Matters of the Heart
We kids loved Pogo. The old comic books were stacked in the attic of our duplex on Belhaven Street. They lived there with everything else from Mother’s “Before Us” life. Her heavy bowling ball from her competitive bowling days. Her very own ice skates she wore to glide on lakes so frozen you could drive a car across them. That was North Dakota. We were in Jackson, Mississippi, where on warm afternoons the attic was golden with dust motes. Be careful—don’t step on the unfinished edges, or your foot would crash through the pink insulation. Sit, read, live inside Walt Kelly’s Pogo.
My favorite Pogo characters were the bugs. The bugs appeared intermittently, tiny surprises usually in the corners of the frames. The irreverent bugs would comment on whatever wild antics Pogo or Albert or Churchy were up to. I loved the bugs so much I collected scrap fabric and sewed it into an amazingly accurate portrayal of one bug, long nose included. I then proceeded to teach the bug using the beloved chalkboard my older sister Marcee had given me. Good little bug student.
Matters of the heart appear and reappear, that’s why they are of the heart. In my childhood heart, we next see Adam the Alligator, so named because he was the world’s first clothespin alligator. I happened to look at a clothespin and see an alligator. So I painted the clothespin green with a white mouth and red teeth, white eyes with black pupils. I fashioned a terrarium with a blue-painted lake and dried crackling moss. Adam lived on the windowsill of my bedroom. I was in high school. I loved Adam, and while Mother wondered at who I was, no one poked fun at my creation.
They did laugh at a George and Mendel. Both were Easter gifts. We were studying evolution in science class that year. I Anglicized Gregor for George, who was a candy bunny head. I secreted George in Mother’s fine china compote in the living room where she found him years later in a grungy state. Mendel was a pink Peep rabbit who I protected in a manicure box. I took the box with me when we traveled to Jackson. The trip proved fatal when the manicure stick stabbed Mendel in the neck, decapitating him.
I can laugh now about the death—ha, ha!—as my family did then, but my heart was sore at losing Mendel. And sore at them for not caring. George’s slow death in our living room did strike me as funny—by the time he was discovered, we had grown apart. What I never questioned was believing I could preserve these beloved friends. George and Mendel were food, after all.
Why this urge to imbue the inanimate with animation? To pluck a love out of the imagination and hold it solid in my hands? I don’t know, but right now Godzilla sits on a rock in my front yard, a gift from a husband who knows matters of the heart are real.
Rose petals strewn on my courtyard bricks…or blossoms of the Golden Raintree, whatever your heart feels is real.