Women and Children
by Paul Burns
THEY fought. Bitterly. I heard none of it. Being just eight years old, in that summer of 1935, I was shielded by both my parents from their monstrous squabbles, but little subtle things told me Mother and Father were fighting hard. For example, other people’s sidelong glances when the subject of THEM arose; or his mysterious absences at dinner and on Sundays; or her smoldering looks of recrimination after he left for work in the mornings; or the secret whisperings of my older brother and sister.
I somehow felt unnecessary, unloved, a mistake my parents had created. One Saturday evening, as the whole family was waiting to be served dinner in a seafood restaurant, I started acting childishly, babyishly; and as Mother quietly reprimanded me, my father threw me a glance so filled with exasperated annoyance, so suffused with punishing self-guilt and depression that I knew he longed to be rid of every last shred of responsibility for relationships he himself had brought into being. I felt, then, more than unloved by him; I felt totally unwanted.
But Mother possessed me. I apparently was her last tenuous hold on him; and, more importantly, I represented THEIR last attempt at loving passion. She longed for him deeply, possessively, as a female spider longs for, prepares for, and finally devours her mate. She loved him completely selfishly, as she loved herself. He was the he of her; and woman that she was, Mother always knew it.
But, my mother was a pure introvert: her own being enthralled and endlessly fascinated her. It contented her. She could dream unaided, completely alone – something rather rare in a human, and rarer still in a full-blooded woman. She hated guests, people, company and my father’s endless need for others. She abhorred my father’s penetrating, pitiable hatred and fear of being left alone. He had to have others – all the time, under all circumstances: in the morning, at night, at meals, in bed. He defined himself through others. He WAS because others were. He knew no other definition for self-hood, for being, for his very manhood. His need for people was a slakeless thirst, an endless hunger. And Mother adored aloneness. She worshipped silence. All she needed was him or her kids. And, often, not even them – just herself.
My parents naturally fought. Bitterly.
One night they must have argued so hard that she at last kicked him out of the house (on top of all their other incompatibilities, Mother always claimed that Dad was a heavy drinker.) It was summertime and I woke up, hearing a door slam. I stumbled out of bed and ambled slowly downstairs to the kitchen. Humid, dark gray shadows followed me everywhere, for when Massachusetts summer heat finally arrives, it is accompanied by dank defeating sogginess which plagues day and night both.
Mother sat alone at the kitchen table. I sensed something was seriously wrong and, having recently seen Shirley Temple in The Littlest Rebel, knew what to do instinctively, when heroines were softly weeping. I started crooning to her, a tune I remembered from the Temple movie. My voice trembled, my words faltered, but I crooned bravely all the way through the song.
Mother kept crying until my woeful warbling ceased. She stared at me long and hard, for I was standing very close to her. Then, the sorrow in her eyes plainly vanished, replaced immediately by the fiercest blazing passion I had ever seen pouring out of a woman’s eyes. She grabbed me roughly and we embraced.
Stifled and choking, I wriggled at last out of her gripping clutch, but the expression on Mother’s face was unmistakable: “I’m glad he’s gone! I’m glad I kicked him out! He’s nothing but a slob, a drunk and a nuisance. I don’t care where he goes… he can go to hell… just so long as I have what I want… just so long as he leaves me alone… with my children.”
It Isn’t Easy Being a Parent
by Sandy Burns
Her every attempt to
Reach her child
Was met with stubborn hostility
And total negativism.
Her suggestions of love, patience
And positive solutions
Were met with closed
It isn’t easy being a parent,
Her day was filled with desperation, tension and tears,
Pleading with a Higher Power
To reveal the answer.
The wise man listened to her plight
Patiently suggesting there might be
A reflection of her conflict
In her child.
She listened with doubt
But with a vague apprehension
That hinted at an element of truth
Which eluded her consciousness.
Her struggle continued through the night
In the form of erratic, fitful dreams
Which left her exhausted
The next morning.
In that exhaustion, she saw the reflection
And knew the answer.
It isn’t easy being a parent,
Especially to one’s inner child.
by Paul Burns
BACHELORHOOD,” some wise wag once remarked, “makes a thrilling breakfast, a passable lunch, but a lousy supper!” I was 35 and beginning to feel the wisdom of that remark. All the fun had been lived out of bachelorhood, and it was becoming an onerous chore. I was a sloppy housekeeper and a lousy cook; and even though an exercise workout at the YMCA and a cold shower following it made me tingle with quiet pride at being a man, I was beginning to experience heavy bouts of unrewarding loneliness. The happy pursuit of my own pleasures was fast fading, but I didn’t quite know what to do about it.
At a YMCA dance for singles over 30, I met Libby. She was about my own age, a tall, quiet brunette with a plain yet pleasant face. Tall women always put me off, rather, and at first I ignored her, but as we danced well together and made easy conversation, I seemed to be spending more and more time in her company, and soon I began dreaming of what married life with Libby might be like.
One Sunday afternoon, accompanied by another 30-plus Y member, I drove over to Libby’s apartment. She shared it with a loud-mouthed girl who happened to be interested in my buddy Y member, so our foursome got on enjoyably. Now I was more seriously contemplating approaching Libby about engagement, although my highly critical nature had already silently enumerated Libby’s flaws: her lugubrious moodiness, her tendency toward self-pity, her vapid disinterest in most areas of living, her inelegance and tight-fistedness concerning money.
Would I, a perpetual schoolboy type, a dream-laden writer whose years as an elementary school teacher had merely enhanced a young-boy-in-corduroy self-image, be happy living with such a listless woman? Would we be compatible interest-wise? Would we be sexually harmonious? A tornado of questions swirled around my brain. I could hardly concentrate politely on the present conversation.
The talk seemed banal anyway, with my buddy acting super-boyish as he reminisced lovingly about his long gone college days, when he was forced to undergo a brutal paddling in order to be initiated into a college fraternity. His graphic depiction of the torture, laughing proudly all the while, reminded me quite sharply of women’s well-known complaint that men are often silly, giggling boys.
All at once, the conversation in the room turned – unaccountably – to the topic of loneliness and human want. My girl friend Libby’s face grew grave and took on an expression of wistful sadness I’d seldom seen on anyone’s face before. “I guess all of us human beings are lonely,” she suddenly said unexpectedly.
Then and there, I wisely knew I’d never marry Libby. For, as a writer, my inner life was rigorously introverted. Never could I share it with anyone or anything but a pen. And Libby would have wanted from me that which I could never give her.
I sometimes wonder if it’s fair for a writer to marry anyone…
Tragedy or Opportunity?
by Sandy Burns
WHEN we face a tragedy, a hurt, or a difficult experience in life, we tend to withdraw within ourselves, lick our wounds and seek comfort in our own reflection and isolation. Only a severe jolt cracks the image we have of our self-imposed fortress.
The crash stuns us with beams of warm sunlight, filtering through the jagged edges of shattered dreams, revealing glowing colors which blend into variations of shades which have to be defined.
We search our sterile, cracked fortress for the source of this illuminating beauty. Then we see the blood dripping, feel the throbbing pain, and face the inescapable reality that a piece of the mirror is embedded in our being, bleeding profusely in the form of tears.
The blood coagulates, the pain subsides, the tears dry, and we stare incredulously at the fading scar which symbolizes that which we have been and what we are becoming. We treasure the experience and recognize the opportunity.
by Joseph F. Bradburn
UNDER the above caption, Hal E. Stone, one of the founders of the amateur press movement in Australia, described some incidents of his journey around the world, which included one year spent in the United States. The original story appeared in Ye Kangaroo No. 6 in 1904. This account is copied from Interesting Items No. 812 by Arthur Harris of Wales, who reprinted it in September, 1954.
“Our first lesson in American money is given to us at the post office. Altogether the mail matter pans out to 59 cents the smallest money we hold is a five-dollar bill. Procuring a small card we total up how much we have to get back first before handing the bill. Now, even though we made out just how much we were to receive as change, the sight of four big silver medals (presumably called dollars), four dimes (valued each at ten cents) and a one cent stamp, fills us with consternation as we say ‘thanks’ and disappear, trusting to the good lady’s honesty toward a stranger.
“Something to eat is wanted, and the names of so many oily dishes on the various menus cause our stomachs to revolt, so we decide to purchase biscuits and apples. It has always been a rule of our life to purchase of white men only, but we have got into a portion of Chinatown and, not knowing where the white quarter is, we break down our prejudicial barrier and step into a respectable Chinese shop.
“ ‘How much biscuits?’ ‘Twenny cents one pund.’ ‘How much? Ten cents?’ ‘No, no. Twenny cents one pund.’ ‘How much apples?’ ‘Two for one nickel’ (five cents). ‘By gosh, all right, thirty cents worth.’ For the next half hour we were busily engaged with these bargains, lying on the green grass of the Customs House.
“After a rest, a tour of inspection of the town is decided upon and, of all the quaintest sights, surely Honolulu numbers the most curious! Chinese barber shops, cook shops, medicine shops and a host of other Chinese trades, Japanese ice-drink shops and fruit stalls, Honolulan shops, American ice-cream palaces, stores and saloons. After a ride in an electric car to the beach, we return and make for the Ventura which is timed to leave at 5 p. m.
“Half an hour before we depart, the Hawaiian band plays several selections of cake walks and marches. Five o’clock comes and with the addition of 40 Japs as passengers we depart from the ‘Paradise of the Pacific.’ Six more days and we hope to reach ‘The Golden Gate’ of America, San Francisco.
“Preparatory to this, we are going through several formalities in the shape of: How old? Are you a cripple? All fingers on? How much money? (One must have 30 dollars – six pounds five shillings – before he can be admitted into America.) Are you married? etc. So that one must really undergo the usual Star Chamber before being allowed to land in the great and mighty country of ye Stars and Stripes! Only two more days and we hope to be in sight of America…
“Hurrah! ‘The Golden Gate’ at last! But the day is a misty one, and San Francisco can scarcely be seen. We just perceive a faint outline of Cliff House and the famous Seal Rocks. The steamer puts on a great spurt, and we just reach the ship’s doctor in time. After another examination by the various officers and the amount of money we have, we are permitted to land.
“Dragging our baggage down to the wharf, we place it in front of a Customs Officer, who kindly pulls the whole lot to pieces after we had so nicely packed all our books! Throwing these all in again in one big heap, we meekly say thanks and disappear. Getting out of the shed we are assailed by about fifty yelling hotel canvassers, and as we cannot stop at all of their places, we dodge through the crowd into the road into San Francisco!”
This same issue of Interesting Items also reports publication of The Amateur Literateur September, 1904, (official organ of the British Amateur Literary Association) edited by Alfred H. Pearce. Pearce reported that he had a most agreeable visit from Hal E. Stone of the Australian Amateur Press Association the previous month. His visit was only a short one, as he was working his way back home after his American visit.
Some Remarks on the Bundle
by Joseph F. Bradburn
Keith M. Gray’s comment, as reported by Ray A. Albert in the June NAPA bundle, triggered an impulse in my mind to report on some of the papers recently received and watch for the result. I had mentioned something of the sort to Ernie Witte in our recent correspondence, but had been attempting to carry more material from the manuscript bureau, rather than personal comment. Ernie has been trying to mention at least a few of the papers in each of his issues.
Perhaps I should begin with comment on the bundle itself. This particular one was impressive even before I opened it. It was so full that I almost had to shake the papers out. I like the good service Ernie and Irene have given on the mailings this year, including the printing of the appropriate month on each mailing envelope. With the president and the mailer in the same household, reports have been right up to date.
Other than that, I hardly know where to begin. Should it be by acknowledging Spasmania, Chuck Hite’s renewed effort after so many years? His Multilith press and the necessary offset equipment are put to good use here, and I can only hope he will continue to find time for more seizures of this journal.
Should it be by thanking Henry J. Jolly for his colorful contributions to the bundles and various annuals? Not only is he doing a lot of printing, but he’s publishing a good selection of material from the manuscript bureau as well, which always helps to encourage the amateur writers.
I’ve been meaning to write Lauren Geringer and tell him I was helped by his suggestion about spreading the printed sheets out on type cases to dry. I guess I was spoiled by using Warren’s Old Style paper so much that I forgot about offset, and then had to learn all over again when I went to different stock. Only when I began to publish my issues regularly did I begin to appreciate the tremendous amount of work involved in Gehry’s monthly publication of three thousand copies for members of six amateur press associations.
Charles L. Bush is continuing a monthly schedule too, with 1100 copies printed page by page on a 6×10 Kelsey press for distribution to three associations.
I used up all my superlatives on Jake Warner long ago. Now all I can do is to grab his paper out of the bundle each month, and to keep making room on my shelves.
Among publishers just getting started we find Lowell F. Adams, Harold Sterne, Bill Gordon, Fredric Graeser, Chuck Lewis, Art Gagnon and Arie Koelewyn. Most of them are familiar with the printing trade, so their publications will depend upon their reactions to the hobby of amateur journalism and the NAPA. Let’s try to make them understand that we appreciate their efforts, and hope for many years of mutual cooperation.
Finally, we find a group of publications by our long-term members and publishers. While they have come to realize that it is impossible to recognize every effort made, they still feel a bit better if we give some indication from time to time that we have not lapsed into a stupor, but are reading their publications and storing up our impressions, which may finally boil over into some form of activity.
A FIVE HUNDRED COPIES of this amateur journal are being printed, featuring some material from the NAPA Manuscript Bureau. To satisfy postal requirements, be it noted that this journal is distributed to members of the National Amateur Press Association through the monthly bundle. Other copies may be sent first or third class by the publisher-member, who is Joseph F. Bradburn, La Plata, Md. 20646.