Heading South

Happy Sunday, Friends, the end to what I hope has been a warm and loving Thanksgiving weekend.  Did you watch the parade? Stuff yourself silly with turkey and all things American bland and starchy? Nap on the couch? See Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?

Me, I watched over three days the Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.  I confess, I was looking forward to this. More than ten years ago when this series hit television, I missed it. Never heard of it. [I don’t think we even had cable then.] People talked about those girls, Emily, Lorelai and Rory. But I didn’t know them. Until the fall of 2014. And Raleigh.

I’m not sure when it started, but at some point in the late fall or early winter of 2015, I watched all seven seasons, back-to-back, sometimes in the dark, sometimes with pizza or wine. I watched and groaned at the saccharin, unbelievable “in-a-snow-globe” town and its inhabitants, and couldn’t help myself. I wanted more. I complained about the often drawn-out scenes, slow-as-molasses-plots, and yet couldn’t pull myself from the screen. In part, I was self-medicating, not unlike our protagonists’ doughnut, tater tots, Chinese takeout, ice cream and coffee binges, but not of the gastronomical type; no, I was binge watching to soothe my pains: my only son off to college, my husband’s and my move from my beloved home in NH to Raleigh, the loss of my friends, bike pals, and university position, in a new town and spending days entirely alone. The afternoon I drove my aging father to the airport after Thanksgiving, and my husband had driven away with Sam, taking him back to school, I buried my face in all their pillows, moving from one bedroom to the next, weeping, all the loss surfacing in the those used and warm bed clothes.

So, the girls kept me company through an intense transition. And when I finished, I thought, I could write a book about our girls, their fairyland, so much to teach us. Particularly, about why we need them, needed them, watched them and believed, and despite ourselves, wanted them to return. A lot of folks have written recently about how we need those girls more than ever since November 8th. I don’t know. Escape will be fleeting; the problems we live now in this country, real and lasting.

Today, I am headed out again. I will be away from our NH home for a month, visiting family and friends and working. I am not suffering. I am not in a desperate situation. I am extremely lucky to be a nearly 55-year-old woman granted time and space and financial support to pursue art. Last Friday, my son and I spent the evening with dear friends, two thirty-somethings I met as 18-year-old freshman at the University of NH where they landed in my classes. We got talking about work–because my boy is contemplating what he will do and why when he graduates in less than two years. Because my friends are now ten years out of college and marveling at their domestic lives, including a wonderful baby girl. At the risk of portraying my ignorance and naivete, I asked, can’t we all pursue work we want to do, dream of doing; that is, earn a living doing something that matters to us and others? Good work and in service?

My privilege exposed. Because I am doing this right now. Because I’ve done it always as a teacher and writer.

I think of Jan. Of those slim and difficult years in New York when she was raising two babies alone and with the help of women friends, cobbling together work as a secretary, operator, jingle singer, teacher. Nothing about what I’ve learned of those lean years resembles the years in the lives of Rory and Lorelai Gilmore.

But, she did not, would not, give up on the work she dreamed of doing for the rest of her life.  This keeps me going.

About dhaines54

Dawn Denham (formerly Haines) lives in the hill country of North Central Mississippi where she's writing a book about her mentor at the Eastman School of Music mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani and teaching writing at Oxford High School. Her work has been published in Poets and Writers magazine, Brevity, Zone 3, Literary Mama, and WILLA. Her book with authors Jacqueline Raphael and Susan Newcomer Writing Together: Transforming Your Writing in a Writing Group was the first book of its kind published in the US. Her essay Aleatorik about her mother’s death won the 2012 Solstice magazine Creative Nonfiction prize chosen by Jerald Walker and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She received an MFA in Nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Arizona, and a BM in Voice from Eastman School of Music.
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