Tuesday, September 25, 2012
It's been a year since I have written. Well, I have been writing every day, it's been a year since I posted anything on this blog, so I thought I'd put up this photo of a little party we had at our house.
Happy Birthday Duke! May all your wildest dreams come true!
Monday, September 5, 2011
There is a fair that happens in Hermosa beach every year over labor day weekend. It involves a lot of crowds and arts and crafts, kiddie rides like slides and things that spin, pink puffy cotton candy, giant sausages with grilled onions wrapped in aluminum foil. There is even a beer garden where you can see a Journey cover band that has their very own groupies- not Journey groupies, but Journey cover band groupies.
To make the weekend's festivities more exciting for me, I went down on the Thursday before to add a bit of my own happiness, my own FUNism to the masses. My mission was simple: on either side of the strand entrance, I would put a message of joy and happiness for the fair people to read, to give them a smile, to help them think happy thoughts.
I share my fluffy thoughts with crayola chalk, the stuff kids use to play hopscotch and draw daisy's and dinosaurs on their driveways. Harmless. Good clean fun. Yet somehow, every time I go out with my chalk, I get people telling me that what I am doing is wrong. They just mumble it as they walk by. No one ever tries to actually confront me or discuss my motives or rights to my face, they just mumble words like grafitti and vandalism as they pass me by. These same people would never consider asking a person to pick up garbage they saw some litterbug throw on the street or pick up a cigarette that was tossed out a car window. I wish these closet vigilantes would ask someone to scrape up gum they just spat out their mouth onto the street or sidewalk and leave me and my chalk alone.
Somehow, because I am on my knees and coloring with chalk, I look like the person they should stop, a criminal easy enough to apprehend. Until the police come and put the cuffs on my wrists all I have to say is "Hell no I won't go!" The world needs a few less Starbucks cups laying around next to the McDonald's burger wrappers and a few more chalk daisys and stick people. One more message from the grave of Dr. Seuss saying "Fun is Good" in crayola chalk isn't going to hurt anyone. Sometimes I just have the need to ask the world to smile with me, to say hello! Occasionally I go back later and observe, and most people do get a smile out of it. My soul begs me to share my art. My O.C. D. demands that I bring along handiwipes to keep the dust on my hands to a minimum.
But, this Thursday was different. This time a brave man came right up to me and started a dialog.
As I started to chalk on the strand wall, a restaurant owner came up and asked me what I was doing.
I explained I was playing with chalk.
"Why?" he asks.
"Because it makes me happy" was my reply as I smiled up at him. "Because it's FUN".
"Does it wash off?" he wants to know.
"Of course, it will fade within just a few days, its just sidewalk chalk, like children play with, haven’t you ever played with sidewalk chalk? I ask.
"NO" He says, almost offended that I would assume he could do such a thing.
"Well then, that's our problem!" I declare, as I offer him a piece of beautiful deep blue chalk. "Here-try it."
"NO!" he says loudly and recoils.
"Why?" I ask him.
"I am afraid" he replies.
"You are afraid of chalk?" I ask.
He starts to back away from me as he says in his best grown up voice; "Don't you need a permit to do this? This is city property!"
I smile at him sweetly and reply "I don't need a permit to play with chalk and if this is city property, then it belongs to me." I continued with my message of JOY and left him with his fear of it. He walked back into his restaurant and was left with this message when I walked away.
If you see someone without a smile
Give them one of yours.
More Funism here: The Fun Zone; The Center for the Study of Funism
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I discussed the modeling with my Mom and she was against it. She couldn’t imagine why I would even consider stand nude in front of a bunch of strangers and have them draw or sculpt me. She was a very modest woman and I suppose women from her generation had different thoughts about nudity than I did. She made it very clear she was against it. Michael took life-drawing classes in college and explained to me that the artist/model relationship is one of the oldest and most celebrated in history. Michael told me that usually the artist models were older and chubbier and that the class would be so grateful to have me.
"But I thought you said it didn’t matter what I looked like, they just needed a body to draw!"
"Yes, but drawings and sculptures of beautiful young women sell much better than drawings of old saggy gals." He replied.
I had never paid attention to or truly understood the meaning of the word "Muse" until Michael explained it to me. I thought that being a Muse would be a wonderful thing.
I felt like that cartoon where there is an angel on one side and the devil on the other. I knew that both Michael and my Mom thought they were the angels in their opinion, I couldn’t tell the difference. I decided to give it a try and called Mr. Suzuki, the art instructor at the local community college. I told him my friend Christine referred me but I had never modeled in an art class before. I had never even been in an art class before! He told me he had an opening next week and I took the job.
Any doubt I had about this job being based on appearances disappeared as soon as I got off the phone. After all, he didn’t ask me for any physical description. Christine’s good name in the artist model community was enough of a reference for Mr. Suzuki to presume I would be reliable. The modeling job happened to fall on a date when my Mom was going to be out of town.
When I told Michael that I booked a job, he continued to be supportive and was genuinely excited for the class and me. He gave me a blow-by-blow explanation of what I could expect. Before the date of the job, he gave me all the tools of my new trade- a timer with a bell that is not too annoying, a robe, and a beautiful tapestry to spread out below me.
I was terrified and filled with apprehension the morning of the job. I took a long shower, shaving twice to make sure I not miss a single spot. How do you prepare to stand naked in front of people? Do you wear makeup? Do you style your hair? I tried to reassure myself that no one cared how I looked, and they were going to pay me $10.00 an hour -cash, to stand around and do nothing- which was probably double what minimum wage was back then.
Parking at the community college brought back memories, the last time I had been there I was fresh out of high school taking a writing class. Here I was, 4 years later, still writing all the time but coming to college to take my clothes off for strangers instead. It didn’t dawn on me until I was walking through campus towards the art building that I could very well be modeling in front of people I went to high school with. Too late to turn back now, I made a commitment and the entire class was counting on someone- me- to be there to draw.
Mr. Suzuki the instructor was an older man who seemed just a little creepy to me and had a lazy eye, which did not help my opinion of him. How could he possibly be a real art teacher if he has this wandering eye? As we walked from his classroom to the administration building to fill out paperwork, he explained to me how the 3-hour class was going to work. He’d like me to start off with several 3-minute "gesture poses"- just simple movements for the students to quickly sketch as they warm up. Then I would do two 15-minute standing poses and then the class and I would take a 10-minute break. When we returned from the break, I was to select a simple pose that I could hold for the rest of the class- about 2 hours; of course I would be taking 5-minute breaks every 15 minutes for the remainder of the class.
When we got back to the classroom, it had filled with students. They were busy getting their easels set up, breaking out their cool toolboxes full of art supplies. I had always wanted to be an artist, but had been told early on that I couldn’t, because I didn’t know how to draw. I was happy to be in an art class, even if I was just going to be standing naked in front of all the "real artists". Mr. Suzuki led me to a dressing room, and told me to come out when I was ready.
I took off my clothes and put on my robe, feeling foolish to wear anything at all when everyone knew I was naked, and there with the sole purpose of being be naked in front of them. I ran over the order of events as Michael told me they would unfold; I walk out in my robe, I lay my tapestry down on the floor in the center of all the artists. I slide my robe off and toss it far enough away that it doesn’t block anyone’s view of my feet, but close enough to know it is nearby. I stand as still as I can until it’s time to change position.
I walked out of the dressing room and Mr. Suzuki was waiting for me. He led me toward the class and told me to stand on the round pedestal that was in the center of the students. I lay my tapestry down and stepped up and was surprised to discover that this little stage was on wheels and moved just a bit. I slipped off my robe and dropped it to the floor beside the round rolling stage. I didn’t know how to pose, in fact my mind went completely blank and I couldn’t recall a single pose I had practiced during the week before. I simply stood there and just put one hand on my hip and let the other one hang at my side. As the students picked up their pencils and began to draw, the classroom door was thrust open and two police officers yelled,
"You are going to have to leave the classroom immediately."
That’s when I knew that modeling for art classes was all bullshit, Mr. Suzuki was obviously a criminal and the police had just saved me from being assaulted by all these artist freaks.
The students started to walk towards the back door and I grabbed my robe and headed in the opposite direction towards the dressing room. "Miss- you need to leave the building immediately!" the officer demanded.
"But my clothes are in the dressing room" I was totally confused.
"There’s been a bomb threat and this entire building needs to be evacuated immediately," he said, blocking the path to my clothes. Wearing nothing but my robe, I walked outside with the rest of the class.
Bumming a cigarette from a student I said "Boy this sure isn’t what I expected for my first modeling job".
"You mean this is the first time you ever modeled for Mr. Suzuki? I didn’t think I’ve seen you before." The student said.
"No, I mean this is the first time I have ever modeled in my life."
"No way! Oh my God! How crazy!" Other students began to join in the conversation; the situation was so strange, so surreal. I don’t know that there has ever been a bomb threat before or since that day at that college. Guess it was just my luck it happened during my first 3 minutes of modeling nude for the first time.
At first it was a bit strange to be talking to students who had just seen me standing naked in front of them, and I felt very exposed wearing nothing but my robe. By the time I had finished the cigarette, I felt at ease and actually learned a lot from the artists that I wouldn’t have known until I had a lot more experience. I wouldn’t have known unless I had been an art student myself. I learned that drawing hands and feet are the hardest and so poses where they are slightly concealed are often appreciated. I learned that for brief "gesture" sketches the more extreme the pose- with limbs heading in different directions, the better. I learned that even though they liked my long hair, they wanted it up so they could draw the lines of my neck. I learned that most of the people in the class were there because they really loved art, and wanted to master the challenge of drawing a live model. If they just wanted to look at naked women, they would have bought a magazine. If they had needed an easy art credit, they would have taken ceramics.
Once back inside, I felt better knowing the class was aware of my inexperience. We had all just survived a bomb threat together and we were now all on the same team. As I disrobed and struck a pose, I let my eyes wander around the room as much as I could without moving my head. Afraid to make eye contact with the artists, I noticed the art on the walls first; there were just as many drawings of men as there were women. I noticed what Michael had told me was true, that most of the people in the drawings were much older than me, perhaps in their 30’s or 40’s and they had a lot more flesh- hips, bellies, breasts. I had a very athletic and muscular build.
As I struck my next pose, I let my eyes wander to the artists and was surprised to discover that they were completely unaware of me looking at them. They were busy looking at their papers, then squinting and straining to look at my arms, my wrists, my hands. What I noticed was that even though I was completely naked in front of them, they spent much more time staring at the parts of me that you would see in every day life, very little time drawing my breasts which have much less detail then say, my feet. I realized that the way they looked at me was very clinical and that I had felt much more appraised when being looked over at a bar.
The two 15 minute poses taught me that it is physically challenging to stay still for any long period of time. Modeling was hard and I was earning every penny. For the final pose of the last hour of the class, I chose to sit, and even though I was young and in great physical condition my muscles ached. It was a test of endurance to stay still for the last painful minutes before my timer went off and I could go outside and have a cigarette. I stretched outside and moved my body into any position besides the one I had to go back to for the next 15 minutes.
When I walked back in, I noticed one of the artists’ drawings. Then I walked to the next easel, and the next. Each drawing of me was the same, but different. They were the same in as much as they were drawings of a 21-year-old girl with her hair in a bun, sitting in a chair. They were different because each artist had their own flair, their own interpretation, their own issues wrapped up in their art. There was a chubby woman that had drawn me heavier, there was a young man who drew me with larger breasts. As I looked around at 25 different drawings of me, there were 25 different ideas of who I was and that had much more to do with who was drawing me than anything.
I got back up on my rolling pedestal and thought about the difference between the artists and me. No one could tell what I was thinking while I was sitting there but I could look around the room and tell by the artists expressions whether they were happy with their drawing or not. Their art was also under their scrutiny as well as that of their peers and their instructor. I was not being critiqued at all, in fact, as long as I stayed still, I may as well have been a bowl of fruit for them to draw. It dawned on me that even though I was nude, it was the artists that were naked. They were the ones who were exposed. I was simply unclothed.
At my next break, I didn’t run out to have a cigarette, but spent my time walking around the room and looking at the drawings again. This time I noticed that even though I looked different in each drawing, I looked beautiful. It didn’t matter if my hips were a bit wider or my arms a bit more muscular. My body was proportionate and feminine and beautiful in each drawing. Looking at a 360° view of myself by way of 25 different versions was a lot different than seeing myself in a mirror. I got to see myself through other’s eyes and it was a lot less critical. I was a body; a beautiful miracle like a flower. I was a muse! Even better-- I was ART!
I continued to model for several years. As my experience grew, so did the types of jobs offered. I loved working at "Life drawing marathons" all day drawing classes where the students got to choose what room they wanted to go into- 15 minute poses all day, half hour poses, 2 hour poses. I would choose to work in the room that had the all day pose. I would set up pillows and blankets and try to find a position I thought I could stay in for 8 hours (with breaks, of course). Before I moved my body for my first break, I would have the teacher trace the outline of my body with chalk, to help make sure that I would return to the exact same pose after my break. It was always funny to get up and walk away from my cushy stage of pillows and see a chalk line of my body on the stage- as if I had just been murdered. I would often fall to sleep in these classes and my timer bell would wake me up and tell me to move around and take a break. The students began to ask me (on the side without the teacher knowing) if I could set my timer for a little more often, the students needed a break more often than I did. I loved getting paid to sleep on the job, and I loved getting to see the art people created.
Sometimes I would book a job as a model for a sculpture class and I would have to hold the same pose throughout the entire day and go back to the same class and pose several days a week for months. This job security made modeling for sculpture classes ideal for me. I also loved that eventually everyone in the room had a clay voodoo doll of me and the artists were all putting their best creative, successful energy into them.
I began to think a lot about this voodoo idea while standing there, I imagined myself more as an ancient Goddess rather than a muse. I focused on the positive energy being put into me; my body and spirit and I did my best imagine the artist’s hands actually massaging me rather than bending and pressing the clay. As my back hurt from standing in one position, I would watch one of the artists scraping clay from the back of the little statue and I would imagine them scraping the pain away.
At some point I felt a horrible pain in my neck, this pain was impossible to ignore. As I reached up to my neck and apologized for breaking my pose, I looked around and saw that one of the sculptors had just pulled the armature out of his piece, he had pulled it straight out of my neck. I looked at him with shock, like "Why did you do that to me?" and he looked back at me surprised at what he had done and said out loud "Sorry". The entire class stood silent for just a second in reverence for our power.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Here is a video of the boys jamming out down by the river.
What a beautiful day, what a beautiful life indeed
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Today I felt deep concern for a stranger, then overwhelming sadness and loss followed by such joy and hope and levity- in the course of perhaps 25 seconds. It was an entire day of emotions squashed and intensified like the rest of L.A. living.
My morning started with breakfast with my Dad. We ate at a fairly well known place called Joes which is a family style restaurant- that means that we share a bench with other people who are having their own breakfast dates. Typical to all plans made in L.A. we had a date at 8am and so at 8:15 I had to use the cell phone to call to see where he was. "Oh I wish you would have called me" he said, "I had to move my cars- street sweeping" In L.A. cars take precedent over people. Parking tickets cost twice as much as breakfast dates so that just makes sense in numbers. I told my Dad I would wait and sat at that bench alone for 15 minutes. The waitress got my coffee order, but other than that, I had no human contact. There were people sitting next to me, on the same blue vinyl padded bench, an arms length away, I could smell their food and hear them chew, but we didn’t talk. It’s like we were all still in out cars.
When my dad showed up we were engages in conversation, and I wasn't really aware of anyone around us. Towards the end of our meal, I dropped my purse on the ground and had to bend over to pick up my pen and wallet. I was at the very end of the bench, next to a window, my head below the table to retrieve my belongings. As I pulled myself and my purse back up above the table, a woman walked past the 8 other people sitting on the bench, slid a piece of paper onto my table top and walked away quickly. It was as if we were in Jr. High and she was passing a note, except that when I grabbed what she had left behind, it was simply a sticker sheet with all but 3 stickers missing. (2 of the stickers were Disney witches, and one a Disney warlock, but I am not even going to try to read into that). "Do you know her?" My dad asks. I look at the back of this lady’s head as she rushes out of the restaurant. "I can’t say I have ever seen her before in my life. Perhaps she thought I dropped this out of my purse? " I suggested. "She came over from the other side of the restaurant" My dad explained. I try to re-create the vague image I have of her in my mind- well-dressed, short hair- dyed a bright orange color that is obviously not natural but still socially acceptable in a work environment. "I have no idea who that woman is, or why she would leave this with me" I replied. My dad became frustrated, almost angry. "What the hell was that about? He demands, "Go ask her!" "Dad, I’m not going to chase her, I don’t really care. It doesn’t make any sense to me." My Dad surprised me when he dropped the issue. Letting go is not a family trait, so I suppose we both made great strides in our acceptance of whatever may be will be.
I meet my friend at the mall at 10 am. I need to buy a dress for a fancy semi formal function and I am not prepared. I wear combat boots, tights, mini skirts. Everything I own is black. I don’t wear heels. I don't own "Country club casual" but I did like the idea of the chance to get a bit dressed up. I had tried shopping by myself the day before with zero results.
The entire time I am shopping for a posh party frock for this event, I am reminded of shopping with my Mom for my first ever real "Work party" when I was a manager in a restaurant at the age of 21. This particular restaurant we got to wear "costumes" dress up as kitschy waitresses from the 1950"s. I was having the same feelings shopping for the dress today as I did then; I want to look pretty, I want to look dressed up. But I want to look like ME! I don’t want to look like I am wearing my Mother’s clothes. When I show up at the place where people make more than me, and people are older and more established than me, I want to feel confident. I don’t want to feel under dressed or in loaner clothes – I want these folks to look at me and think- "She likes the way she looks." Maybe they would never tattoo their arms and dye their hair pink, but I look beautiful and comfortable and my outfit is congruent with me. I want to feel like Maria in West Side Story when I get dressed for the party.
After trying all the stores that I know are cheaper, more practical, I finally go to the store I love, the store I can’t afford, and I find the dress. No I find TWO dresses that I love and would be pained to leave behind. They are so far out of my budget that I should have never even tried them on. For some reason, the sales person in there was helpful and nice, in spite of my budget clothes I arrive in. She smiled, she helped, and she earned her commission. I suppose these days it shouldn't be important to be these days that the sales competent at her job, in addition to taking my money but it is.
I left my friend and went home to see the dog, leave my 2 new pretty dresses and then go get the boy from school I was exhausted and ready for a nap, but had a long drive ahead of me. My Mom was still heavy on my mind, but I had pushed her into my subconscious. I was really just aware of the good times nothing sad or morose. I came to a stoplight that has a very dangerous crosswalk. There was an old woman crossing and something about her build, or her outfit or her pep in her step made me think that perhaps if my mom had lived longer she may have looked like that. I was concerned for her crossing the street and looked all around to make sure no cars were speeding towards her. I rarely do this anymore, but something compelled me to say out loud- "I love you Mom, I’ve been thinking a lot about you." I said it loud enough for the sound of my own voice to suddenly twist my face in pain and well tears in my eyes, but certainly quiet enough that my stereo and closed windows kept anyone else from hearing what I said. My deep sadness shocked me, my voice shocked me and I wiped the tears from my eyes as quickly as they came. The old woman crossed the street safely and I felt glad for her safety.
Then I felt someone from the car next to me looking at me. It was a young boy- maybe 23 or so, handsome and boyish and full of sparkle in his eyes. He looked right at my twisted face, smiled the most genuine smile as if we were old friends and waved to me in the most cheerful hello. My smile was sudden, involuntary, unexpected and welcome. I smiled and waved back and he seemed satisfied, gave me a nod and turned his head forward again, kind of bopping and dancing to the music in his car. How did he feel me? How did he know I needed a friend? An L.A. friend; only passing in his bubble while I’m in mine.
We are so connected as people, no matter how we surround ourselves in glass and metal and unshared thoughts and grief. He touched my heart with that smile and took my grief from me. He gave me hope. In him I saw myself as a carefree girl before my Mom died. I saw an image of my son a few years from now, with his whole life in front of him and his security around him. In the 50 seconds or less that I was at that crosswalk, I felt concern for a stranger, I felt deep sadness for the loss of someone most dear, I felt gratitude and joy. This was not insignificant. This was not just some moment in time that washes over you. This left a mark deep inside me that has changed me. This moment has given me gratitude. This moment gave me something more. That smile changed the course of my day.
I imagine logically that he must have looked over at me, saw my face filled with grief and he just thought he’d try to say "Hey". But no one says "Hey" in LA. and honestly I don’t think he was looking at me that long. He was watching to see that the old lady got across the street safely also. I think he felt me. I believe he felt my pain and reached right out of his bubble. No one ventures out of their bubble, not even if you are sitting alone next to them for 15 minutes in a restaurant.
I wonder again about the lady at breakfast with the stickers. Did she need a smile? Did I miss the cue I was supposed to see? Did she see me as the person who needed more than I was getting from my own little bubble at that moment? Did I not even know it?
So I gather my emotions, and do the best I can to act like a stable person, a responsible person who can handle the most daunting task of raising a 12-year-old boy. I pick him up and he is excited about his day, excited about the drive we need to take 20 miles away to Hollywood. We talk for a while about school, homework, substitute teachers, what he had for lunch. After a while, when our talk had slowed down and I was off the freeway and on surface streets in Los Angeles, I do what I often do and put on my wax lips. Similar to the feeling I used to get when I was a smoker and would absent-mindedly smoke an entire cigarette and then feel like I never had one; I often forget that I even have them in my mouth.
I had my lips on in the car for a while, and my son had his head down looking at the phone or the ipod or his hands or any of the things that keep tween-aged boys head in a constant downward position. At I stoplight I heard laughing. Next to me were two tough looking dudes, riding low and deep back in the seats of their dark Honda. They looked tough, but they were looking at me with smirks on their face and when I turned my head to look at them they started laughing. I pulled a spare pair of lips from the center console of my car. I rolled down the window and the guy closest to me says, "I was hoping you’d look at me! I tossed him the package of wax lips- "Wear these and make other people smile" I told him.
Their faces changed. These 27 year-old tough guys looked like they were 8 and it was Christmas morning. That man grabbed that package of lips and ripped them open like he just got a new X-box. He put them in his mouth and his eyes were so bright and smiling, he gave me his tough guy pose- head cocked back and flashed me the peace sign, and drove off. I wish I could have caught up with them again and got a photo. I thought of all the other people that would be driving by them and seeing the wax lips and laugh, and then possibly pass me and see me wearing mine.
I don’t know why I have such a desperate need to connect with strangers- to try to bring a brief moment of joy. I wear wax lips in public; I make chalk murals in the street. I leave tiny plastic mermaids in unsuspecting places for people to find like treasures. It’s not art, it a movement. It’s FUNISM. Fun as a religion. It's my way of trying to lure the people I meet in to trying to be nice to one another.
We are all here alone in our bubbles. Why does that have to be?
Why are we not waving and smiling when we see some old 40 year old crying in the car next to us? I am so thankful for that young boy's smile today, he changed my mood. Because of him my mood changed quickly and I was able to be a better mother. Because my mood changed I felt inspired to put on my wax lips and then I changed the mood of 2 men that looked like they would have never went out and bought wax lips on their own. Who knows how many people smiled when they saw them with the lips on? Why can’t we all have a little more silliness in our lives? Isn’t it silly to pass thousands of people every day and NEVER make eye contact? Is it any less silly to want to see people smile at you?
Thursday, May 5, 2011
My Mom had a class and grace I have never seen in another person, ever. I’ve seen actresses try to convey it on screen and they can’t even pretend that as well as my mom lived it. She could accept a compliment or give one in the most genuine way. Years ago I wanted to have this quality that she had but I’ve quit trying.
My Mom’s coffee cups had little feet on them, and delicate handles and rims that tipped slightly out at the top and the material was so thin you could sometimes see through it. She drank from the pot of weak coffee that she would brew in the morning all day long,
My Mom had amazing table manners and even tough she grew up very poor and underprivileged in Detroit, you would have guessed she dined with the Queen every night.
My Mom never complained or gossiped and kept all of her emotions and feelings inside. If I so much as stub a toe, I need to tell every person I meet every detail about it. My Mom was terminally ill with cancer, dealing with a mentally ill son and a fiscally irresponsible ex husband and had a pot-head daughter who occasionally modeled nude for art classes. All anyone knew about My Mom's world unraveling at the end of her life was that her office door was closed more often.
My Mom was an amazing woman; our relationship was often much less than amazing. We mainly didn’t get along, but luckily for me, the last few years of her life she and I made peace. When I think about where she came from- an absent racist, alcoholic father, a meek subservient mother living in poverty- I see that my Mom gave me so much more than she ever had. She gave me so much more than you could ever expect a person of that background would be capable of giving.
My mom rarely spoke of her past and the small amount of information I have I've collected from my grandparents and photos and the very rare fleeting references my mom would make. She never spoke about her heritage much but when she was older and preparing to die she started to mention our Chippewa Indian heritage and tried to help my Grandpa preserve his small percentage of reservation land.
My mom took me to Minnesota to see where I came from and meet other relatives of mine that share the same Chippewa bloodline. But some memory of that place hurt her. Some relative in that group had hurt her and the entire trip went bad in such a way I had never seen. Even then, in her anger/hatred/bitterness she was in such control that I never dare ask for specifics.
When she died and I saw her body she looked like an old wise Indian woman. I had to identify her body and it was difficult because it was as if I was seeing her for the first time. She was just a small, delicate woman, not the giant I knew. Having to identify her body helped me come to terms with the idea that she was only human, when so many of us viewed her as something much greater than that.