Friday, December 28, 2012

The Magic of Childhood

World over, children envision life through the kaleideoscope of innocence and imagination.  Trying to create meaning of the adult world and their own emotional responses, children turn to magical thinking. Ceci Sullivan is Saint Sullivan's six-year-old daughter. More than imaginative, she is somewhat of a visionary. Her responses to the stress of her parents' dysfunctional marriage, her mother's abuse, and her father's emotional inavailability are magical, but poignant in their childish wisdom. Within her visions are protection and warning. 

Ceci's great-aunt's antique wooden statue draws the child to the old woman's altar where Ceci experiences a small miracle. An excerpt from Part One of Saint Sullivan's Daughter:

"Santa Barbara, my mama is always mad and my daddy is--well, he's late--and it's my birthday. I just keep waiting." Ceci's hands tighted around the edge of the shelf, and she stared into the sad saint's eyes, until in one of them a teardrop formed. Down the side of Saint Barbara's nose it rolled and fell onto Ceci's thumb, cold a warm, light the wintergreen oil Pilar rubbed on her knees at night.

A shiver climbed Ceci's back and shook the teardrop off her finger. She was suddenly afraid. Never had she monkeyed with anything so important as a saint. But that was not all. Something was coming--something worse than being spanked or yelled at.

There could be very bad things in the world; she had watched the news with Daddy, seen the blurry movies of people crying about fires and earthquakes. The news wasn't as real as this feeling, balled up in her stomach, the size of an apple. Something was coming--what Tía called a catastrophe--a beautiful word Ceci loved until she learned its meaning.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Suffer the Little Children

Whenever parents make decisions, their children feel the consequences. In Saint Sullivan's Daughter, the six-year-old daughter of Dora and Barry Sullivan must bear the weight of their failing marriage, as well as the baggage from their unhealed traumas and tragedies.  The wise elders of Dora's Latino family and community, and Barry's delightfully fey Ma from Connemara team together to intercede for the child after a tragic accident.  Without them, Ceci, who is Saint Sullivan's daughter, might be lost.

If Ceci is lost, the whole family will be lost.  She is small and helpless, but she is also the axis of everything that matters.  If Barry "Saint" Sullivan doesn't learn to love as a father should, he cannot lead the family, but not only that. If he cannot love as he must love, he'll never be the jazz artist he longs to be.  

When we put our priorities in order, a kind of slow magic that leads to eventual actualization takes place.  The curandera, or healer, knows this -- and so does the grandmother.

One of the central themes of Saint Sullivan's Daughter is very timely; put the well-being of children first, and then attend to the dreams of adults. In the long run both adults and children will benefit from this priority system.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Happy Advent Season. To celebrate here is an excerpt for you from Part One. The passage is referring to Angel's Gate lighthouse in San Pedro, California.

Mama shrugged away, "You love the clarinet more than me."

Daddy didn't speak. Ceci wanted him to tell Mama that it wasn't true, that he loved them both more than the clarinet. Holding her breath, she peered up through the oval rear window: black clouds blowing in like ghosts from the sea. The lighthouse circled its green lights and sounded its horn.

The lighthouse, like an angel guardian, wings of white cloud, had held up her green lantern over the harbor for as long as Ceci could remember.  She had learned to count by it.  The rhythm, one to thirty, and then the warning horn. One to thirty again, and the sad horn once more.  The foghorn drummed the heartbeat of this sailor town--the music under everything.