I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.
A few days ago, a friend began a discussion with this question: Are books/sermons/media telling us our stories are great, our lives are epic, etc. potentially toxic?
Around the same time, a different friend told me about his mother’s passing.
Somehow the two have become linked in my mind because they were both rattling around there at the same time.
My friend whose mother recently died, Michael McNevin, is a folk singer. His songs always tell stories. He once wrote a song about his mother: Margaret 1956.
Margaret skipped class today;
She did not go to Glee Club.
She took a puddle-jumper to LA
To walk around in Hollywood.
Standing tall on a corner,
Cotton dress on and her hair back,
Saddle shoes and bobby-socks,
A needle in a haystack. ….
It was reminiscent of Lana Turner’s story, of being discovered while sipping Coke in a drugstore in Hollywood.
Some might think that Lana Turner had the epic story. A strikingly beautiful and successful actress in the 1930s and 40s, she was a household word during that era.
Margaret’s story didn’t go quite the same.
After noon, the sun is low
And time moves like molasses;
She still imagines they will come
And ask her what her name is….
Sometimes you’ve gotta try,
Even though you don’t know why.
Sometimes you do some things
That don’t seem silly at the time.
They don’t seem silly at the time.
She caught her plane and she came home.
Her folks were very worried.
But that was Margaret’s last hurrah.
She settled down and married.
She raised a small passel of boys, the youngest of whom is my friend. The songs he writes tell of an idyllic childhood, running on train tracks (Two Steps Ahead of the Train), watching cocoons hatch (John’s Cocoons), playing with an Etch-a-Sketch instead of watching television (Etch-a-Sketch), and, my favorite, actually having a relationship with your neighbor, even when he’s a somewhat intimidating old man (Mr. Mayes). A pretty epic life, if I do say so.
The original question — Are books/sermons/media telling us our stories are great, our lives are epic, etc. potentially toxic? — needs to define great and epic. Lana Turner, who was discovered in Hollywood, would probably be the one most would think had the more epic life. I’d rather be Margaret.
Mom, I love the way you watch the Rose Parade for hours;
How after all these many years you still love floats and flowers.
Did Lana Turner ever have the luxury of sitting back and watching the Rose Parade?
The Hollywood kind of epic may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
All lyrics from “Margaret 1956”
written by Michael McNevin
Found on his CD “In the Rough” (2002)