Monday, November 29, 2010

Three Muses

I had to find the photos this morning. I've been casually looking for them for the past couple of weeks, wondering how I'd misplaced them when they were in one place for so long--a three windowed leather picture frame, old and worn. 

It held three pictures--Francie, Alice, and Polly. The three women to whom I'd dedicated my second collection, In The Gloaming. I'd been looking for the photos for a few weeks, since Francie died. I couldn't figure out where they'd gone. This morning, I needed them; the day had come when it was the priority. I had some work to do moving things around anyway, so I put finding them at the front of my mind. As often happens with what is lost, focusing on it brings it back. (I have tried St. Anthony, too, on recommendation. He found me a lost diamond engagement ring, and I haven't dared trouble him again.)

Francie inspired my story Watch The Animals. She was fierce, glamorous, beautiful, wickedly funny, noble, generous, intensely loyal if she liked you, scary if she didn't. She always had a pack of animals--mainly those that no one else wanted. Every time I picked a cat or dog off the streets of Manhattan and found it a home (too often with me), it was because she'd shown me that to do so was natural--just paying attention.

Alice Kirby had an incredible sense of humor. She was the younger sister of my father and his twin. After my father died, she wrote to me and sent me presents every year, weird presents that my friends and I marveled at. Is this what teenagers liked in Florida? These leopard skin bags, these gold belts? I began to count on hearing from her, though, as happens in such instances; I wanted those otherworldly gifts.
Charles, Alice, and William Kirby
When my son was born she sent me money, and I used it to buy a ticket to visit her. So much fell into place on that trip; I found out where my father was buried, for one thing. Alice was funny, sharp, and completely kind. She'd built her house on a lake north of Orlando, raised two kids on her own, started a successful business, and took care of her mother all her life. Her father had been born in a log cabin. I could see that.

Polly lived near us, in a house with a white living room--her world view allowed that. Every year we spent Christmas Eve with her and her family, even after divorces and remarriages. She had my engagement party at her house, and the gathering after my grandfather's funeral. Every one of these events ended with hurt stomachs from so much laughter; even the time I got violently ill while staying with her the night before I was due to testify in a court case. I felt like I'd never be better, and also that nothing more hilarious had ever happened on the planet earth. When the phone rang today and I heard her daughter's voice, I instantly knew what I'd already known all morning; I'd been searching for the Polly picture, after all. Tonight I took lots of other Polly, Alice, and Francie photos out of old albums. I don't know why, yet. 
Focus, find.


  1. "Watch the Animals" was such a strong story for me when I read it in 2000, I tried to find you online for months. That story has stayed with me in many ways for many years, so it was a treat to see a picture of your friend Francie who inspired it. I'd love to hear more about her.