I come to the page stunned by the drama of recent days, the tragedic caste I give it all which I then upend 24 hours later. The tendency is a gift and a curse, specifically a trampoline of large feelings given me by my mother, I believe, not through genes but via the habit of hers of listening to Clifton Fadiman’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on the radio station KQEO in Albuquerque. And listening also in the room was me, a little person, a little tow-headed girl scrambling in the laundry as her mother pulled the shirts from the basket to lay on the ironing board for the slow plank of the appliance back and forth, in front of our sunny glass doors.
This is the perfect emblem. She was so bored with the world (I never blame her for that), she turned to the next best thing and turned on the radio to listen to Leontyne Price do Aida or Maria Callas do Medea, wherein, I learn later, the protagonist kills her children.
What I inherit is the dislocation and distance between the exterior (which is now winter) and the interior which contains the dramaturgy and over-blown sets of The Met. Overlaying it all is a close, smokey, Freudian whiff of murder and infanticide. I often wonder why she was so attracted to that last particular opera. It’s been rumored that she made the trek from our tract house, dragging my construction worker and handsome-type stepfather, all the way downtown for a performance of it. It couldn’t have been a performance with Callas, no way. Maybe it was a movie. Rumor has never made that clear. The whole tale is a mystery and all the principals are dead. Callas. Euripides. Mom.
There were repercussions and reverberations though. What’s left in the now completed brain of the child is the constant feeling in the background of a low-level dread and anxiety. Were it to speak, it would say that meaning itself is almost here, and it’s going to hurt.

Leave a Reply