Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Quilted Fish out of Water

I don't know what it is about me. My presence, specifically my name, doesn't compute.

I finally tried to create an author profile for the Goodreads page about Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale. I began clicking here and there, only to be told that HENRY was not an acceptable last name so I should try again.

A new round of clicking began, only to be told that I had to apply for LIBRARIAN status if I wanted to edit an author profile. There was no author profile; that's what I was trying to create. I just wanted to offer some details for the folks who landed on my page.

I don't want to be a librarian. That ship sailed. (I'm not even sure I'm an author on some days, truth be told.)

My trouble wasn't just with technology. My name has been swimming upstream for decades.

When I got married in the late 1970s, I faced name changing red tape when I explained to the bank teller that I'd need new checks. She congratulated me on getting married and began asking questions and filling out a form. She handed it to me, marking where I should sign. I scanned the blanks she'd filled in.

"No," I said. I don't want the checks to say Mrs. Clifford W. Clark."

"Would you prefer Ms.?" she asked with a knowing nod.

"No. I want it to say Karen Henry Clark. I'm not using my husband's name," I said brightly.

 Shocked silence. Then she asked incredulously, "Why not? Aren't you proud to be married?"

Okay. I'll admit this was Tulsa, Oklahoma, a state still known for being socially behind the curve. Our Junior League cookbook from that era listed recipe donors as Mary Brown (Mrs. John T.). Being married was everything then. (I suspect it still is out there in many circles.) 

In all fairness, the recipes were great. In fact, we still use many of them. (My husband cooks, but don't mention that. I'm sure that's not what the cookbook committee ever intended.)

I patiently explained to the teller that this wasn't about my husband and that I never intended to be known as Mrs. Him. She said she'd have to talk to a manager and disappeared behind a door. When she returned, she said my check request would be discussed at the next board meeting. They'd let me know their decision.

I am absolutely not making this up.

I don't remember how much time passed, but I finally received a call. They granted permission for one box printed with my requested name change "to see how it would go."

Don't you wonder what that meant? Was I a new-fangled scam? Some kind of feminist fiasco that would fraudulently steal millions from respectfully married members? Best I can tell, whatever they feared was never perpetrated by my red-flag name.

But as someone with three names, I can tell you that technology remains confused with it to this day. Some places have filed me under C or H or HenryClark or Henry-Clark. I've learned to roll with it.

But my basic inability to communicate correctly with computers, however, has continued. A tech-literate friend, who was trying to unravel a device problem for me, said, "Karen, you're the only person I know who would be better off living among the Amish."

I love quilts.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January, The Epiphany

If I were a better person, I wouldn't admit this.

But my favorite part of Christmas happened when Maggie and Cliff returned to school after the holiday break. I didn't need another sack of flour or spool of ribbon. Nothing was left to mail.

I sat down with a cup of coffee and listened to my New Age holiday CDs that cleverly disguise carols behind flutes and strings.  Without feeling stressed, I gazed at the decorations.

Because I'm a storyteller by nature, I've always created a plot line for every arrangement displayed, but this year I rushed to cover the surfaces. Things were pulled from boxes and clustered around whatever was already there. As Maggie had handed pieces to me, I mentioned I wanted to write something about it all.

She was quiet for a long time and said, "You know you've ended up with an Asian-Fusion approach."

"Isn't that something about cooking?" I asked. We're devoted fans of the Food Network.

"I think that's Asian-infused, Mom."

I panicked. Because Maggie is forever politically correct, I feared I'd made a mistake. "Have I committed that horrible 'cultural appropriation'?" (She once explained that referred to the idea that children learn about other cultures by playing dress up--white children with painted faces and feathers in their hair, pretending to be American Indians. Terribly offensive.)

She assured me I hadn't crossed a line.

So I've taken time to see what she meant, and sure enough, our standard Asian things were indeed thematically entwined with the traditional frou-frou. Our Chinese lady lamp oversaw the Christmas tree. A glass pagoda became a stable. Angels decorated the deer, paused by an unfolded fan. Stone lions protected the Holy Family.

When I told Maggie I wasn't sure how to connect the dots into a clear thesis, she asked why it had to mean something. She said it made her happy to see her favorite Chinese pieces among the Christmas things. Shouldn't that be enough?

It was not lost on me that I finally understood her point on January 6th, The Epiphany. I would not be the first adult to be enlightened by a child. All kinds of things are a wonder on their own, just because they are. Just because they make us happy. 

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