*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

Her maiden name was her something old—
far removed from who she had become.
Her married name was her something new—
in her newly-widowed state.
Her something borrowed was a string of pearls,
for they represented perfection & integrity,
longevity & fertility.
Her something blue was the cameo
David had custom-made by a jeweler
for the only daughter
of a poor Irish father & strict Russian mother—
this daughter who had remodeled herself
into the All-American housewife, circa 1958,
& into someone unrecognizable to me.

Donna, ever practical, despised Valentine’s Day
as others despised Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.
Bearing tidings of clean living,
she had brought a plastic laundry basket filled with sundries:
soap, for washing the body after sex,
toothpaste, for washing out the mouth after sex,
& laundry detergent, for washing the sheets after sex—
items that would be donated to the local women’s shelter
to which Mother gave all her old clothes but never new ones.

Sister Kyle presented a wooden box
that looked suspiciously like a cigar box.
The pillowy satin glued to the inside reminded Caitlin of a coffin,
&, resting on the unblemished, flesh-colored material
was a set of real scriptures—not the Church-issued ones.
That vessel would become a Pandora’s box—
filled with a corpus my mother would live by . . .
& die by.

Sister Thompson, who had just turned “Social Security eligible,”
handed Mother a bag with Happy Birthday on it.
Inside was a gaudy bowl with all the characteristics of a recycled gift,
for no markings indicated it was new;
Sister Bear gave Mother a coupon organizer stuffed with starter coupons,
though we wouldn’t know most of them had expired
until we had gotten home,
which was like getting a gift certificate to a restaurant,
only to find that the restaurant had gone out of business.
Sister Batts had not brought a gift but a Ramen salad,
which Sister Wiley had hidden as if it were a meager offering,
akin to Cain’s vegetables,
for worse than a recycled gift
was recycled food.

When Mother held up a lacy black negligee,
the conversation veered into when it was permissible
to remove the sacred garments to don the naughty lingerie.
One-third of those present believed that the material
created a barrier to intimacy when worn right after sex,
but two-thirds of these hostesses
of this manufactured heaven in this mortal life—
like the valiant souls who had been given the opportunity
in the premortal life to live this one—
believed it was most pleasing to the Lord
that garments be replaced immediately
after the act of procreation ceased,
& I knew then,
as sure as I knew my name,
that just as the fancy black would bring Mother & David closer,
the plain white would come between them.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

To Pleasantville…and Back

A few days ago, I watched “Pleasantville” for the first time.  My husband thought I’d like it because most of it was in black-and-white, and was set during the time period, which, according to a BuzzFeed quiz, I belong in.

Yes, I love “I Love Lucy” (I rewatch the series every few years and am a “liker” of the Facebook fan page, “A Daily Dose of ‘I Love Lucy’; when I was younger, I always said if I ever had fraternal twins, I would name them Lucy and Ricky), I wear red lipstick (Mary Kay’s Downtown Brown, which looks red on me), saddle oxfords were my favorite shoes as a little girl, and the only pair of pants I own is the one pair I have to wear for work (dresses and skirts always outside of work); even my wedding dress (or suit) looked more like something my grandmother would have worn to the Justice of the Peace, and my wedding hat and veil (reminiscent of Jackie O)

was an original from the sixties–an Etsy find.  My grandmother’s copper Jell-O molds (which I’ve spotted in old movies–always a thrill) adorn my kitchen wall; I even work at a retro-style diner.

When I got an unexpected check in the mail, the first words that came to mind weren’t “Hot damn!”, but rather, “Hot dog!”  Yes, I watch lots of old movies (95% of the movies I own pre-date 1965, though I no longer buy movies, now that I have a DV-R).  ABBA is the most recent band I like.

I am what you would call a square, with rounded, perhaps lacy edges.

When I was eighteen, I saw a commercial with a placid woman standing in front of a lighthouse, advertising a free Book of Mormon.  The commercial appealed to me, and so I ordered a book online.  I had a choice between having the book sent to me via USPS, or I could have two Mormon missionaries deliver it to me personally.  I chose the latter (pun intended).

I chose that option because I wanted to see what Mormons look like.  Of course, the first thing that came to mind was polygamy.  I think it was more curiosity than anything that prompted me to order the book, and what a life-changing whim that turned out to be.

I ended up becoming baptized, though when the missionaries mentioned tithing, and how it was required to be a member in good standing, I, remembering what my parents said about being beware of any church that asks for money, fell away.

Nine months or so passed, and I met a boy (at a political group at University) whose name was familiar from high school, though we’d never met.  He sort of dated/socialized me back into the Church, and by the time we broke up, I was fully converted.  I hadn’t fallen in love with him, but I’d fallen in love with the Church.  The Mormon lifestyle is like a throwback to the Fifties–I felt like I’d finally found the Church that I was made for.

Living in the South, I’d churched around quite a bit.  (Being a “Jesus Freak” was big in the eighties and early nineties, though I never referred to myself as one.  Just not my personality to wear my religion on my sleeve).  Pensacola, Florida, is like a Christianity smorgasbord–if you’re a Christian, there is a church for you somewhere here.  Never before had I felt so welcomed.  It felt good, and it felt right, and it was, for me, at that time.

The Church was a wonderful experience, till I went to Utah, and lost my testimony in Joseph Smith.  The father of the boy I had dated had admonished me not to go, and, to the best of my recollection, he’d told me if I went, they’d lose me, and they did.  I can never regret going, though, for because of my leaving, I am the person I am today.

I went through a period of bitterness towards the Church, and then I found my way back as not an ex-Mormon (which has an negative connotation), but as a former Mormon.  My Mormon friends, whom I’d avoided for so long, did not judge me, or stop being my friend (they are still some of my closest friends), even though they know I will never come back.

So, to segue back to my opening, I watched “Pleasantville”–a film which I believe some parts are open to interpretation (sort of like the Bible).  The townspeople who live a moral lifestyle are shown as being bland and colorless, while the ones who engage in sin become vibrant and full of life.  I don’t look back and see my life as a Mormon that way.  Being a member of the Church did not stifle my creativity, but enhance it.  Granted, some of the stuff I write now, they would not approve of, but my experience as a Mormon helped me tap into a spiritual wellspring (and bring me closer to God) that no other Church had ever been able to do.

The boy Reese Witherspoon has sex with sees a rose in color for the first time because he fell in love, but Reese doesn’t see color after their trysts because she doesn’t feel the same–she doesn’t see color until she reads a classic book for pleasure.  Tobey Maguire becomes colorized when he saves his mother from being molested by a group of young boys (after the man she is having an affair with, who supposedly loves her and she him, paints a nude picture of her on his malt/soda shoppe’s window).  Jeff Daniels doesn’t see color until he begins to pursue his passion of painting, and the woman who plays Tobey and Reese’s mother doesn’t turn colorful (or see in color) until she pleasures herself sexually/has an affair with Jeff Daniels (one of the points of the film I had a problem with–I’d have preferred her to become colorized when she and her husband had rediscovered each other on a deeper level).  Though Reese putting aside her whorish ways was a positive note to end on, Don Knotts (who will always live on as Barney Fife) using the Lord’s name in vain, was a sour one to begin with.

I know there is much, much more to the movie than what I’ve discussed, but those particular parts of the film I related to.

Though I don’t agree with everything the movie says (or tries to say), I do think it’s worth watching at least once.  A great film it isn’t (in my opinion), but it makes you think, which is more than most movies accomplish.

I do agree that a false nostalgia exists, even for those who never lived during that time.  (Just as one can romanticize the Amish lifestyle, though they would never want to live it.)  Though I love so many things about that era, I belong in this present time.  I love the technology and medical advances that exist now, and all the opportunities for women to have fulfilling careers.  I’m glad it isn’t just chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  I love more things that exist now, but didn’t then, than I could possibly enumerate.

“Pleasantville” is a state of mind, not of place and time.  Tobey and Reese seeing “the man behind the curtain”, so to speak, ripped off the beautiful façade that television presented.  I love “Leave it to Beaver”, knowing that things weren’t exactly like that, but rather a representation of all the good things that were.