Friday, February 6, 2009

Glowing Cross in Chopped Down Tree--Surely a Sign?!

Every day for the last few weeks, as I drive into my friends' driveway to pick up their kids for the school carpool, I notice the pile of tree chunks--yes, chunks, not trunks--in front of their home, left behind after they had an overgrown tree removed from their yard. The circular chunk of trunk that faces the street has a two-way split through its center in the shape of a cross, and the cross is surrounded by cracks like the rays a kid draws on a picture of the sun. I must admit, the image looks impressively intentional, and if I weren't a Jewish skeptic when it comes to alleged appearances of the Virgin Mary in cheese sandwiches, or tears and/or blood leaking from Christian iconic art, I might fancy that I even heard ethereal music and saw the rays glowing. I might even contemplate calling the Pope to report the sighting of evidence of the holy spirit....

But I'm too jaded for that.

And thus, I've been joking with my kids that any day now, the media will be at our friends' door when we pull up, and they'll be snapping photos that will appear in the local papers with the caption: "Holy Spirit Makes Appearance in Poway Tree"--or something like that. I also joked that my friends should put the tree on EBay, in slices, like the grilled cheese sandwich in which the blessed virgin's face supposedly appeared (I still marvel that people recognized her after so many years!). So imagine my surprise when I noticed on Facebook that a different friend had as her Facebook photo a picture of the very same glowing cross! I sent her a message, asking whether she'd taken the photo on E--- Road, and she wrote back that she had indeed, and was happy to hear that I'd noticed the cool cross, too.

Imagine again my continued surprise when I called my friend, the tree owner, to tell her about the funny Facebook coincidence, and she asked, "What cross in the tree?"

"You mean to tell me you haven't noticed it?!" I exclaimed. "You mean to tell me that you, the good Catholic, overlooked it? You let your Jewish friend notice the holy ghost in your front yard before YOU did?"

We both cracked up (my same friend from the earlier blog about my demented memory), and she had her daughter pull up the Facebook picture so she could see it for herself. She promised to go look at the log in person when it stops raining. It's still raining as I write this, but shouldn't the glowing cross be worth some wet hair and stained shoes?

"Maybe I can sell slices of the tree," suggested my friend between guffaws, "and pay for the backyard projects I can't justify doing right now!"

"Yeah, and maybe you can put the pieces on EBay and finance that new kitchen you want, too!" I added. "You can call it the Jesus' Kitchen Project."

Oy, such irreverence in the face of possible miracles!

The Problem with Memoirs: They Are Fiction

Given the fact that memories are unreliable as objective recordings of facts, and that memories merely offer perceptions of actual incidents, why call written recollections of the past “memoirs” at all? To create such a genre implies their “nonfictional” status, when in fact, they ought to be labeled “based on a true story,” to keep them from later being called “lies” or “misrepresentations” of the “truth” (whatever the heck that is!).

Recently, a Holocaust survivor published a widely acclaimed memoir, but he enhanced his actual story with a romanticized fiction portion. Thus, he was deemed a fabricator, and his book, a phony memoir. He didn't intend to deceive with his words, though; he intended only to touch hearts. He could have avoided that misconception of himself altogether merely by calling his Holocaust romance a “mostly true” story, or a tale “based on a true story.”

“Memoir” is a bogus word anyway, one created solely for marketing purposes, I think. My siblings and I could write three different memoirs about the same incident in our family life, and each account would sound markedly different, because memoirs merely reflect perceptions of past events, not objective facts. A memoir is not necessarily an excerpt of an autobiography; its most important truth lies in its emotional resonance. Truth is a matter of opinion sometimes....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sharing Thoughts with Strangers

Although I was at first disappointed about not getting to sit beside my husband on my recent long plane trip to New York, I discovered how a friend can materialize out of thin air--literally, considering our altitude!--when I started conversing with my seat mate, Donnie. Our conversation began with a handshake and my observation that Donnie looked like a younger Morgan Freeman. He laughed, and his eyes twinkled just like Mr. Freeman's, as he nodded. "I've heard that before," he confessed. From the mundane details about why we were traveling, where we live and where we are from originally, and who makes up our respective families, we soon found ourselves immersed in a heavy discussion about our own childhood experiences (with very similar family dynamics!), our shared philosophies regarding child-rearing and education, our views on love and marriage (we have been married the same number of years), religion and spirituality, life and death....

When the pilot announced we'd be landing, we both smiled with disappointment and told each other how much we'd enjoyed this surprise new friendship's evolution during a plane flight. I gave him my business card and told him to email me if he and his wife ever make the trip to San Diego that they have discussed in the past. I added, "Please don't think I'm just talking. I really mean it--stay in touch. My husband and I befriended a guy on a boat in San Francisco, and he gave us his card and told us to contact him if we ever visit Vancouver. We did visit, last summer, and we all had a fun lunch together. So please, don't hesitate to write, okay?"

I got an email from Donnie two days after I got home. He thanked me for a great conversation, and told me it was "exactly what I needed." Now, how 'bout that for memorable words?