Friday, March 04, 2005

Jesters now and then

I had an unexpected drive to LA today. If you ever want to reconnect yourself with humanity, spend three hours stuck in five lanes of traffic in a thunderstorm. If you ever want to distance yourself from humanity, spend three hours stuck in five lanes of traffic in a thunderstorm. Miraculously it works either way.

I came home exhausted to find things upside down here and am in a dark mood. I think everyone is hiding from me. I don’t actually blame them. Nothing water and sleep won’t cure. In the meantime, I’ve decided tomorrow to start resurfacing the base of the Neil sculpture with jigsaw pieces and other elements of new work. Don’t panic, it will work. I’ll show you. I’ll do my best to get some photos up tomorrow night.

I won’t get around to answering questions tonight, but I’d already written most of the account of where the jesters came from, so will add that. I actually did write about it in Strange Attraction. It was just too weird for anything else. But five more years have passed, and the distance has allowed me to come up with serviceable theories, reasonable explanations the Lisa can live with, mostly. I’m going with fever dreams.

Anyway, here’s the straightforward version:
I found out about the jesters when my father died, though it didn’t begin there. I’d been sculpting for several years. Though I hadn’t even dreamed of the carnival pieces, I had started a small business called Jester Imagination (just her imagination), from the top floor of the towering old house we had in Georgia. My sister, who is thirteen years older, and I were cleaning Dad’s house in South Carolina getting it ready to close. We were packing up his clothes and dishes between tears and laughing and pots of coffee, when we came across a dusty train case full of old photographs.
Naturally we sat down on the floor and started digging through them. There were sepias of dour looking people in sensible clothes. There were birthday cakes and kids on new bikes and ugly prom dresses. I came across a small bundle of black and white pictures rolled in a rubber band. They were all of me, as a child, sitting on my bed surrounded by cards and fuzzy cats on pillows, teddy bears, chocolates and coloring books. I was thin and my pajamas hung on my shoulders and my hair was stringy. I looked like a ghost.
In one photo, I had a puppet on my hand, with a painted white harlequin face and pointed hat.
I uncurled the photos as best I could and handed them to my sister.
“What’s this? Do you remember these?” I asked her.
She stared at them for a moment and said in the tiniest voice, “I do.”
Then she told me a story about an awful night when I was six, when my bronchitis had become pneumonia and she and my mother slept on chairs by my bed. She told me the jester puppet came from the hospital. Volunteer ladies sewed them for the kids on the ward. I wouldn’t let go of mine, even when my fever went so high they decided to put me into an ice bath. She remembered that the staff cut off my pajamas with scissors around the IV’s and the puppet.
She remembered that I held the puppet to my face and didn’t let it go, no matter what happened. And, apparently things happened.
It was a very long night, she told me. She remembered mostly, the screaming.
I told her I thought, maybe, I remembered the scissors.
We didn’t talk about it again.



Carl V. Anderson said...

Wow! That could account for the prominence that Jesters play in your work. Thankfully your sister remembered or that portion of your life may have remained an important but forgotten piece of who you are. Thank you for sharing that!

Miss Bliss said...

I think the fever dreams we have as children leave those sorts of lasting impressions...imprints...images that our brains form around and integrate only to seem to come out of "no where" later.

Thanks for sharing that story.

Issy said...

I lived in LA as a child. Storms in LA are so different than storms here in WI. Last time I was in LA 10-years ago we drove in to the city in the middle of a downpour.

I can see how Jigsaw pieces can work in your Neil sculpture. I can hardly wait to see the photos.

Thanks, for sharing your Jester story.

Anonymous said...

hey.....when i was 6 i got meningitis (not the kind that is supposed to kill you, that's what my mom told me anyway). i don't remember a whole lot. i've been told that before i went to the hospital that I didn't know my family, i was in the hospital for a week, i too was put into an ice bath (my temp was 106, i think). i don't remember any dreams. but i do remember that anything was "wrong" with me (too skinny, absent minded, etc) I blamed on being sick at one time. i guess in that was way i a bit of a freak in the neighborhood (it didn't help to have my parents, as my parents) because i was taken away in an amublance one night.........bridget