When I was in 5th grade, we moved to a town. We kids hated living in towns—we preferred the countryside & wildwoods. While Dad mapped the Smoky Mountains, Dad, his survey party, wives & kids lived in park rangers’ stations. We played in clear creeks, undamming them so water could flow freely. We’d swim in the fresh water pools after our hard work. Bob dared me to swing on a thick vine across the “crick” on day. I did it! Yee-Ha!

Now we were in Boring Christiansburg, Virginia. Yuck! Kathi & Bob made friends immediately. Bob & his buddies played cops & robbers in back yards. Kathi & her friends played pick-up-sticks & other games that made no sense to me.

So Dad gave me a tiny brown diary. “You may never become a famous writer like Poe but some people just need to write.”

Dad had diaries from when he was young. Bob & I knew where he hid them, in a drawer under his neatly ironed (by me) handkerchiefs, next to his Colt .45. Whenever Mom & Dad went out to dinner & dancing, we’d rush to that drawer & read all about our father’s life in the 1920s, 30s & during World War II.

Dad diary movies

Our father wrote about cleaning, working in a steel mill (earning $20/day in the 30s!), peeling pears & cracking pecans for his mother, getting ready for college. His major lament was being far too skinny to get into the Air Corps during WWII (he ate 6 bananas a day for 4 weeks & still didn’t pass muster—so the Navy took him.) He also wrote about current events, including atomic power, the  threat of more war (after WWII) & the United Nations. His diaries were far more interesting than mine!

“Dad had Girlfriends before Mom!” Bob shouted one night. The baby-sitter was ignoring us, reading a book. Which was fine by us.

“So, lots of guys date.”

“But they’re in love! They kiss all the time. Bleagh.” Bob made a face.

Typical boy. I was far more mature at nine years old. Grown-ups do way more than kiss. I knew this from reading our mother’s Merck Manual &  studying transparent human body diagrams in the Encyclopedia. Mom had a nursing degree. She used medical terms for body parts. Penis, vagina–I hated those words. Human bodies looked weird, especially when you peeled back the transparencies to see into their guts! And that fetus in the uterus! I would NEVER get pregnant!

I began keeping a diary but most of my entries were dumb. Like “boring day” & I’d draw a long line through 5 or 6 days, indicating that entire time was no fun. Or I’d write “wish we could move back to Cosby! Tennessee is the BEST!”

diary age 15

Later, in high school, I started a scrapbook. I cut pictures out of Teen & Mad magazine then taped them into the pages of a spiral notebook. I wrote down my favorite songs.

I kept it all my life. One night in Boulder, Colorado when I was in my 30s, I was sleeping over at a girlfriend’s house. Alyson was a gifted actress. She did a great impression of Marilyn Monroe, performing at parties & corporate events. She was Hungarian & gorgeous. Our men were out working late—my husband Peter driving cab & then performing at Denver’s Comedy Club. We were drinking tequila & dancing to old soul songs on her hifi.

“Look what I brought!” I produced my 60s Scrapbook.
Alyson grabbed it, rapidly flipped through the pages.

Diva that she was, she fell onto the carpet, laughing so hard she wheezed.
“Dixie! Oh my GOD! I had a scrapbook (haha) exactly like this (haha!).”
Her laughter was infectious. We both cracked up as we paged through my crucial record of that decade.

In my high school diary, I wrote about music, difficult AP classes & boys, boys, boys. There were exactly three references to Vietnam in that little book. It felt as if I were making the war keep going if I wrote about it, so I refused to “put my mouth on it” as Creole people said when Dad was mapping Southern Swamps. If you spoke out loud about something (or wrote it down, I reasoned), it would come true & “stick on you.” I picked up a ton of superstitions in the Old South.

60s scrapbook

Author: dixiewriter

Due to my father's job as an explorer/cartographer, my family moved 48 times before I turned 13. We lived where Dad worked: on mountain tops (in park ranger cabins), in deserts, swamps, along coastlines from Maine to Key West & other wild places. My father mapped parts of Antarctica, living there for 8 months in 1961-62. A mountain peak & a glacier are named after him (William C. Elder, USGS) As an adult, I helped Lars Eric Lindblad (then president of World Wildlife) find out about the migration path of Silverback gorillas (from Tanzania into Kenya). On my information, he chose to move Lindblad Travel's photographic safari camps to accommodate these wonderful creatures. I got a Jimmy Carter grant to teach after I graduated from Madison College. Grantees had to sign up to teach for at least a year in a severely impoverished school anywhere in America. I taught for 3 & 1/2 years in SW Virginia near Bluegrass Central (Galax, VA). I taught 7th-9th grade English, Drama, Journalism. I was the forensics coach. Moved to Connecticut & worked for Lars Lindblad, typing up the manuscript for his autobiography, working with Liz & John Fuller on this book. (They co-wrote "Ghost of Flight 415" & other books about unusual phenomenon. Moved to Colorado in 1982. Worked as "gal friday" for 12 detectives at the Boulder Police Dept. Set up files for DA to use in court amongst other things. Then at a law firm. Next, CU/Boulder for 10 years. At CU, workers could take a free course each semester. So I did 5 Master's levels courses in special ed' & many in creative writing/history/religion & other subjects at the Master's level. I taught "Drama for the Disabled" in Boulder, CO after the teacher had to quit due to health issues. It was wonderful! My last 7 years working, I helped adults/teens/children with various brain differences such as autism. I was diagnosed at age 45 with 3 types of seizures, manic depression (atypical, rarely depressions, mostly manias), OCD & PTSD. At age 67 (!!) this diagnosis was changed. The manias are most likely due to temporal lobe "disturbance." The other symptoms are due to "high functioning" autism or Asperger's. Shock!! I do Tai Chi 3x/day which helps me to calm down. My husband & I work out at a gym 3-5 times/week for balance mostly but also weight training, running etc. We climb the beautiful Rocky Mountain High places (like Long's Peak & Maroon Bells) in summertime/autumn. We love archaeology, so when we travel, it's in order to discover ancient sites. My husband is an actor with a "day job." He has performed in shows with Zero Mostel (Fiddler on the Roof, the road show), Dick van Dyke (Diagnosis Murder), Firesign Theatre/John Goodman/Annette Bening et al. (Wizard of Oz/radio show) & many other wonderful people since age 14. We have traveled to: Iceland, Scotland (twice), Germany (3 times to visit friends), Ireland & fascinating places in America. We usually spend a month when we travel. So we go about every 5-6 years. Otherwise, we stay at home in a town in Colorado, attending Poetry sessions, working in local theater, enjoying our shelter rescue cats, writing, painting & dancing.

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