(Posted on Facebook May 14, 2017)
Want to thank the Drake Public Library and Friends of the Library, especially Deanna Allen and JeNel Allen Barth, for hosting the book signing for Katherine Wood (An Unbroken Promise) and me (The Waters of Appanoose County) Saturday (1). The old and new friends who came and gave their kind attention to our work are proof that ‘You Can go home again’-and you should.
Back to the Future
The great American Novelist Thomas Wolfe introduced generations of readers to the idea that going home was not what it was cracked up to be. The main character of his novel You Can’t Go Home Again is a man called Weber. At a crucial point in the novel Weber states his case:
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
James Crumley, one of my favorite crime novelists, has another take on going home. From his book The Last Good Kiss:
“Whichever wise Greek said that you can’t step into the same river twice was right, even though he forgot to mention that nine times out of ten, you’ll get your feet wet. Change is the rule. You can’t go home again even if you stay there.”
My Two Cents
I greatly admire the works of both Thomas Wolfe and James Crumley. They provided the framework for my own discoveries, my own viewpoint on the importance of going home. It has been an exciting journey, and along the way I have picked up some new thoughts on the nature of time itself.
I was on my way to the bathroom early one morning when this phrase popped into my head-the tyranny of time-based explanations of our human existence. So I ask you, if you were accosted by such a thought wouldn’t you hurry up to take care of your business so you could get to your Website before you lost the thread? On this occasion as soon as I sat down at my computer this poem came gushing out.
Benjamin Button Has Nothing On Me
When it comes to living life backwards
Benjamin Button has nothing on me
I’ve dreamed of being me since I was three
And like the great poet Muhammad Ali
But I almost didn’t recognize myself
because I forgot you can dream backwards
as well as you can forwards
Just like I forgot how blessings come to me
Before I remember to ask for them
or like following through on a pitch
that’s already left your hand
So life is just a back-story
For the role I was born to play
And all I have to do now
is pretend I forgot the ending (2)
So here I am, a biscuit shy of 75 years old, having published my first book of poetry in December of 2016. Not only that, I have been running for the better part of those 75 years and I have finally achieved near-perfect sprinting form. So why wouldn’t I be heading home to read my poetry to friends I made half a century ago? Why wouldn’t I be hanging out with elite athletes and coaches? Why wouldn’t I be studying voice and dance while working on a musical play of my own? And possibly the biggest question of all-why wouldn’t I be a member of a church that truly honors all paths to God? (3)
My Trip to the Future Past
My home town is Centerville, Iowa. My official residence is Phoenix, AZ. My life is mostly in my head these days, but my heart… my heart is in Kansas City, Mo. That’s where my two little sun-flowers, Scarlett (7) and Theo (5) thrive, along with their mom, Amy Zoe Schonhoff, their dad, Michael Schonhoff and their newly acquired kitten Zoey. The litany of Zoe’s would make my mother Zoe Cox very happy. So For me the road to my birth home runs through Kansas City, Mo.
On never having to say, “I never read to my grandchildren”
In the past I had attempted to read to both Scarlett and Theo. But the results were less than Norman Rockwell ish. GG (Grandpa Garry) just didn’t seem to have what it took to engage their minds long enough to slow down their incredible engines. Things would be different on this visit.
First Theo. Theo was four at the time of my visit, but determined to reach age five, a milestone he was somehow convinced his parents could help him reach faster if they would just get with the program. So it was no surprise when I called him on his June 8 birthday that a very happy boy proclaimed, “GG I’m five. I’m five years old. GG, did you know I was five?”
On this visit, possibly at his mother’s suggestion, Theo presented a book called Harold and the Purple Crayon and cut right to the chase, “GG, read this.” I was thrilled, but all I could think of was, “Don’t blow it!”
In author Crockett Johnson’s story the main character is a four year old chap who, armed with a single purple crayon, totally controls his own destiny. If he wants to have a certain thing or go to a certain place, he simply pays it forward with his purple crayon. He creates streets he can walk on, stairs he can climb, rooms he wants to enter, and beds he wants to sleep in. Delightful reading, magical illustrations and Theo is the perfect audience. Turning the pages, offering helpful comments, smiling at the results of our collaboration. And the icing on the story-reading cake, he asked for seconds. If my upcoming poetry reading is half as satisfying, the trip to Iowa will be an unparalleled success.
Mothers’ Day 2017
Although I have shared many birthdays and Christmases with the Schonhoff, this is my first Mothers’ day. And I picked a doozie.
There was much to celebrate in the Schonhoff household. Michael is completing his first year as Director of the new Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) artist-in-residence Program. And Amy recently completed her teacher development training and is now qualified to teach Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
As befitting a working mother, hubby was in charge of dinner. Maybe it’s because I don’t cook, or maybe because he’s just that good, I woke up that morning already salivating over the his signature steak dinner to come.
But long before the meal, Amy is on cloud nine. She has already regaled her good fortune by featuring her mother’s day gift from Michael on Facebook. The Nassau print, engaging on the tiny phone screen, is breath-taking in real time and space. Her words to me, an avowed spacenik, were, “Be jealous. Be very jealous”. Needless to say, spirits are high at the dinner table.
Mom’s day dinner encore: Scarlett’s turn
To be honest, I don’t remember if the following happened before or after the meal. I do remember thinking that my writing would never afford me a greater honor. It started with mom announcing, “I think GG should read one of his poems from his new book.” (4)
I hesitated only long enough to decide between ‘Squirrels in the Attic’, a nostalgic piece that mentions both children by name, and ‘Ode to Brownie’, kind of a long yarn about my dog Brownie. I chose the dog. Both kids were quiet during the reading. But this time it was Scarlett’s turn to astound me with her attention. Her guileless questions melted my heart.
Why did Brownie have to live outside?
Did he get in lots of trouble?
Was he your friend?
Thank you for sharing the first leg of my journey home. My next stop will feature an afternoon with Historian Enfys McMurry, author of Centerville A Mid-American Saga.
(1) the Drake Public library is located in Centerville, Iowa which is the County Seat for Appanoose County
(2) Benjamin Button garrycox.com Blog
(3) Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center
(4) The Waters of Appanoose County Amazon.com and garrycox.com The Book