Posted by: sulya | 19 September 2009

Deeper Understanding

A woman came into my life when I was 9 years-old.  She moved into the suite upstairs in our house.  I was wearing a full white skirt and a yellow top the first time I heard her voice.  I’d just returned from summer camp.  She stuck her head out a living-room window and asked my mother who the pretty girl was that she was walking with.

We didn’t have many conversations at first but I grew into her life like a small seed blown in by the wind.  When she left years later, I was 15, and it gutted me.  She had been my home away from home within my home.  She was a wild thing.  A smart, beautiful, sad, crazy, talented WONDERFUL thing who smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish.  She dyed her hair to suit her mood.  She broke bottles in her bathtub.  She could pick up almost any language in a month or two.  She had a terrific, raunchy, punchy, playful sense of humour.

A rhode Island School of Design and the Paris School of Design trained fashion designer and artist she could find out there was a party to go to that night, not have a thing to wear and make herself something that day that looked like it was out of a magazine.

She had years worth of European Vogues stacked on the floor of one of her closets.  My mother and I used to borrow them by the dozen.

I watched her draw designs complete with painted fabric swatches, draft patterns, make and alter muslins, make and alter the finished dress.  I watched her handwork soutache into the endless hem of a raw silk wedding dress…

She was a rebel princess and an inexperienced pauper. She once traded my parents a vacuum for rent.  She was a passionate, charismatic, romantic woman who set the stage of her life with flair, could throw a pretty impressive fit though her dinner parties were always more impressive.

She taught me to make crepes.

I’ve never known anyone so photogenic.  She danced nearly naked with open shutters.  She learned the important lessons in ravenous, painful bites and chunks.

She was loyal to me in ways that still touch my soul when I think about it.

She dubbed our house, “The House of Tit” because by the time I was a teenager, my sister included and only one of my friends excluded, we were/are rather well-endowed in the chest area and would catch each other resting the girls on the dining room table sometimes because damn if it isn’t sometimes hard to lug that stuff around every day…

She loved Kate Bush.

That first summer after she moved in, so much younger a woman than I am now, she played the song “Running Up That Hill” a million times.  She always sang slightly around Kate Bush so you could always hear her in duet with Kate.  Through the open windows of her apartment we’d hear her, a bit flat here, a bit nasal there – she always sounded good anyway.  I knew that song so well by the end of that summer that I might have even heard it in my sleep.

As the years passed I slowly acquired pretty much every album Kate Bush ever recorded.  The only one I do not know well is the most recent one, though there is a song called Washing Machine on it that is the result of her decade away from songwriting and devoted to fulltime motherhood… It’s very… I dunno’… Accurate?  (smile)…

I still love her music.  I still love her.  Her earlier stuff is very strange and haunting, eerily beautiful, screeching and weird – elegant and awful.  The stuff from the late 80s early 90s is full of yearning, somehow – or maybe that’s just how it feels to me and I don’t know how she knew – like E.M. Forster did many years before her – but she anticipated the internet’s impact on our lives as far back as 1989.

And I’ve been thinking about my friend a lot lately.  Maybe because my friend has always been so much a part of the world.  Of it and in it and always on her own terms even if her foothold was shaky, sometimes, and ungrounded.  The definitive black sheep of her family, she did find stability and love totally outside the bounds of the way she was raised… Learned yet another language.  Or two.  She missed out on some things she wanted.  She found things she needed.

At a certain point, I guess, she stopped fighting who she was.  Stopped saying “no” to the things that make her, “HER.”

She finally said “YES” to all the best parts of herself.

Last I heard from or about her, she makes her living from art now.  Not fashion.  She and her husband.

Together.

It’s a hands-on life.

And all of this made me hum and whisper and – perhaps ironically – write a blog post about the Kate Bush song “Deeper Understanding.”

So here it is.

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