Thursday, June 17, 2010
LIGHT OF MY LIFE. Irish girl. Five feet nothing. When she was young she had a head of red hair like a lion's mane. Born for combat and command. Think Boudica. Except Boudica lost in the end. Mrs. CP never did. She's more like an elven queen. Or this one:
From 4:15 to 5:00. Pretty perfect except for no business suits.
Including the horsemanship, the temper, and steel. Ask anyone.
But she is also a Jersey Girl. I feel like Tom Waits, hoarse and lost, singing her praises in that ultimate anthem to our state's womenfolk. I'm in love with a Jersey Girl. Sha la la la la la, I'm in love with a Jersey girl.
To understand Mrs. CP you have to understand both Ireland and New Jersey. And other things too, but I'll get to those later.
Nobody who's not from Jersey understands New Jersey. Mostly it's the best place to be from. Despite all the urban buildup. Neighborhoods are tumbled upon neighborhoods and there's a great jumbling that isn't really a melting pot but a mingling. Polish, Irish, Jewish, German, Black, Italian, Hungarian, and more. Yes, you can be born here with a primeval or celtic fire to rule, but for the same reason MacArthur never mounted a coup against the government, you have your rough edges softened by American life. Rows of quiet houses, little league games, diurnal duties and rituals, all of them quiet you into a focus that concentrates your rage to live into acceptable channels. So it was with Mrs. CP. She learned to be a secret barbarian, soft and friendly as necessary with family and friends, reserving her in-born competitiveness and dominion for business and, literally, horseplay.
The horses understood. She was the boss. When they got out of line she smacked them in the ass. Men, somewhat dumber, came to understand it too. When they got out of line she smacked them in the ass. With a look no one could ever mistake. She never chafed about the restrictions women faced in the corporate world, which were intensely real in her prime career years, but she also succeeded in attracting an upside-down royal court of her own. She was the mentor for men who very soon came to outrank her, but one stern word from her was enough to put them in their place. No, she wasn't their mother. (Galadriel subsides...) She was their better, the more so for the fact that she didn't care about titles or rank. She loved them, but only to the extent that they didn't fail her sense of how a man must respond to the temptations and challenges of responsibility. She always knew more about that than any of them.
When I think about Mrs. CP and the thing called feminism, I can only laugh. She is a force of nature. What all the drab, whining victims of patriarchy only wish they could be.
So one has to trace that look back to Ireland. She's traveled there twice. About the only time she ever left her beloved New Jersey. I asked her once -- because I've never been to Scotland -- if she felt at home in Ireland, as if she'd returned somehow to where she was from. "Yes," she said. "That's what it was like. I didn't expect it. But that's exactly how it was."
Which, I suppose, is the story of Mrs. CP and me. The Irish lass who hadn't been to Ireland when we met and the Scot who has yet to set foot in his ancestral homeland.
We connected right away. She was completely impossible, and so was I. Truculent celts who both knew everything worth knowing, although with a modicum of toleration we allowed a certain complementarity between her German/Russian/Math degree and my Greek/Latin/French/English/History degree. We liked a lot of the same things, food excepted, and disliked a lot of the same things, food excepted. She liked horses and dogs, I liked cars and dogs.
What did we like? Oh how we loved the English language, its majesty and poetry. We loved Fitzgerald and Yeats equally. We laughed at the same French movies, we exchanged insights about people we knew that cracked us both up. We were soulmates.
And then we separated for 20 years.
My fault. She had children and I felt I hadn't lived yet, not having the slightest idea what living consisted of. I, you see, was going to become a great writer, which meant that I had to be free. Or something.
So, when life had done to me what life does to the proud, I returned finally to the place of my birth and, on a dark night of the soul such as Fitzgerald describes, I called her. She was the one who remembered what the 'great writer' had forgotten, that soulmates are soulmates. I will never forget the moment when I saw her again, after all those years of travail and pain and loneliness. She looked at me with trust in her eyes. This tiny indomitable dynamo who outshone in a moment all the people I had met in decades of striving and ambition. I knew at once that I had finally come home.
And, you might ask, why would this queen not smite you in the ass like an errant horse and beat you into the weeds, and all I can say is that it's a celtic bond. She always knew who I was, how much I needed her, and she enfolded me in her arms like the clan we somehow both belong to.
There is no such thing as time. Why, I suppose, I continue to like the movie Highlander. I'm not French like MacLeod, but I have always been apart and alone. There's something magical about returning to the heather and the green hills and the stark rocks of your native soul. That's her. Together, we're our own land with our own rivers and hills and mists and weather. If she gets mad at me, it's a storm that threatens the very birds in the air. But mostly we move together, responding in the same way to the same winds and clouds and changing colors of the landscape that is built of us.
For me, till the end of time, she will always be this:
My return to the beauty of life.