Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tale Spin

I suppose that since man first evolved into a multi-celled organism and crawled out of the primordial slime, we have always loved stories.  Myths, legends, histories define us as a culture, and tell us who we are.  They are vital because they embody the mystical powers of mankind.  There is a magnetic pull to a well-told story.  It’s a kind of magic.

Every family should have at least one griot, one sage to relate the oral histories and tell the stories of the people that populate the Tribe. 

If it is true that your past forms you, I can see why Brodi became the designated storyteller.  She has always loved books, and began reading at the age of three.  Mythology was a particular favorite.  And every night, Dennis read to the girls.

It’s also true that all writing is, to some extent, autobiographical.  Nothing goes to waste.  All Brodi’s values, beliefs, experiences, memories, old wounds, and associations become the stuff of stories. 
I, too, love well-told tales.  Some of my favorites are those with tight plots that raise the hair on the arms or send a prickling sensation at the back of the neck, like the Weird Sisters in “Macbeth.”  Of course, less skilled stories, like vulgar reality shows, become mired in pointless notoriety.  Good stories don’t just fill the void.  They inspire us as a culture and as individuals.  Writing is an art. 

Brodi’s saga has magic.

Her book launch is next week.  It is the third and final installment of her “Everneath” trilogy, and it is quite a ride!  Brodi has a gift.  She is a spinner of yarns.  A fabulist.  A story-teller.  Now I’m not saying that just because I’m her mother.  On the contrary.  As her mother, I tend to give more desiccating critiques than had we not been umbilically bound. I don’t really know the source of her talent. Perhaps the explanation is simply that she is a collection of recessive genes.  Who knows?

It’s not easy being a mother under any circumstances.  Most of us are profoundly myopic.  I, in particular.  My emotions can fluctuate from solar flare to polar vortex in a twinkling. There have even been occasions when I have channeled my inner Nosferatu.  I guess it goes with the territory.  Sometimes motherhood is the ultimate blood sport.

And watching one’s daughter on the night of her book launch can be a real bowel scourer.  At moments I just sit there, toad-eyed.  At other times, I seem to have 10,000 hexagonal lenses, all in permanent winces.

Not so with Dennis.  He was always amused and delighted by her charming state of dishevelment.  Now, it isn’t that he thought our daughters could do no wrong.  Quite the opposite.  Experience taught us that if there was mischief afoot, our daughters were not only involved…they were the instigators…a mind-blowing combination of match and gunpowder. 

Talk about gluts and deficits.  There were times when a day without police or lawyers at our door was a good day.  Our girls were fueled by energy and felonious ingenuity.  They didn’t just run…they rampaged.  And there were stages when every request, rule, requirement was met with resistance.

No, Dennis never thought his daughters were perfect, but if they could get him laughing, which was not difficult, they could turn his delight to their advantage.  His forbearance for the specifics of each girl always had a sedative effect on me, and calmed the constantly shifting topography of my mind.

Being a father is different than being a mother. I guess it’s the laws of nature, but I think motherhood is the ultimate impossibility.                 

I have an amalgam of favorite female literary characters, who, though fictional, are riveting exemplars of what women are capable of.  Antigone, the daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta, Odysseus’ wife, the faithful and resourceful Penelope, Hotspur’s warrior-hearted spouse, Lady Percy, and Grendal’s protective and vengeful mother from Beowulf, just to name a few.  These women are spirited, flawed, nuanced and powerful.  Not exactly the stuff of “Fascinating Womanhood!” Good characters alter you.

Brodi’s main character, Nikki Beckett, is high voltage.  She is passionate, willful, impulsive, feckless (without feck), well-intentioned but often ill-advised, and should be saluted for her courage if not always her judgment.  Brodi sculpts Nikki with a combination of precise language, metaphor and a certain poetry that makes this creation flawed and authentic.  No empty rhetoric.  Nikki is a particular favorite.  She ranks among the notables.

In spite of Brodi’s efforts at invisibility, it doesn’t take a Rhodes’ Scholar to intuit the autobiographical elements.  Fictional writing is the ultimate reveal.  Brodi, like Nikki, would go to hell and back for those she loves…and has.

I guess in the end, each of us is greater than the sum of our parts.  That’s our salvation. 
I’ll be sitting on the front row Tuesday night, the sum of many parts…and two hearts…because daughter – Family – trumps everything.