This is the young woman i met shortly after our family’s move to michigan in 1975 –as i entered my sophomore year of high school and, she, her senior one. together, we were in the Thespian Society; and in that winter’s first production, we were cast as mother and son –the wife and child of ralph waldo emerson– in a play about thoreau.
she was whip-smart and short on patience; and to tell the truth, she scared me more than a little. but along with her sister Paula, her presence upon my landscape nudged open a door through which i would pass and find my life utterly and forever changed…that unusual and sprawling family becoming, years later, my own.
no one is more surprised than i by the way our lives have expanded; by the way that our journeys have diverged and become entangled. like anyone, i can sometimes forget to see the flesh and blood/heart and mind behind the parade float that is her public persona. but then i will find myself across the kitchen table from her, sharing a martini, and be additionally shocked to recognize anew the compact, terse-yet-compassionate human at the switches.
i have told this tale before, but it bears repeating: when elvis presley died on this date in 1977, this upstart professed in real-time that she felt his spirit had passed out of his body and through her own in exodus.
i laughed at her then for such outrageous self-possession, at the arrogance that i assumed must allow her to declare such publicly.
today, when there is laughter, it is the laugh of recognition i hear –and it begins somewhere high above me, where things that once seemed implausible play with wild abandon and in broad daylight.
happy birthday, madonna louise veronica ciccone.
Joe Henry – Facebook