Monday, October 16, 2017

Transitioning again ... ?

Having outlived most of my peers, and living into a period sans models to go by, it can be dizzying.   Feels as though I'm out here in uncharted waters, alone, and without  map or compass ... .

What changes will I be facing when "Sign my name to freedom" is published in February?  How on earth will I blend multiple roles -- that of author of a first book with a dance card fast-filling for book-signings; as the subject of two films, with my current role of "historian without port folio" or degrees, but with a growing following of those hungry for a true accounting of WWII Home Front history?

Photos by Carl Bidleman
Over time, I've grown into that role, and with it, have found fulfillment and honor.

With the film releases sometime next year, audiences will discover another Betty, the artist whose compositions will form the sound track for one of the films.  What effect will that have on these final years?

This week I will be meeting with Marcus Shelby, a great musician/arranger who directs an important youth program locally, a music program that I'll have the chance to introduce my songs to -- and who may, under the directions of the filmmaker and music director --- do the actual arranging and create the accompaniment of said soundtrack.  How exciting is that?

This week I will listen to songs rediscovered and digitized by Bryan Gibel, filmmaker, for the first time in forty years with the music director, as the listening-to is being filmed.  Can hardly imagine how that will go, or what will happen when old Betty is re-introduced to young Betty via audio tapes from 40-50 years ago ... .

Meanwhile, on Tuesday I will become the subject of a PodCast created by a Kaiser archivist, a brilliant professional with whom a close professional relationship has developed, an amazing and supportive National Park Service superintendent, and a host of others that have blended lives with one aging woman long after she passed her "sell by" date!

My wish for an ending of life that means simply disappearing into the art of others, may be more real than not.

What a way to go!

But not yet.

There's still work to do.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

It's one of those lazy Sundays, and going out into the smoky air is not recommended for elders ... I'm trapped with memories of the recent past; memories to escape into ...

This beautiful little evening bag bearing a Paris label was an anniversary gift from Uncle Raleigh Koker to his wife, Aunt Emily.  Emily (affectionately known as "Nanny" within the family) was great-grandmother, Leontine Breaux Allen's eldest daughter, and the childless daughter whose home had always been welcoming to each Allen son or daughter as they left St. James Parish for school in the City of New Orleans.

Aunt Emily gave the beautiful silk beaded bag to my mother's younger sister, Vivian, at graduation from Xavier. Vivian lived with the Kokers throughout her college years.  Much later, Aunt Vivian passed the little bag along to me as a gift.  I then gifted my eldest granddaughter with it on her eighteenth birthday.

At the national tree-lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C. two years ago, I was clutching it in my left hand while holding the script in my right as I introduced President Barack Obama to the country on national television.  In it was the precious coin bearing the presidential seal that President Obama had slipped into my hand when we were introduced moments before.
Aunt Emily Allen Koker

My granddaughters, Alyana and Tamaya, who accompanied me on that trip, had decided that it would be an important element to add to this event, and, just before we left our hotel room for the ceremony, Alyana silently slipped it into my hand.  Obviously, they'd gotten the message of the importance of legacy.

The pearls were a gift from my husband, Mel, given on the day of our wedding in 1942.  I'd given them to Alyana when she turned 18 with a letter explaining their history, that in a former life, they'd been loaned to (white) Susan Sanford, the daughter of a friend, and a college student member of SNCC, to wear under her T-shirts as she taught black children in a Freedom School in Canton, Mississippi, in Freedom Summer '94.  This was a simple way for me to have "presence" in that history.  Susan returned the necklace when she returned, and I could imagine that they'd kept her safe through that perilous Civil Rights struggle in which those 3 SNCC members were killed by the KKK.

The girls brought the little necklace along tucked into their luggage to Washington, and the pearls were inside the little beaded bag in which the presidential coin would be placed.

All of this fell into place seamlessly without prior planning or a warning ...

All that history, all those generations, all that love ... .