Friday, August 20, 2010

An evening at the San Leandro Library ...

... and what a evening it was, too.

Not sure why I remained seated throughout the program, but upon arrival the librarian in charge of the event pointed to that chair and I remained glued to it for the rest of the evening.  My colleague,  Elizabeth, opened the program on stage at the lectern and presented her introduction -- standing quite properly before it.  Moi?  I seemed to not have gotten the memo, and never moved toward stage center or to the lectern.  It was all the way across the stage, and seemed to put more emphasis on my talk than I felt it warranted.  I think that I much prefer to be in conversation with an audience, but I suppose that's not always appropriate.  Being a "special person" is not yet natural to me, and always suggests that I'm going to say something worth standing before a lectern -- when in fact, I'm always speaking extemporaneously, and always from memory of events.  There's a disadvantage to not working from an acquired body of knowledge, though in a way, I'm guessing that -- if there is any power in my words (and there surely seems to be) -- it comes from the fact that my thoughts originate with me, and only I can be credited or blamed for what gets expressed.  I guess that's what comes with being one's own authority.

I've been known to say on occasion, "... now that I've outlived all those whose recollections of that era differs from mine, I have the last say -- and the bull horn!"  And there's some truth in that absurdity.

It was also my first experience with having someone walk out in the middle of my talk, though I was told that she may have only been going to the restroom, but I did find myself watching for her to return to her seat -- and it never happened that I recall.  It was discomforting, but then my candor may be off-putting, and I shouldn't be surprised.  Expanding the Rosie story beyond the generic may not always work.   It is, after all, a white woman's story, and my insistence upon bringing in the variants on that story diminishes the myth as some would wish to remember it.

The ages of those gathered in that audience was probably in the range that would make them my contemporaries.  This was evidenced by the fact that several "Rosies" rose during the Q&A to reach for the hand mike, and when the opportunity presented itself, each took it eagerly to share her story of her experience in the work force on the home front; and my words had been simply something to wait through until the chance came to share hers.  And that's quite alright with me.  We try to leave plenty of room for those experiences.  Women have waited a long time to tell these stories and there are ears now ready to receive them, thanks to the establishing of the Rosie Memorial and to the park now dedicated in their name and for which I'm an interpretive ranger.

So maybe my talk wasn't nearly as earth-shattering as indicated by my "walk-out".  Perhaps she just didn't wait long enough for us to bring it into the present -- which is the point of it all, actually.

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