Sunday, November 29, 2009

Adventures without Sarah Palin

Just thought you'd be interested in my near-brush with celebrity. It wasn't terribly near, but we did happen to be in Richland, Washington, for Thanksgiving, and our visit coincided with Sarah Palin's. There was Sarah Palin in the local paper, having pushed a stroller through the town's Turkey Trot (where some man got a good hug off her--I guess unsuccessful Vice-Presidential candidates do not get Secret Service agents to jujitsu any unwelcome admirers or would-be assassins). There was the much-anticipated book-signing appearance at Hastings (was this why the Richland Bookworm gently rejected my offer to hold a book-signing this weekend?). There was the neighboring restaurant's reader board invitation: "Sarah Palin come on in for a free lunch."

For all that, I didn't catch a glimpse of her. But who we did glimpse this weekend will ever be, for Dudleys, far more exciting. My husband's great-aunt wrote a memoir and sent it to family members for Christmas, capturing in it my husband's grandmother. They really don't make 'em like they used to. This amazing woman raised six children during the Depression with little help and much harm from her no-account husband who eventually disappeared. The family survived, despite poverty, isolation, squalor, abuse.

On this trip we visited a site on the Tucannon River outside Dayton, Washington, where the family lived for several years--no plumbing, no electricity, no running water. We saw the tree which had sheltered a nest of baby birds long ago. The children spotted a snake winding its way up the trunk to attack and frantically called their mother to the rescue because, as daughter Donna remembers, "Mom always saved the day." She did not fail them this time. Sprinting over, hoe in hand, their mother hacked the snake to pieces. The birds were safe.

In contrast, we coddled suburbanites were not coming off so impressively.

Lucy: What are those big piles of black stuff?

Me:    Horse poop.

Lucy:  [pause] I don't want a horse anymore.

(Grandpa points at tree and tells snake/bird story. Also one about a scary flood and one about setting the field behind the outhouse on fire.)

Lucy:  Do ponies poop that much too?

Me:    Yes.

Lucy:  I don't want a pony either.

I had dreams of fictionalizing the Dudley travails at some point. I even started the thing. Look at Jeannette Walls with her THE GLASS CASTLE and HALF-BROKE HORSES. I think mine might come out more JOY-LUCK CLUB--tough older generation and weak younger generation. One day, one day.

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