Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bart and Clara

When I was five my family moved into a new house on the hill behind town. It was not a move to the classy part of town. I am not certain that this town had a classy part, at least not then. It was a move out of town, to a country road with a large yard where my mother could garden and I could have a pony. I think it was supposed to be a new start for my parents.

They still divorced when I was seven, and the pony was mean and threw me more than once. But my mother had her garden, and eventually my sister got a small fat horse. On warm days I would take a book out to the pasture and climb on the horse. I crossed my feet over the back of her neck, lay on her back and propped the book just above the tail. It was a great place to relax. A warm, soft place that moved in and out of the shade at very satisfactory intervals.

I don't know just when, but at some point, before the divorce, a couple just showed up on our doorstep. The Vietnam war was on, not that I was noticing, and the college was busting at the seams. The dorms were full and there were no apartments to be had. Students were living out of VW busses. Bart and Clara had been driving around trying to find a place to live and they noticed the little house at the back of our pasture. Could they rent it? My family explained that there was a only cold running water: no toilet, no shower, no electricity. Bart and Clara explained that there was nowhere to live, and they did not mind the lack of modern conveniences.

They ran an extension cord from the pump house next door to run a hot plate, and moved in. My parents felt they could not charge rent, so Bart mowed our lawn and they both babysat me and my sister on a regular basis. For my birthday Clara taught me how to crochet.

I loved their house. It smelled of incense and was full of candles, and on cold foggy days nothing was better than sitting near the wood burning stove (was that there before they came?) and looking at all the little trinkets and things on their tables. Sometimes I brought yarn down and crocheted doll dresses and scarves. I don't think I was aware at the time that I loved them in part because they were safe and kind and gentle during a time when my parents' marriage was falling apart and my father's alcoholism made him unpredictable, unsafe, and mean. I just knew that their house was the most wonderful place in the world.

One day they told me they were leaving. They were moving to Canada. They told me there was a war on and the government said that Bart had to go, but he wouldn't. Bart and Clara thought that the war was wrong and he would not go. That was the day that the war became a real thing for me. It was a tragedy because it was making Bart and Clara move away.

This is probably the only picture I will ever post with me in it. I'm the one hiding in Bart's big quilt/cloak. The other girl is my little sister. We are in our living room.

I have been thinking about them because I have been noticing that other members of the family are having a different reaction to the latest version of Pi. He tells us, somewhat jokingly, that he knows he is more of a hippie every time he shows up. Hubby and Andrew wonder how much stranger he is going to get. Pi does not look like Bart at all. But there is a very similar sensibility. They both wear recycled and home made clothes, although Pi prefers clothes that show off his tush. Pi is much more religious. But there is something at the core that is exactly the same.

The other members of the family look at Pi and wonder how much odder he will get. I see him and feel a warm safe feeling from my childhood.

By the way, Bart and Clara are their real names. If any of you know them, they would of course be in their fifties by now, please send them a note about this blog. I don't have expectations...but wouldn't it be lovely?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, what memories this brings back. I knew many Barts and Claras.


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