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April’s End 2022

To rewrite the first line of a hackneyed song by the late Marvin Hamlisch: “Memories do not light the corners of my mind. They light my pathway to the future.” I was enjoying one of my favorite domestic activities this morning — hand-laundry — when a vision emerged in my mind of a photograph taken of myself and Dear Daughter, shortly before the Milligans moved out of the Dickinson House in Roseville. The two adult Milligans, their two children, and their two hounds, then embarked upon life in a small, cramped apartment for approximately six weeks. That duration was necessary while the escrow accounts for us, and for the seller of the Peach House in Newcastle, did their laborious and lengthy financial transactions. The year was 1998. These family photos were taken during Easter, 12 April, and during that summer when the move to Newcastle was eagerly awaited.

Bootsie, the red-haired hound, hated a cat that lived upstairs. Bonnie was good-natured about the confined space, as long as she got her daily walk (by me) with Bootsie. The children felt as if they were camping, on vacation, which was exactly the cheerful case for them. Me, I was dealing with homemaking duties, finishing up a quilt and a cross-stitch; reading, and repeatedly cleaning shoes and feet that constantly became covered with the yucky creosote residue, left in the carpet from a previous renter; I believe it was a trucker. Dear Husband was commuting to the office job in Sacramento. Yes, he got to escape the rental space, but he came “home” to it. We took day trips, and weekend trips, in our Ford Explorer, exploring the foothills that would soon be our new bailiwick. I honestly did not know what lay in store for me, for any of us. Looking back, yes, it’s all so clear to see the good and the bad. Unlike the sentiments and the statements in that hackneyed song, I do not choose to forget the painful, and remember only the laughter. I do not allow time to rewrite anything, if I can help it.

It’s preciously important for me to know the baseline of truth upon which my memories are built. The natural human response is to initially deny some level of hurt, and anguish, and loss. I then try to delve into the reality of the tear-filled sorrow — as quickly as I can. “Quickly” is a relative term. In the space of time, your rate of emotional movement depends upon, to some extent, the surrounding events and circumstances. I do not hurl myself headlong into the remembrances of the miserable experience, but neither do I run from it. There is always something to be learned from your inability to face the fullest awareness of any grave disappointment. The future holds infinite opportunities for that disappointment to become transformed into a warming, joyous morning of putting the past into the past with serenity and a feeling of belief in oneself.

I am not sure if I’ve always held this philosophy of how to face life. As a child, I knew that any goal that I was setting for myself had a better chance of actualization if I did not burden myself with the luggage of resentment and the traps of bitterness. I endeavoured to take a pragmatic approach, in spite, or because of deeply upsetting and disturbing sensations to betrayal and staggering deception. Being brutally honest with myself helped me to offset the brutal dishonesty of others. Times there were when I could have hated a person for the pain he inflicted upon my life, but my most intense response was to simply want to be left alone by people whose objectives were to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, to harass, to hamper my happiness in life. Such a person most assuredly cannot be changed. The wisest move is to move away from the miscreant. Acquiring distance from an ogre, ingrate or snake has its drawbacks, but it has just as many advantages. Solitude, privacy, and separation from the damned disaster and the fools creating it: those methods are typically my means to arrive at not merely the morrow; they’re a practiced pathway toward any place where those threats and careless cruelties can not hurt me. The world today, in the USA and elsewhere, is undergoing one of those sorely needed seismic shifts of societal resolution, the earth-shaking tremor that’s been blared and ballyhooed as happening for decades by the media morons who profit from that illusion. Change is, in actuality, much more subtle, and a great deal more slow in its crucial and decisive arrival. The altering of human attitudes from selfish to sympathetic requires the painstaking reflections of many days and many nights, if that alteration is to be profound, even permanent.

When I looked at these photographs, I saw the beginnings of where I wanted to be, of what I wanted to do, and have. The things were not necessarily material in nature; I sought freedom of movement and mind, just as much as a tangible house where I, my husband, and my growing children would be able to thrive as we set out to home-school, home-church, and home-produce. We’d be bringing into being aspects of our beings that needed to grow, expand, mature, move into the future, come what may. I wanted a vintage house in which to foster my creativity. Old houses breathe mystery and unsung songs. They whisper the unfulfilled desires that I hoped to escape through my flight from a brand-new, cookie-cutter house in Suburbia. And I wanted a REAL fireplace. That feeble excuse for a fireplace in that tract home (which I called my Gilded Cage) appears very comical now. It wasn’t then. The stark and spartan decor in that somewhat sterile domicile speaks of the deficiencies that I came to know very well during my five years in that structure. I yearned for inner growth in a way that few people who knew me understood. Gratefully, I look back upon the rare individuals who understood that I, Debra Tanis Milligan, needed to spread her wings and fly. They humbly bade me well, not farewell. They and I would ne’er say farewell, for we were, and are, friends of the heart.

And so I went on my way, to a mid-century non-modern abode, and a way of life wherein I felt free to create, to design palettes for my home, my children, my writing, my life. In a similar way, through an oddly reminiscent process, in 2018, I left that house in Newcastle to begin the journey of building a dream house. Today, newer palettes are springing forth as I move ahead with my life in a new region, in a new house. Those unique and unknown palettes are inspired by, yes, visions of the past, but also by perceptions of the future, and the images of worlds within my imagination. I depend upon the practical to inform the artistic within me. The physical presence of the red and orange and yellow tulips outside my picture window provide me with chronological and artistic perspective. Last year at this time, an oppressive expanse of bare earth faced my face. I determined that one year hence I would see those lovely flowers in bloom. The work to achieve that goal was fairly minimal; but such effort would not have yielded results without my willful choice to not allow “the noise” in life to deter me from my desired objectives.

What is “the noise”? The online chitter-chatter of current events that are, more accurately, yakking ghoulish gossips with one tawdry target: to generate clicks. The naysayers and negatones who always have time on the phone, merely to keep a person on the line instead of letting him move ahead with positive steps. The fears of the past that haven’t been addressed, or even acknowledged. The fears of the future that can, like a powerful phobia, glue a person in his tracks through paralysis by analysis. Decision-making becomes all but impossible under those silent but anxiety-ridden conditions. Toss a stiff hand to the “what if’s”. Take a deep breath and dare to do what your heart desires. Try a completely different hair-do, or even color. Try a new style, in clothes, in music, in shoes, in food.

Try a change of routine. Or try a routine! Try the untried. Most of all, try — whatever it is that feels impossible, daunting, overwhelming — frightening. Whatever it is you are afraid of doing, you must then do. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. That one step, like putting up your House For Sale, in the face of sharp criticisms from everyone, just might be the step in the right direction of the life you’ve always longed to live. And if your entire plan falls apart? And you fall down? I cite some common sense advice from “Pick Yourself Up”, a favorite, fun, and far from hackneyed song, composed in 1936 by Jerome Kern, with fantastic lyrics by Dorothy Fields:

Nothing’s impossible, I have found For when my chin is on the ground I pick myself up, dust myself off And start all over again. Can’t lose my confidence if I slip I’m grateful for a pleasant trip I pick myself up, dust myself off And start all over again. I’ll work like a soul inspired Till the battle of the day is won Though I am sick and tired I will stick till the job is done.

When I remember the famous men Who had to fall to rise again I take a deep breath Pick myself up, dust myself off And start all over again.


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