Frances Leah Brown
I am a professional singer and actor, gardener, teacher and mama bear, with a love of fiction. This is the first forum in which I've submitted my writing. It feels wonderful.
Let me tell you a story of an orphaned girl. We met her when she was 13 months old. She, like thousands of girls, had been raised in an institutional orphanage. There were so many babies and so few care-givers in her orphanage that the babies were wrapped tightly in layers of blankets and clothes to keep them still in the cribs, and keep them warm. Each baby was picked up, fed, bounced in the caregiver's arms for a few minutes and then re-wrapped and placed back in the crib on schedule, as often as possible. When they got older, the girls would be placed in a high chair/potty chair, sometimes for hours, or placed on the floor with other babies with some toys.
For 20 years, I lived next door to a woman with an altered sense of reality. She was schizophrenic and manic-depressive and rarely on meds. She had times of violence, though it was usually turned on inanimate objects. Sometimes I'd see her taking a toaster or blender or spatula out into the yard where she'd scold or scream or beat the item, leaving them in the yard for a day or two afterward, then picking the item up and taking the it back to the house. I always wondered what was happening in her head. On the few occasions I met her when she was on her meds, she was a kind, soft spoken and shy soul. She's since moved away, and has fallen through the cracks, from what I hear. She's not the subject of this story, however. The person I want to write about may have no clinical mental illness. I don't know. That's the thing...
The Phoenix When she entered the world, she radiated happiness. She ran with confidence through the fields, greeted strangers with joy, and wondered why people didn’t smile as they went about their day. She talked to the animals and believed they spoke to her. She knew the earth and all its songs. She heard it singing every day.
Our tendency to sanitize unpleasantness I was born in 1963. I grew up watching the Vietnam war coverage on the evening news every night. Morley Safer, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather. We saw the burning of villages, the crying faces of the Vietnamese women and children and old people. We saw the American soldiers struggling to understand a form of war for which they’d never trained, with a goal that seemed un-reachable. It was ugly. We watched body bags being loaded into aircraft carriers, headed for home. Those images were the roots of my inability to understand human beings treatment of one another. I still don’t understand it.
The human existence has been talked about and written about and debated since we could question life's meaning, it seems to me. The eternal "Why am I here?" and "What is my purpose" echo through each generation, as we struggle to matter. As we struggle to make a difference. As I’ve grown older, I have come to my own conclusions.