I had a wonderful time sharing Joan’s story with the perfect audience recently: the UT Austin OLLI LAMP (Learning Activities for Mature People) program.
My friend, the writer PJ Pierce, asked if I would speak about Home Front Girl. I was delighted to!
Not only did PJ provide a lovely introduction, but other dear friends were in attendance: Estelle and Don Singer. I’ve known them since time began (or so it seems). And I met PJ and them by chance in the parking lot before the talk.
Don had agreed to take on the “challenging” role of “Frazier,” in my mom’s book. Normally my husband, Jim Kilfoyle, embodies fully that deeply imagined character ;-). But as he had to teach, I asked Don to fill in. And he obliged me so generously!
Here’s the dialogue we acted: a male friend, Frazier, and Joan are walking down the hall together in early 1939.
He: “Do you believe in heaven and hell, Joan?”
I (overcome by conservation of matter): “No, I’m afraid I don’t. I suppose that disagrees with you?”
He: “No, it doesn’t. That’s good. I don’t either. What do you believe in?”
Me: “Oh, I don’t know—conservation of matter right now. It’s awfully compelling.”
He: “Yes, it is. I guess I believe in that, too. But doesn’t that disprove immortality?”
I: “Oh, I don’t know. It means we’ll live again in flowers, doesn’t it?”
He: “Yes . . . Mr. Mayfield (Bio Sci teacher) makes it all so personal, doesn’t he? . . . You know—I wanted to be cremated.”
I: “Oh, do you? I used to want to, too, but now it seems as though I’d be cheating the Earth . . . you know.”
He: “Yes, I know.”
I: “I did want to be cremated, but now I feel a sort of duty toward the Earth . . . Of course it seems awful to rot away in the . . .”
He: “Yes . . . but I suppose . . . I saw a cremation once!”
Me: “Oh—what was it like?” (I wanted to asked how it smelled, but he thinks I’m crude as it is.)
He: “Oh, it was behind a glass wall and it shriveled up and . . .”
I: “Oh—Oh!” (thinking rotting in the cool sweet earth is more natural)
He: “And then . . ..”
And so we reached the locker room and I staggered to Modern Dance.
Don and I had the audience in stitches.
It was a lovely audience, embracing my mother’s precocious political insight and warm and ironic humor. I felt she was with us as the event took place. Everyone was so lovely–thank you, PJ, for asking me!