Huntress of the Lens


Friday, August 7, 2009

Kelly Ree

I really never stroll down any memory lanes about my first marriage, my trainer husband, because having traveled that road and back again I already know the landscape intimately. I'll make an exception today though, because what I want to show you lies far down that road and it's the only path that leads there. This isn't so much about him as it is that time in my life, which to be fair, was magical in so many ways.

I had some friends who had some friends who were planning a wedding in the park in Huntington Beach. An outdoor amphitheater setting, no electricity, I can't even remember if there was more than a public park-style bathroom available. It was beautiful though, with a walking path around a lake that would hold mist in it's palm in the mornings and often had white cranes perching in the eucalyptus that lined the walkway. My friends said "Our friends are getting married and they need someone to sing at their wedding. We told them you sing and they'd like to hear you." That was before fear of performance was my companion and I said yes without a thought, and my only reply was "You'll have to find me a guitar player." As it turned out their next door neighbor was a very good guitar player ( ) and he agreed to accompany me.

We didn't meet till the rehearsal, and I remember walking around a bend in the path and looking up at a man with a guitar sitting on the very top step of the rustic wooden bench-seating. My first thought was "Huh, I'm going to marry that man." which sometime later I did. I don't remember what songs we did, or what the wedding was like, or even that I was meeting two people who were not only getting married but would become two of my closest friends for years to come. I just remember the way he looked with that small-bodied Guild guitar cradled in his arms, waiting for my voice to join his. We were good, I remember that. We sat at his kitchen table for hours at the reception singing every song we knew, just like like Bobby McGee and that truck driver. Eventually we married each other, and had ten years of ups and downs. Lots of ups really, it was just the end that crashed, much like the old saying "It's not the falling that's bad, but the landing that will kill you." That was all twenty years ago, and holds no emotional charge for me now, other than sometimes when I finish a really good book I reach for the phone to call him and say he simply must read it before I remember that we're not really friends any more.

Now I'm going to get to the story I want to tell you. Tom and Lynne, the bride and groom from my introduction lived next door to us, and one night Lynne came over to show me her positive pregnancy test. I was thrilled, I was jealous, the sound of my own biological clock was ticking almost loud enough to drown out a word she was saying. I was twenty two and married, and they were married, and we were all such grown-ups, weren't we? Lynne ate well, took vitamins, didn't smoke and was just somehow clean in the way she lived, she was making a super baby in there. I can't remember if we started walking that circular path around the park where we met for her wedding while she was pregnant or if that came later. I remember waiting and waiting for that baby though. Jim's name for the baby was Helmut while she was still an it.

Of our circle of friends who all did home births (Lynne included) this was the first and only hospital birth. She went first of all of us, and we didn't know yet that we could have our babies at home in ways that felt right for us. I remember the night she was in labor, we all ate some blueberry thing and she threw up. We wished them bye on their way to the hospital and they returned the next day with someone who would become and still is a very, very important person in my life. Kelly Marie Welles.

She looked like her dad, from that first day, and had a set of pipes on her that could fill a whole apartment complex with her daily afternoon cry. Lynne made her a blanket (I think Lynne was the one that sewed it) and it's name was Botett. Botett remained shoved in Kelly's mouth, either a corner or a section from the middle, switching out location only when Kelly decided it was too soggy. I personally would have made the soggy call much earlier than she did, but then Botett wasn't my thing. I gagged more than once watching so much soggy blanket shoved into that tiny mouth, but hey, it was better than the big BIG voice coming out at times, and it was just a part of who Kelly was. I kept saying she was too old for it and Lynne should "lose" it, but the way Botett finally went was that Lynne would ease it out of her sleeping hands at nap time, cut a few inches off and re-hem it until it was eventually the size of a large handkerchief. Kelly must have thought she was getting so big, because Botett was getting so small! Eventually, it just wasn't large enough to shove enough in her mouth and have enough left over to fiddle and fondle and she was done with it.

Lynne and I started our daily walks around the park with one single stroller. Then I had Paul, and she had Andrea (Nanny) then I had Andrew and one single stroller became two double strollers. Around and around we would go every single day. We lived next door to each other in tiny apartments with two kids each, me with the boys and her with the girls for quite a few years. Jim and Lynne were closer, Tom and I liked to hang out and listen to Supertramp.

We moved into my Grandmother's house- my childhood home - after she left her body and my Big Daddy married his one true love but we still saw each other regularly. It wasn't until we moved up here in 1988 that we really lost contact with them. Lynne was one of the people I called on to provide a signed and notarized affidavit that I had lived at that address during my pregnancy and gave birth to a live baby when I finally got Andrew a birth certificate when he was eight.

I remember Kelly coming to visit me up here the summer she was 15 or so. It was strange to see that golden-haired baby in my house as a beautiful brown-haired young woman. It's strange to think that Molly is now older than Kelly was for that visit, that Kelly is now older than I was when she was born. I think maybe she had just the littlest crush on Paul that summer, and I suspect that they smoked hella pot together while they ranged all over this hot wine valley together.

She returned to live her with me in her twenties. I was in the thick of my drinking, and she stayed just until after I found recovery. What a wild and shitty ride that must have been, none of it was pretty, except for the love we have always had for each other no matter the circumstance. She worked at the Napa Emergency Women's Shelter, and if I'm correct that's where her love of helping and protecting women and children in need got its first professional footing in her life. Jasper came into her life when she lived here, a big gangling large-footed bumbler of a puppy who is still her first love. My little dogs live daily in the pen that she constructed for him to keep him safe when she went to work. My relationship with Drinking Joe, and the last hundred drinks or so of my alcoholic career, coupled with the roller-coaster ride that is early sobriety were her impetus to go, off into her truly adult life; the life where she wasn't living with a parent either real or adopted.

Now she's in Florida, and owns a house, and has been in the same solid, healthy and loving relationship for years. She's talking about having a baby of her own, and I'm kind of dying to see some wedding pictures from that east coast someday. She's a major big-sister influence in Molly's life, even electronically from afar. When she writes to me her letters are long and thoughtful, extremely well-written and insightful. I am awestruck and amazed and oh so proud of the adult Goddess she has become. I don't know for sure, but I'm betting she no longer needs to scream for an hour or two every afternoon, so regularly that you could set your clock by the sound.

Happy Birthday Kelly Ree, you make me so proud to know you, to have watched you become who you are since you were a ring at the bottom of an old-school test-tube pregnancy test. I'd wish you the best life, but you've already gone off and created that for yourself, so I'll wish that someday you have a golden-haired little girl just like you were and get to ride this ride from the beginning just like I have.

I love you madly, deeply and forever.

1 comment:

  1. Laura,
    This is so beautiful. Thank you so much. What an absolutely fabulous birthday present. You mean the world to me and I am so lucky to have had you in my life the past 26 years. I love you.


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