(Dedicated to the Memory of Rose Quinn Scott whose life influenced mine through her other 11 children) - Martha Scott Knowlton
I had a dream. And in it, we were all playing Hide n Seek. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been playing Hide n Seek all my life – even in my dreams.
Well anyway - there was this voice – clear, sweet, beckoning:
“5 – 10 –15 –20 – 25 – 30 – 35 – 40 - 45 . Who’s not ready holler “I.” Ready or not – here I come.”
I was hiding in the coal cellar on Duncan Street – one of my favorite hiding places especially in the summer time. The coal cellar door opened and a ring of lights spun into the blackness and circled round me. It felt both warm and strong and I heard that sweet voice say – “ollie ollie in free “
Next thing I know I’m sitting on the wall down the road – you remember, the wall where I used to go to cry. And … I’m sitting there with my mother – my mother – like she is right there – looking at me – and she sort of looks like Sis except she is wearing a dress (and Sis doesn’t wear dresses so I know it wasn’t her) – and she doesn’t have any glasses on either (so it can’t be Sis, Anne, or Dee) – and she is round – everything about her is round -- round face, round eyes, round mouth, -- she’s just round. And she touches me and it is so real the way she does that – touches me with her hand on my back and says – “Your It.”
Well I don’t know what I’m supposed to do – so I say – “Ha – never thought you’d find me on the wall! I’ve been playing hide and seek all my life, you know, and I’m pretty good at it.”
She says –“now that I’ve found you Martha, I want to know how things have been for you all these years.” “I thought you could see all that’s been going on from – up there.” .
Not to worry Martha, she says, and her eyes are like peering into my soul and I get a little nervous about that. I want to know something, she says – who was your mother? Huh ?? Mother? You mean, like who took care of me ? You mean, like who fed me and changed my diapers, made me go to school ? … “Well that .. but who touched your heart ? Who made you want to sing – or laugh – or think – or care? “
All of my brothers and sisters gave me something . All of em – All of em – Every last one of them. I jumped up and began to walk the wall – Walking the wall was easy at first, you might remember – the wall was wide and angled up in front of that tree we called the Monkey Ball tree – what were those things that grew on that tree anyway? Well I started walking the wall and then I had that feeling again about something around me, warm and strong and all of a sudden I began to walk on the cobblestone wall which I never could do because it seemed so treacherous with those stones popping up every which way – but there I was walking on that cobblestone wall having a conversation with my mother, Rose Quinn.
Let me tell you about Vinny. Vinny gave me the gift of story telling -- with those made up stories of Pete and Sam he used to tell me as I lay at the top of the cellar stairs. I used to lie down on the floor at the top of the cellar stairs when he took showers in that dark and scary cement and steel shower. Vinny would tell me about Pete and Sam – some crazy characters he made up – who were always going to visit me someday; I don’t remember much about the characters Pete and Sam – I just remember Vinny talking to me about Pete and Sam the whole time he was taking a shower. If we don’t learn to tell stories, how can we say we lived?
Rosemary. Sissy. Sis was Sissy Mummie to me – and I guess you didn’t know that. Sissy Mummie took me to Baltimore on the B&O train three or four summers in a row and we got sunburned and ate crabs and even drank beer – well she got to drink beer; I didn’t. Now I get to drink beer and she doesn’t. She would wear polka dots and had pretty shoes and she liked to dress me up just like her. I always noticed that she made people laugh. I wanted to be just like her – wear polka dots and make people laugh.
Joe. …Joe is fascinating. He was a dancer once, in case you didn’t know it. And Joe did pirouettes in the living room – he’d jump so high his head would nearly hit the ceiling. He was always flying – he made me want to fly – he still makes me want to fly.
Dee Dee. Dolores. Dee was my mother all through high school. But she wasn’t a nagging kind of mother – she was a friend-mother. She used to make me summer outfits on her sewing machine. She taught me how to cook. She taught me how to take care of myself. She taught me how to be proud. With Dee around, I always felt like people would think I had a mother at home, and I liked that. I’m a lot like Dee, have you noticed?
Francis/Skip – Skippy. You missed out on a lot of fun leaving so soon, especially with Skippy around. Skippy used to walk up and down Duncan street with me standing on his shoulders – no hands. He was always smiling. His combination of daring and cheerfulness has something to do with love – I haven’t figured it out exactly but I know there is something Skippy still continues to teach me about what love really is – it has something to do with God, I think.
Anna Banana. When I am with Anne I feel like I am the most important person in her life. How does she do that? She has so many children and grandchildren of her own – yet everyone is the most important to her --. She still teaches me how to “be” with people.
Eugene – Huey – Too bad you didn’t get to see the day Huey found out I stole Sis’ Pall Mall cigarettes. He was grinning at me – and he never told. Huey taught me something extra about forgiveness -- if you forgive someone but still snitch on them, it doesn’t count. He never told on me. I can’t forget that about him.
Larry. Larry, the idea man – he always had good ideas. How’s it going up there with Larry anyway? Does he still watch CNN and carry around those little Constitution of the United States booklets to pass around? Mom – did you ever hear me tell people that Larry and I had a secret during his last six months? You mean the one where you wanted Larry to be with you so you could help him to die – and he wanted to be with you so you could help him to live? Yes – well I’ve thought about that these past 10 years and I think Larry’s idea was better. Could you tell him that for me – he had the better idea.
Eileen… Ei – Eileen taught me how to do the Cha Cha – Cha Cha Cha Cha Cha. She used to pray with me before bedtime and she made sure we said our prayers on our knees. Then she would rub my back for what seemed like hours because I just loved that and she never would stop like the others. And she would tell me stories, over and over and over if I wanted her to – and not stop like the others. Eileen can make life stop because she is so patient – there’s no hurry – with Eileen there’s only me and her and the Cha Cha.
Patricia. Patty --- showed me how to tap dance to Tea for Two – how to do a back bends and how, if I wanted to, to paint the nativity scene backwards on the living room window at Christmas time. How many people in the whole world paint nativity scenes on their front windows at Christmas time? But there’s something else about Patty you should know, in case you don’t already know. She is a warrior. I suspect she was always like that but seems like I’ve just found out about that myself. Hmmm, probably good to have her around. So don’t think about inviting her to your place for a while – I still have a lot of battles to fight and I need her.
Then there’s you know who ….. Richard, Rich. Dickie Bird, Churd: Richie teaches me what fun it is to be reverently irreverent. Richie makes me reach deep to find beauty in all of life – he makes me get excited about stupid whirly gig beetles and birds, and snakes and even lichen and fungus. He shows me through his life what “passion” is.
I turned round, jumped off the wall ---- and she was gone – But I heard her voice -- 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 /// – ollie ollie in free!!!!\