View from a Booth

Days flow into one another at the art show.  Hours pile on hours, and while it has been much busier at our new wonderful location, there are still some empty spaces in the flow of the day that allow for thoughts and contemplation thereof.  Old friends drop by, new friends are made, memories are resurrected, (the body remains buried, thankfully, except maybe for a little bit of the odor of decomposition that accompanies such things, and it passes), and this crazy life goes on.

We have found out that yes, we will stay here, and we are most pleased.  The patrons are pleased – it is a HappyFest.  Still and all, the days are long, and in the midst of our 12 hours on the floor, while waiting for a booth sitter to relieve me for a few minutes while I, uh, tend to relieving myself, I am reminded of a childhood memory that bore into my psyche.  It’s not a pleasant story – it has an “Ew-w-w-w-w-w factor,” and I don’t know why I am compelled to relate it here.  But maybe it’s a continual reminder of how things can be, and leads me to my own gratitude that the life I observed in that moment wasn’t my own.  Or, maybe, in some way it is – in the way that WE ARE ALL ONE – or as it is stated in the Native American way that We are all relatedMitakuye Oyasin.

I grew up mostly in Dallas – (sorry, everybody has to be from somewhere, and I got away as soon as I knew enough), and part of Dallas happens to be the State Fair of Texas, and part of the Fair is The Midway.  The Midway is the thrills and chills part of the deal – the rides, of course, and the tons of bad-for-you food, (and back then no one had a clue what was yet to come in the “everything that can be fried WILL be fried” department – I think they even have fried beer now.)  There is the open-mouthed amazement and uncomfortableness of seeing the “freak” show, and I hate to even call it that, but so was the vernacular, and the mindset (unenlightened as it was) of the 50’s.  It was cruel, I thought, even then, but likely there were few venues for the multi-armed or legged human beings to make any sort of living in those days other than the heartless displaying of themselves to the ignorant and curious public.  I found the whole thing very disturbing on many levels.

And then there are the games of chance.  That is, indeed, the rest of the seedy part of the whole affair, but many get caught up in trying to win those teddy bears in attempts to throw the rings around the bottles or toss coins on to a plate – almost impossible of course.  The carnies, those who had to stay there hour after hour hawking their games and wares before the end of the run, were held captive by the venue.  They couldn’t leave, and food and comforts were stolen moments, if they could come by them at all.  So here is my childhood memory, one that I’ve never gotten rid of, and a strange and powerful one it is.  I was with my mother and father, off to the side of all the action, having for those few moments become observers instead of participants.  I noticed a woman standing alone, away from the booths, a little back and behind them.  She had an odd stance, arms folded in front of her, as if trying to look like she was just idly standing there, but somehow not exactly right – her legs were too far apart.  She looked so strange and curiously out of sync to me, and then I, with childlike surprise and some amount of almost horror, figured out the rest of the story.  It was then I saw the stream of urine running down her legs and to the ground.  I’m sure I must’ve said something to my mother, never having quite experienced such a dose of real life, not so pretty, where it was supposed to be all fun and games.  It was easy to figure out that she got as far away from the booth prison as she could, but she couldn’t get far enough away to find a restroom – just that stolen moment away from her post to get her business taken care of before the next potential customers came along.  Decidedly NOT the thing I wanted to aspire to when I grew up.  That image has remained with me all these years, and the sadness of it, the pure pitifulness of it, hits me somewhere deep.

So ironically, there are moments when it gets busy here, when I’m dancing in my booth needing to offload the coffee or tea, and I have to stay here and smile or hope that a booth sitter gets by soon, or else I just have to bite the bullet and leave my booth unwomaned and head for the loo.  Such is the life of the artiste, but it’s sure not the life of that woman at the Midway.  I wonder what her life was like, and know she’s likely very dead by now.  And maybe she was a little bit dead even then.

But now comes a little more of a story about judgment.  Yesterday a man was wheeled by in his wheelchair, obviously brain damaged and, to my opinion, not the better off for being still with the living.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve made my choice in a living will to not be kept alive in a form that seems to be less than what I would accept for the living of this life.  My neighbor across the way made a special effort to approach him and his family, and engage them in conversation, something I thought somehow remarkable.  I asked him about it later, wondering what his connection might be.  I’d overheard some slight conversation about an accident.  And of course, my mouth being what it is, I offered up my opinion about thinking that sometimes survival in that form is not the better option.  Oh my, what I was about to find out next.  Turns out that my neighbor has an equally damaged son, injured as a mere infant, relegated to a life of quadriplegia, non-verbal, unable to eat or feed himself, all tubes and complications and lots of pain – and yet they are glad to have him, still, some many years after the accident.  He’s learned many lessons, he says, and has found out that he just DOESN’T KNOW what he doesn’t know.  He still welcomes his son’s presence in their lives, with all the pain and compromises that are involved.  And I find him the gentlest of souls, and such a kind and caring person.  I know that many families are destroyed in such events, and couples often go their own ways in the midst of such grief and challenges.  Not these two.  I stand amazed, and humbled, and not to mention embarrassed.  We’ve had a few more conversations since, and maybe I, too, am learning that I don’t always know what I think I do know, and my heart has been opened and expanded.  Who am I to judge, indeed?

And so comes on Christmas, with big feet now.  I get more tired every day, and grateful for the shorter show this year, and even in future years as my body surrenders bits and chunks of its stamina as the decades pass.  I find I’m surrendering a few other pertinent things, too – maybe a little bit of judgment.  My neighbor was fine with letting me have my own opinion about things, and undeniably generous in not coming at me from a hard place, which he had every right to do.  I wonder that I could be as strong and accepting in his position.  My friend Kathy would call it a God thing.  I’m not sure what I call it, but it’s fairly amazing, and I’d say representative of all that Christmas and Spirit is supposed to be about.

It’s so true that we’ve no idea what others deal with as they, as strangers or even friends, pass through or in front of our lives and eyes.  Now I watch these people as they wander past my booth – some young and fresh and untouched, (seemingly, who knows, really), some stooped and bent with age and infirmity, some a bit better or the worse for the wine or beer they’ve imbibed, some obviously well off, some obviously struggling as they buy a $3 magnet for a gift.  The scale is endless, and perhaps isn’t so much a linear scale of life as it is a circle, and it encompasses us all.  Kindness knows no  bounds.  Nor does cruelty of Fate.  Truly, we all ARE one, but we are blind to it, perhaps in self defense, as we cower in terror that we might have to play that hand that they were dealt, and we wonder if we remotely could.  We could be in that box under the bridge, wondering if we’ll survive the cold tonight.  We could be in that wheelchair.  We could be protecting and loving that soul in the wheelchair.  If reincarnation is the real thing, be prepared for anything – we’ll likely get it one way or two others.  Who knows?

In the spirit of all this as it swirls around me, I wish you all well.  I wish you health and joy.  And patience and gratitude.  And watch out for that judgment thing – it surely can bite you in the butt – or the brain – or the heart.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukka, Joyous Kwanzaa, whatever is your persuasion.  Mitakuye Oyasin, y’all.

Addendum:

In the interest of the truth that I purport to offer here, I have to add a bit to this story.  As it turns out, my wonderful show neighbor turns out not to be the father of the child that he loves and protects, but is the step-father.  He CHOSE to come into these lives, and take on those challenges that came with that territory.  I told him I thought he was all the more wonderful.  It was indeed true that the first relationship didn’t survive, but how the much more remarkable that a man of his caliber stepped up where the other faltered.  If this isn’t the stuff of real character and definitive heroes (not sports stars and movie characters), then I don’t know what is.  Makes me feel pretty good to know that this is real life, the stuff of superlatives and yet humility, and that they do, indeed walk among us – the good guys.  Sometimes I forget that, and what a beautiful gift I have received this Christmas.  Aho.

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4 Responses to “View from a Booth”

  1. Yep, a God thing. Not only your comment and your neighbor’s response but His opening your mind to another side of the coin. Love you Lex!

  2. mary margaret Says:

    Queenie…..
    The angel of perseverance sits on your shoulder. Lucky you!
    I’m hoping the show was great and this next year will be YOUR year!

    Enjoy the carnival rides in life and skip the freak shows……MM

    • queeniesays Says:

      Yeah, don’t I just? Have to be careful about that “Perseverance” thing though. Depends on what you’re persevering at – old Don Quixote didn’t do so well with those windmills. I’m better at choosing my windmills these days…. I hope!

      I dare say you are pretty well acquainted with that particular angel yourself. Not bad, not bad at all, my dear.

      Thank you for being my friend, still and now and always.

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