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Formative experiences

Dear friends and readers,

I've been thinking about my and the Admiral's political outlook and how it differs from our daughters'; more, how it differs from many people I know. Here and there I see an eye which recognizes or sees what I or he does. I do assert that the Admiral and I share an outlook quite coterminously: it may be seen in our instinctive (out of experience too) reactions to images on walls; we like and dislike the same paintings, drawings, houses.

I wondered if the one I thought his was the one that mattered. I thought so but wasn't sure. When I asked yesterday, he smiled and said oh yes.

Southampton, England.  1961. He was about 13, in grammar school, a so-called public school, one of these schools that offered fully academic programs for boys that passed the 11+ plus rich boys who boarded.  It was pouring rain, cold, dank, one of these raw English days that go through your bones. He and his classmates were all dressed up in their best school uniforms.  Lord Hailsham, secretary of education (aka Quintin Hogg) was due to come to the school or some such thing.  The whole school was hauled out; every one was to stand to attention, alert, and salute, as this luxurious Rolls Royce glided by. They stood there for well over a half hour waiting.

Drenched. And then back.

He never forgot it. It was among the first experiences of his that he told me about the first week we met and lived together in my flat in Leeds. He told me how he hated that school. Caned three times, once subordination, once for smoking in that school uniform, and once for making his f's perversely.

Bronx, New York.  1955.  Mine:  I was 9.  I had had a hemmorhage, bled like a pig, due to an tonsilectomy and removal of my adenoids by a doctor my father thought looked like a butcher the moment my father laid eyes on him.  I woke in the night in a wet bed, laid there for a while and then maybe called to my parents.  I was rushed to a nearby hospital. As I was taken in I saw in the eyes of everyone I would have to be "put under" using ether. How I hated that from the operation. Nausea.  Well I ran for my life, up the stairs.

I still remember how I knew it was useless. Running running. Down the hall.  They were so much bigger than me. They caught me, held me down and forced this cup over my face. Sickening smell, stars, headachy feel.

I woke to see my father by my bed asking the people to let me stay the night. Nope. Why not, I was so frail and he was afraid the bleeding would start again. Oh no, said they, cannot be.  I can't stay because we have no insurance. No insurance card. My father offered if they would wait until morning, 8:30 am when the banks opened he'd go and get $200 cash, whatever they wanted.

Nope. They offered to get us a cab. All heart.

I remember being carried by my father out to that cab and then it goes blank.

I never forgot it. It's an intense memory to this day.  My mother had nagged my father into that life-threatening ordeal.  There was no need. That morning I was operated on I was put in a room with rows of other helpless children of foolish lower middle class parents. Gold star on their medical records. She'd manage it again. Two teeth pulled and 3 months with braces at exhorbitant rates. Somehow my father broke free and when the guy was procrastinating 3 months and charging us with no braces on (a rest period we were told), he demanded the guy remove the braces in a high scene -- it's so hard to go against the God-doctor -- and we left.

The surroundings in which both of us grew up. He a long narrow attached house, three small bedrooms in a row upstairs (all unheated), downstairs a railroad arrangement of front room (TV, fireplace), dining room (where the Admiral sat listening to radio) and kitchen area, in the back of which was an indoor loo (there since the Admiral's mother inherited enough to pay half as the UK gov't met the other half).

Me the Bronx, circa early 1950s. South East, Charlotte Street, over a bar. My mother pinning clothes to a line that was hung between our apartment house window and another apartment house window on the other side of the street. People i the streets poor, mad, hurrying about their business but for the young.

Last night I watched a tape of Martin Luther King, the night before he was killed. He had come to Memphis to help organization black sanitation workers. I wondered what his formative experience.  "I'm not fearing any man tonight ... he cries half hysterical .

Sexual outlook is another set of experiences.  I have found I can't tell mine here though I've tried and tried. It's too painful and probably will arouse very different sets of feelings from identification among many -- not that identification may be the response to the above, but I can tell them. I did find analogies when I was in my 50s (for the first time!) in Mary Piper's Reviving Ophelia; the first book to arouse them but not clearly so as to understand them and profit from the understanding, Richardson's Clarissa (age 18).

Sylvia

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