This is the young woman I met shortly after our family's move to Michigan in 1975 - as I entered my sophomore year of high school and, she, her senior one. together, we were in the Thespian Society; and in that winter's first production, we were cast as mother and son - the wife and child of Ralph Waldo Emerson - in a play about Thoreau.
She was whip-smart and short on patience; and to tell the truth, she scared me more than a little, but along with her sister Paula, her presence upon my landscape nudged open a door through which I would pass and find my life utterly and forever changed...that unusual and sprawling family becoming, years later, my own.
No one is more surprised than iI by the way our lives have expanded; by the way that our journeys have diverged and become entangled. Like anyone, I can sometimes forget to see the flesh and blood/heart and mind behind the parade float that is her public persona. But then I will find myself across the kitchen table from her, sharing a martini, and be additionally shocked to recognize anew the compact, terse-yet-compassionate human at the switches.
I have told this tale before, but it bears repeating: when Elvis Presley died on this date in 1977, this upstart professed in real-time that she felt his spirit had passed out of his body and through her own in exodus.
I laughed at her then for such outrageous self-possession, at the arrogance that I assumed must allow her to declare such publicly.
Today, when there is laughter, it is the laugh of recognition I hear - and it begins somewhere high above me, where things that once seemed implausible play with wild abandon and in broad daylight.
Happy Birthday, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone.