Monday, November 21, 2011

Virginia Bird

According to my mother I get my ability to read and write, really read and write, from her mother and her mother before her.  As a little girl I uncovered snippets of information about this long-lost lady of my past, Nana.  The color blue.  Roses.  The most beautiful name:  Virginia Bird.  Dancing in nightgowns.  A love of ellipses.  Colts.  A twin sister.  Homemade bread.  The color of winter wheat.  Bright lipstick.  Bolivia.  Lymphoma.  And impossibly tiny cursive handwriting.  I put away her descriptive legacy for a rainy day, and remained oblivious.  It rained this weekend and I stretched and dragged it out again and began the months long process.  I pored over those crisp and gracious letters and transcribed until my back and neck shouted complaints, but oh, what a story I found:

She finished college with six children in tow.  She spent a night in a truck bed on a ferry floating the Amazon river.  She thought it beautiful, not inconvenient.  She was a world away when her mother died, and she knew.  She called my mother, her surprise, her seventh, Janie.  She wrote about my birth and held me even though it hurt.  She left not long after.  She was a Rodeo Queen.  She forgot her wedding dress and made everyone an hour late.  They honeymooned camping on horseback in Yellowstone.  She sang opera, beautifully.  She wrote letters to her stubborn sons in all caps.  She served on the school board.  She ran away to the library, twice, when she just couldn't stand her kids for one more minute.  Each time she returned bearing picture books.  She did cartwheels in a dress at age 58.  She was lovely.  She was lively.

And I know what I need to write now.

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