it together. My dad, a handsome southerner, sold liquor for a living and had usually consumed an excess of his own product by the time he got home. My gentle and affectionate mother has always been somewhat passive. At that time she was also tired, holding a part-time job, keeping house and chasing after my chronically truant, attention deficient brother. Consequently nobody paid much notice to my constant bouncing; nobody dragged me to doctors and therapists; they just let me
We lived very near Santa Anita racetrack where my father enjoyed many a happy hour. Every inch a man’s man of the forties and fifties, in addition to booze he loved fast horses, golf, poker, gin rummy and pretty women. For unfathomable reasons, my mother - as pretty a woman as could be - put up with him for twenty years. But finally, after a mysterious phone call from a man telling her to keep her husband away from his wife, she’d had enough.
I was ten and my seventeen-year-old brother had just run off to join the navy when, as if she’d been living in someone else’s skin, my mother shed her life. She divorced my stunned father, bleached her dark hair Marilyn Monroe blond, sold the suburban house and took off for Palm Springs in a 1958 Pontiac convertible with two dogs in the back and me in the passenger seat.
I didn’t notice the green chair had been left behind. I remember asking my mother sometime later what had happened to it but I don’t remember her answer nor do I remember missing it. And, although I loved my father, I never had a moment of wishing them back together.
My newly blond, bombshell mother bought a little house, secured a job and, reveling in her independence, bloomed. Within months, our home became a gathering place for women, married or single. They’d sit with coffee around our dining table, laughing, crying, and bitching about the men in their lives - my mother serving as a kind of den mother. My life felt solid and stable. No more tension in the house, no more waking at night to angry voices, no more worry about my father’s drinking, I liked the quiet of a home without a man in residence. My mother has since told me that she had her share of lovers but I didn’t know it then.
My father visited every Sunday. He’d drive down from LA, pick me up, take me to the nearby riding stables where he’d pay for my ride and wait for me. Then we’d get a hamburger and he’d take me home. It was a commitment he must have made to himself, those long drives and the three or so hours spent weekly with his daughter. I don’t know that I appreciated it at the time, although I think he knew I loved him. When I was fifteen he died, of cancer and a broken heart I think.
The desert community of Palm Springs turned out to be a microcosm of the turmoil and transition sweeping America in the late nineteen sixties and early seventies. On one side; the hippies, stoned or protesting, on another; the determinedly cheerful and repressed middle class nuclear family, on a third; the fast-living, sophisticated celebrities and hangers-on (those were the ‘Rat Pack’ days) and, on a fourth; Black, Hispanic and Aboriginal Americans, dreaming of overcoming second-class citizenship.
The tiny town possessed a single public junior high, one high school, plus a Catholic school (K-12). So, I attended Nellie N. Coffman Junior High and Palm Springs High with the children of movie stars, and the children of their maids, gardeners and cooks; with members of the Agua Callente tribe and the offspring of migrant date pickers. However, even though we were all in the same place at the same time, we were worlds apart. In the nineteen sixties and seventies, in Palm Springs as well as in greater America, very few people dared to cross the invisible boundaries between cultures.
That is a theme that resonates with me: the human need/drive to create borders - racial, cultural, religious - in order to form cohesive and exclusive groups from which we get our ‘identity’.
I was barely a C student, which didn’t seem to concern my mother. Nor did I consider grades important since, by the time I entered junior high, I’d decided to be an actress. Had it been within my power to pass Algebra II, I might have changed focus in high school and become a veterinarian instead, but as I figured actors didn’t need algebra, I continued on the theatrical road.
After high school, I was suddenly confronted with the necessity of employment. To my dismay I discovered getting paid for acting was a whole different thing from having fun at the Valley Players Guild, our local community theatre where I played all the ingénues. I had been modeling for a local clothing store on weekends and they offered me a full-time sales position. I thought the boredom might kill me.
My mother suggested I consider going to college instead. We found out my father’s social security would continue if I stayed in school, so I registered at College of the Desert and, after two years of actually studying and learning, transferred to UCLA as a major in Theatre Arts.
In the early 1970s at UCLA, I wore mini-skirts and bell-bottoms, shopped at army navy
surplus, protested the war, smoked marijuana and met the love of my life.
I’d seen him around a few times and he was adorable, so when he asked me to be in his production of The Dutchman – an angry two character play between a white woman and a black man that ends in her stabbing him to death on the subway – why of course I said yes. My future husband neglected to mention he’d never before directed a play, nor did he tell me the other actor would be a sweet history major who hadn’t ever acted in his life and was simply attempting to cure his shyness.
Amazingly it came off all right, a director was born and, not being one to miss a good thing under my nose, I grabbed him. Within a few months we were living together and two years later, we married.
I pursued an acting career in Los Angeles for a few years after graduation. I did a number of plays and small parts on TV; the high point was a co-starring role on an episode of Room 222. At the same time I taught English as a Second Language to adults in night school. When I got pregnant with our daughter, I went through a painful but necessary reevaluation of my career choice. By the time she was three, I readily returned to college, USC this time, for a master’s degree in counseling psychology. As I studied and mothered and taught, my husband continued directing theater and then TV with increasing success.
When our daughter was seven, we all journeyed to Korea to adopt a son. In 1989 I assisted my husband in the production of his prize-winning After School Special,
American Eyes, inspired by the adoption. My contributions included writing a portion of the dialogue, which I loved doing. As the children grew up and I found I actually had time at home alone, I began writing seriously. The surprise for me was the discovery of an enjoyment exceeding anything I’d ever had for any activity that didn’t involve dogs or my kids. I became possessed, or obsessed, and gradually fazed out my psychotherapy practice.
I still keep my Marriage and Family Therapy license current and volunteer as a Mental Health professional with the American Red Cross. For the past few years I’ve been taking specialized training in trauma, post-traumatic stress, anxiety disorders and phobias.
But, my passion is writing.
Welcome. I’m glad you’ve stopped by and I hope you’ll keep in touch.