By Marie Malicki
At 12th & Marquette
“At 12th & Marquette” is a memoir chronicling ordinary lives forever altered by a devastating disease. Radiating through the pages is a story textured with memories from a childhood whose beliefs were charted in the baby-boom years. On a fateful day in the 60’s, a meeting of two individuals brimming with idealism met, married and learned marriage is not always infallible. The memoir explores the love, spirituality and the rigors and unrelenting heartache of caregiving. Left to steer a route through health care and a diagnosis of amyloidosis, the author faces down its complexities and emotions. Bittersweet, it’s a love letter for these times.
The worm that lives and feeds off the inner musings, daydreams, perceptions and memories of my mind, occasionally gets released and put onto paper. I was born in the Midwest during the post WWII baby boom explosion, enjoyed an eighteen-year interval in middle Tennessee, and am now settled in northern Illinois. The people, the places, the things, and the ups and downs of seven decades of living are what I put on paper. Thus, if my writing were to wear an emblem, it would represent an air of a bit of melancholy, but mostly pleasurable, joyful and heartened snippets of life. Also, the impact of my caregiving journey gave rise to my memoir, “At 12th & Marquette (A Story of Love, Faith and Caregiving)”. My hope is that those who read it will be spurred on to action and support on behalf of the caregivers among us.
As a writer, I previously served as secretary of the In Print Professional Writers’ Organization, and am currently a member of the Chicago Writers Association. My short story, “1967 Chevelle”, was published in the Chicago Writers Association The Write City Magazine. As part of the art scene in my area, I participated in the “What Makes a Story Worth Telling?” exhibit of the Allegory Project.
The collaboration of writers and artists in Word of Art2 and Word of Art3 highlighted a story and a poem of mine in each of those publications for exhibition. The artists who interpreted my work were amazing.
I am in the finishing stages of my memoir, “At 12th & Marquette (A Story of Love, Faith and Caregiving)”. I am hopeful to have it available soon.
It was the late 60’s. The drummer in a rock band, his stage presence smoldered. When wearing a silk scarf and bell bottoms, his dark wavy hair and tanned skin underscored his hotness. In the shiny, paisley print, Motown jacket, his presence set alight the stage.
Peering at him through Twiggy style lashes, I realized it was the Nehru jacket that urged the ladies to the dance floor. Under stage lights, his stunning appearance triggered their libidinous ways. Swaddled in the Mandarin collared, single breasted jacket, he encapsulated more machismo than the Beatles or Monkees could dream of. From his perch behind the pearlescent red drum kit, his sensuality oozed to the dance floor and beyond.
It was the last set, stimulated with libation and desperate for his attention, they worked their wiles. Salacious dance maneuvers to earn his nod, gyrated within his gaze, until the last note was played. Drum sticks in hand, he edged through the crowd to my table. Imbued with his love for me, we kissed. Hand in hand we walked towards the door. Dejected, they walked to their cars – alone.
When mass ended, “ Sphhh-sphhh” was heard clear to the front pews where the children sat. It sounded weird, but I didn’t dare turn around for fear of reprisal from a nun. Soon, we’d be herded to class. I’d wait until then to satisfy my curiosity.
It was the Rosary Society. Clad in their babushkas, the old Polish busias, rote and mechanical, were whispering the cadence of the Hail Mary. Caught in the sun’s rays, their spittled “sphhh-sphhh” propelled itself onto their gnarled, desiccated and blue-veined hands. That their fingers were able to move the beads in synchronized transfer, when one prayer ended and the next started, astonished my young mind.
The familiar, ultramarine flash of my busia’s beads caught my eye. I stared at their bewildering allure, then saw her hands. Dumfounded, how had I not noticed before? They were decrepit and unattractive, like the rest of the hands. But the comparison ends there. Her face beamed beautiful as she stared into the blue of those wondrous beads. It’s the face I see every time I transfer beads when one prayer ends and the next starts, with arthritic hands that are beginning to remind me of busia’s.
Gray sheets of rain were falling the day we scheduled our Alcatraz tour. We weren’t deterred. We purchased plastic rain jackets at the pier and were ferried across the rough waters of San Francisco Bay.
A sense of dread hit the second I stepped off the boat. It was like no other place I’d ever been. Unexplainable, as if hung out to dry in the cold mist of the day, the wind expelled the soulful torture of the spirits remaining there. I could feel them, but not see them. I wondered, did other tourists have the same case of the willies? Row after row of cells; trepidation laid over me a disturbing heaviness I found hard to shake. I wondered if this compared to the torment and punishment of Purgatory. Souls that waited to get pardoned for their sins, or planned an escape, but to where? Hell’s barrier is fire. Fire wasn’t their barrier – Cold waters, harsh currents and armed guards were the barriers surrounding Alcatraz. Call it prison -- call it Purgatory, it’s a place of tension and anxiety; it seems to me the damaged side of both life and death.
The blackbird eats lunch
Pecking garbage bags on roads
Thankful for litter
Autumn’s dazzling moon
Sets alight fields of pumpkins
It was during the “Summer of Love” when I met the Chevelle. When my date, who later became my husband, opened the passenger door, I thought it strange how he seemed to commune with his car. Like he was introducing me to a revered friend. My observation wasn’t far off. I learned in time it was his first love. Passionately pampered, it was his pride and joy. The Mountain Green, 1967, SS396 is a vehicle which coursed the changing landscape of our story. Over time, I came to grasp that as Jim’s religious beliefs enriched the spiritual, the Chevelle enhanced the temporal. He valued it as if it had a living soul.
The Chevelle rendered everyday transportation during the early years of our life together. On a seductive evening in May, 1968, my engagement ring found its way from the glove box to the fourth finger of my left hand. Five months later, the Chevelle roamed leisurely through the north woods of Wisconsin, its occupants rejoicing in the magic of a honeymoon. It gently embraced our baby girl, escorting her from the hospital to the safety of our home. Its reliance was preeminent, never causing us a day of grief - - not until I got behind the wheel.
Life’s circumstances consigned the Chevelle as my daily driver. It didn’t seem to like me very much. Every time I got behind the wheel we duked it out. My contempt for its 4-speed manual transmission, whose clutch my foot couldn’t fully engage, and the absence of power steering exhausted not only my energy, but my last nerve as well. After several weeks I couldn’t take it anymore. We’d bullied each other one too many times; I suggested we trade it in.
Family considerations don’t always make a man happy, especially when the man has assigned human qualities to his favorite “thing”. The Chevelle had played the role of first-love. Asking Jim to trade in his pride and joy was like asking him to sacrifice his first-born as testament to his love for family. However, the good man he was, he agreed to its sale.
A buyer was soon found. They negotiated a deal and arrangements were made for the pickup. The money and title were exchanged. While waving an admonitory finger to the Chevelle’s new caretaker, he handed over the keys. Jim’s expression was pained. “Take good care of her,” he cried.
It was years later and once again life changed. Divorced, Jim decided to search for his first love. He found the Chevelle beaten and bruised in a barn in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Now old enough to be considered “classic”, he bought it back and restored it to new life.
The Chevelle’s new found resplendency nourished our second go around as husband and wife, and our social life in Tennessee. Newly painted in red, the Chevelle attracted other “car” people to our lives, some who became car show acquaintances, Jim’s best buddy’s, or our dearest friends.
I moved to Illinois in the aftermath of Jim’s passing. The Chevelle is with me and resides in my garage. Even though I still can’t drive it, I can’t sell it. It’s become a good friend. I admire it. I stroke it, and just like Jim, I commune with it. In the early months after he died, in desperation I pleaded with God and Jim to signal me with a horn beep that Jim was okay. Nothing happened, but I didn’t give up. I waited and waited, and prayed some more, and just about when all hope was gone, it beeped. Startled, I shook. To be certain I wasn’t going crazy, I asked for another beep. It beeped two more times. Relief overwhelmed me. He was okay. The proof was in the beep.
I used to consider this virile icon of the past as merely a machine, an expensive “boy toy”. Time has proven its life giving force by the memory it holds and the answer it has provided me. The essence of its soul is engrained in mine. Always, when I ponder days past, the Chevelle is there, its memory celebrating our forty years together.
It’s been seven years since Jim’s passing. It’s time now to pass this icon to the next generation. When it leaves my garage for its next home, my wish is that the pattern continues. That its destiny is to collect a new set of memories. What is life, anyway, except to collect and hold those good memories with those we love?
To find out the latest book release updates or how to pre-order a copy of the book, please contact me through the form below.