Monday, February 11, 2008

One night when Christine was two, her father didn’t return home. It rained heavily that evening and family lore says that Chris refused to go to sleep till Daddy read her a story, though she did fall asleep in the bottom bunk of the girl’s bedroom.

Her dad never came home and sometime during the night her mother called the Sheriff’s office to report him missing. In the morning a deputy came and told her mother that they had found his truck, her father’s body in it. He’d driven off the levy road into the ditch filled by the spring rains and drowned. The coroner reported that he’d been drinking heavily, but that never answered the question of whether he was drunk and had an accident or was drunk and intentionally drove off the road.

The auction of the family farm occurred a few days after Christine’s birth and instead of coming home to the home of her ancestors she came home to an old single wide plopped on the edge of a farm road. The farm had been in her father’s family for nearly one hundred years and he dad of course, blamed himself for losing it. Others blamed him to, but there was nothing he could have done.

Farming had changed, small farms couldn’t survive; get bigger the experts told farmers. Chris’ dad listened and took the risk, borrowed against the homestead to buy a couple of neighboring farms and at first the efficiencies were there, but then crop prices fell. Maybe if his dad or grandfather had expanded the farm it would still be in the family, but by the time it was her father’s farm it was too late.

Those of us who grew up in the Midwest know families who lost farms. Sometimes it was through foreclosure, but more often it was because the writing was on the wall and the children found jobs outside agriculture and finally it was time to sell

Chris lived in that trailer till she was ten. Her mother remarried and while Chris can recite a litany of horrors about her step dad, she now realizes that he was a decent man who loved her mother and tried to do the best he could for her unruly brood. Chris was the youngest; she was also smart and pretty. She did well in school and knew she wanted to go to college. Money was a problem and while she was offered some scholarships, but mostly she was offered loans. Given the family history, debt was something she planned to avoid so she took a job and started taking the odd course.

She started stripping, this caused lots of family problems when it became known, but despite the friction, she and her mother maintained a relationship that was at times strained. When we met, Chris had been dancing for about three years. She was making money and spending too much, but she did save some. She continued to take a course here now and again, but progress toward a degree was glacial.

Another complication cropped up, she decided that she wanted to major in art. Coming from a poor family the idea of wasting college to become an artist was true folly and that’s where Chris was when we met.

We met through a mutual friend, a woman who worked at the ad agency where I interned had gone to high school with Chris. They bumped into each other at a happy hour one evening and I was introduced. It was lust at first sight. We became friends and lovers; she confided in me her college dilemma and I gave her the same feedback she was getting from those outside her family, follow your heart. She eventually did.

Christine dropped me a note the other day that she sent off her graduate school applications, one in the east, one in the west, one in the Midwest and one in Paris. The last is a surprise.



Anonymous VJ said...

Ah that's sweet Kim. But the Parisians will eat her alive, no? The story also reminds me of Andy Warhol's upbringing. Hell, there's plenty of real artists who grew up in desperate circumstances. Some more famous than others. To this day the Warhola family does not quite understand or know what to make of their most famous son. Other than to collect the money from the estate. Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Stirling_B said...

Christine is following her dream. Better to try and fail than to not try at all. As a Parisienne, you should know that Van Gough never sold a piece in his lifetime.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

VJ, Christine is one of the toughest, and most resourceful person I know. She'll struggle in Paris for time, all newcomers do, but anyone who tries to take a bite out of her is likely to be bloodied.


7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Kim, I meant that in both ways too. So, Bloodied unless invited. But yeah, the burdens of our raising often make for a surprising resourcefulness as adults. Count on it. Cheers & Good Luck to you both! 'VJ'

3:51 AM  

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