Moving Right Along
Once I realized that writing was what I really wanted to do, I added a second major to my schedule. I was half way through my college experience, and had pretty much completed my History major, but realized I also had half the credits for a major in English because of all the elective credits I had been taking during those semesters.
As I said earlier in this particular tangent of my story, it took me the normal seven years, for a non-traditional student, to get my “four-year” degree. I graduated with honors and the normal hoopla attendant at such occasions. Now, all that remained was the rest of my life.
During college, I had worked part-time through many semesters. I had been a Teacher’s assistant, and a research assistant, to two different History professors. As I have also mentioned, I did tutoring for at risk classes, and had worked as an intake person at a Women’s Shelter for three months.
Those were all paid positions and I had not gone looking for any of them. People had come looking for me, asking if I wanted the work and money. As I headed into my final year of Higher Education, I began to worry about the whole process of seeking work after school was finished. The whole “interview” process gave me the willies for any number of reasons, not the least of which being how to go on an interview in pants instead of a skirt.
But, that too, was taken out of my hands. In my final year, a friend who had dropped out of the University, bought into a new/used Bookstore and needed part-time help. She owned the “new” part of the enterprise. Shortly after I graduated, she left the bookstore, and the original owner asked me to become the General Manager, a wonderful euphemism for one and only employee/gofer.
My employer just happened to be an English Professor at the University I had been attending. I never took a class from him, but when asked if I’d take over the managing of the store, I said I would under certain conditions. The main one being that I retain control of all of the book ordering, in the New book section, and be allowed to create some specialized sections within that area. Things that I was interested in.
My employer was a book collector and his hobby had spilled over and become the bookstore. There was also a Music section, at the back of the store, owned and operated by an elderly gentleman who was self-taught, articulate, and a wonderful and intelligent conversationalist.
Although I managed the whole store, my main arena was the front counter, the book ordering service, and the sections I created based in my own area of interests: Writing, Women’s Issues, Psychology, especially abuse issues, Native American spirituality and writings, History, Mythology, Religion, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Philosophy, and a few others. I read half of those books, and at least skimmed and read sections from the other half.
I was in heaven. I loved learning, it was an integral and central drive within my personality. I could order and read and research to my heart’s content. And I did, slowly accumulating my own modest home library.
While in my final two years of college, I had met and befriended a young woman who was an incest survivor. When she needed a safe place, I invited her into my home to live with myself and my two teen-aged daughters. She graduated two years after I did and remained in my home for several years after that, working a full-time position and taking on and completing a course in paralegal studies.
Shortly after moving into my home, it became apparent that she had more than the ordinary victim’s issues. Unknown to her, she suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder, or DID (Dissociative Personality Disorder, as it is now defined). Although that story is far too entailed to go into here, we all worked hard to give her a sense of normalcy, and the Psychology section at the bookstore held a sub-section on Personality Disorders.
I was writing everyday, even submitting a few poems here and there. There was a long established, and well known, poetry group that met in the back of the store about once a month. I had talked to the Moderator of the group and had been invited to become a member on several occasions. But, I hesitated. My life was so full and many of these individuals were published poets. It was a critiquing group and although I held out for a while, eventually I joined and began participating.
The group occasionally did public readings and it was at one of them, in a near-by coffee shop, that I stood up and read aloud for the first time. My hands were shaking so violently that I couldn’t always see the words of the three poems I read. When I was finished, I walked back to my seat, and had never been so glad to sit down in my life.
A young blond-haired woman squatted down next to where I was sitting, looked up at me and said, “I loved your poem about your daughter as a rag-doll and later, how she spoke to you from behind her closed bedroom door in such colorful language. I’m a grade-school teacher, and I was wondering if you have a book of poems I could buy, or a least a copy of that poem I could purchase from you?”
I had done such a poor job of reading that it took me a while to fully grasp what she was asking of me. I slid my copy of the poem out of the folder on my lap and handed it to her. She asked me how much, and I just looked at her and said, “It’s okay, I have another copy at home. Take it.” She thanked me and left. When I later got home, the first thing I said to my daughters and our roommate was, “Your not going to believe this, but I think I have my first fan.”
I had submitted that other poem to Paper Mache Press a year earlier. It had been totally forgotten in the rush of a busy and involved life. A few weeks later, I came home exhausted to find our now established renter, sitting on the couch and smiling a rather strange and mysterious smile. She said, “There’s a message on the phone for you, and I think you’ll really want to listen to it.”
(to be continued…)