Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Autrey Museum Celebration lives up to the reviews ...

Despite the GPS (global positioning system) female voice (we named her Mabel) in our rental car we managed to get ourselves lost on the way from the L.A. County Art Museum and the Autrey Museum in Griffith Park. Only after several wrong turns with Mabel having to re-calibrate our course each time before we could move, did we reach the NWHP event a mere 10 minutes late.

I'm not too high on cowboy stuff, and this place screams that history with the subtlety of Dolly Parton in full hooker regalia! Was feeling the laugh crawling up from my belly to my throat when NPS superintendent Martha Lee popped up out of the crowd (with her delightful mother in tow) and announced that my family had arrived earlier and were waiting anxiously for me. At that point irreverence was all I could feel -- and the absurdity of all of it.

David and my grandson, Rhico, plus his lady suddenly emerged from somewhere with grins all around and a big presentation bouquet that I'd receive later in the proceedings. They'd left the Bay Area at six in the morning to be here for the 3:30 ceremonies. They would leave immediately afterward to arrive back to Berkeley at around 1:30 am! No greater love hath a son for his mother. David was bursting with pride and delight. I thought of Bob and missed him terribly. Thought of Rick who died enough years ago and who should have retired to the background long ago but who continues to rise to the front of my mind at times such as this. Dorian was back home -- this would have been too much for her to deal with, given her level of understanding. Today it was David representing the family -- and stepping in to do it with such warmth and dignity.

He greeted me excitedly with, "...Mom, come see! Our ancestors are shown here in a mural in the museum gallery." Followed him and found a depiction of the Louis and Clark trek with their guide and interpreter, the Shoshone woman called Sacagewa and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, who led the expedition west and the opening of the Northwest Passage. Charbonnet is the spelling of our paternal family surname -- part of the family having moved to the Louisiana territories with the spelling, "Charbonnet," while others went into Canada where the name changed to "Charbonneau." This was one of the many cul de sacs that turned up in our family history project that has yet to be followed to some conclusion. But it was so exciting for David and Rhico to get this glimpse of why I find this research so exciting. The tantalizing possibility of an bloodline link to Sacagewa makes me tremble just thinking about it.

When the presentation began, it was obvious that I would have to make some kind of acceptance speech and that was a problem since I rarely think ahead and tend to say whatever comes to me as a response to what is happening around me. This time was no exception. I found the words, somehow, but can't for the life of me recall what it was that got expressed.

The crystal "Oscar" is so beautiful! It is an abstract shape of curves and planes, 8" x 9" by 2", with my name, the date, and the National Women's History Project logo etched into the surface at the back. When the light comes through it is awesome -- but I'm not sure just what I'll do with it. Can't take it to work. A bit ostentatious, wouldn't you say? Have it in my bedroom beside the lovely clock received from the staff of Assemblywoman Loni Hancock's office when I left a few years ago. To feel deserving of such a magnificant award was again a challenge, and in the company of women of such stature shook what little poise I could command. I still had the tendency to want to look behind me for the woman it was really intended for.

It would take the flight all the way to Washington, D.C., two days later, and visits to the Japanese Internment Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the moving Vietnam Monument so stunning in its simplicity; to the Lincoln Memorial at night when the tourists were gone; the unbelievably moving memorial for FDR; the WWII memorial (a bit disappointing), the majestic but unabashedly phallic Washington monument upthrusting from the earth surrounded by briskly waving flags; the Jefferson monument seen at night with cherry blossoms about to burst into color against snow falling gently seen through the amber light; all of that before I started to feel deserving. But that feeling did come, finally, and when it came it was stunning! I now understand the why of it -- and that it was meant to be; and how humbling that was.

But that's for later. I need to savor these powerful though fragile feelings just a little longer before sharing.

Photo: Isn't this about the loveliest ...!

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