J.B. and Bonnie

Bonnie has died. She was the youngest of my mother's family, the little girl who was so badly burned in a kerosene fire that she lost a breast. But her face was untouched, and it was the face of a woman who was well loved. She married J.B. Hunter. He was a guitar playing farmer who loved his work so much he started farming for other people, too, and his own farm kept growing more prosperous as he bought land and added on. The little boys all learned to pick guitars and sing and they were often on the radio.

But J.B. died of cancer several years ago. There were environmental problems, livestock poisoned from something dumped in the creek, a big settlement of money. But he died. And now Bonnie has died. My mother wanted to show me a documentary of her life and I put her off, said I'd rather watch it later. I was remembering my paternal grandmother when she was old and I was going to take her picture. She said no, that I should take the picture inside and look at it there.

So instead of watching a film about Bonnie, I turn to what I have saved, inside, where she is eternally girlish and seductive.

I could not have expressed what it was about Bonnie back when I was a little kid, and they lived with the grandparents on the farm where we'd go for family gatherings. I can still see her in my mind, her face always at the edge of laughter, a merry woman. I was a matured man before I saw the pattern again, in another merry woman who was always ready to rejoice in laughter. As an older man I began to see things in their dual aspect, and with this woman came a dream. In the dream the other side of her was dark-haired, silently seductive, with clear eyes that saw right through anything fake.

J.B. and Bonnie were young lovers, and the last time I stayed with them was when I was sixteen. They encouraged me to get together with a girl living on the next farm, and I still remember the sweetness in them when they set me up. These were people who had found a good thing and wanted to turn everybody on to it. I was a willing convert to a relaxed attitude toward pleasure, as it was by no means the most popular attitude. More widespread was a fear of sexuality, occasioning some unpleasant projections onto it.

Sometimes there are people who make a big difference in your life in a very short period of time, and for me it was J.B. and Bonnie. My own father, back from combat in the Pacific, had shattered nerves and was on a hair trigger. I had to be careful to not do something to set him off, like running the car off the road for example. When I was about twelve, J.B. let me drive his truck, and not really knowing how to drive, I drove it off into a ditch. I thought he'd be really angry, and so it struck me dumb to venture a look at him, and see that he was laughing. It was the merriness. It was catching. "Well, get it out of here," he said amicably.

What they showed me was a happy marriage, and the picture of them as young lovers will always remain as who they are. I know that there was an old woman who had cancer, and who went to a casino even though she knew she was terminally ill. I'm sorry that she had to be sick, but I'm happy for her that she was a happy young woman, one time, occupying that special place of grown up but not an asshole that gives children some hope for their lives.

I know that Bonnie is gone. But she's never aged a bit in my memory, and when I tune in to her reality I feel like the signal has boosted, and the picture has brightened.

Posted: Wed - October 11, 2006 at 02:07 PM