The Film Crew and the Eggplants

Bill Moyers is doing a program about abortion. Pamela Wagner, the woman who is doing interviews for the project, contacted me ten days ago about discussing what it was like for women before Roe v. Wade. I agreed to talk about abortion, as I’ve been an activist for 60 years .

The crew, all women, came on Thursday. My assistant Penny and I spent Wednesday decluttering, having done a number of filmed interviews over the years here and knowing that if I left it to the film crew, it was be a disaster.

As it was, they arrived early and began to move furniture around. I waited and then just went to work on the third story I wrote in July, which still needed work. Finally they had things the way they wanted them. The cats were alarmed – all the machines, three people they didn’t know. They all went into hiding except for Xena, who felt obliged to keep watch on them. After all, she is the boss. She eyed their lunch and tried to help herself to it.

I described my do-it-yourself abortion that almost killed me when I was eighteen, a poor girl in Detroit. I also described helping women get abortions from then on until abortion became legal. I described how that happened – that the Supreme Court justices did not just wake up one day and decide women had the right to judge whether or not they could spend nine months pregnant and twenty-five years with that child in addition to any others they might have. I described the activism that led up to changes in the laws, states first. I also told the story of a friend who miscafrried a baby she desperately wanted and how she was treated – or rather refused treatment – in the hospital – how they acted as if she were a criminal. I told the stories of women I helped get abortions. I sat for three hours in a most uncomfortable straight chair that the interviewer insisted on.

The silliest thing was when they had me pretend to be gardening – in my fancy dress, earrings, necklace and sandals – because they wanted me doing something and considered writing to be boring. They were very nice women and the questions were excellent, but film crews are adamant about what they want you to do.

The first eggplants have come in now after the first peppers and red cabbages and beans, but the damned tomatoes are all green except for some cherry tomatoes on the fence. Woody did the first picking of beans this week – 7 ½ lbs – and I froze 6 ½ of them. I grow both Oriental eggplants [the long skinny ones] and the Italian –the standard big roughly pear-shaped ones. the Orientals always ripen first. I cooked with one last night. I love eggplant.

I finished the story yesterday. Now it’s back to poetry for a while. I have been reading more Penelope lively – now two of her novels. I am also reading a long book of poems by Kathryn Howd Machen, REDWING. Also THE LEFT SIDE OF MY LIFE by Dana Robbins, very compelling for me.

This morning, Schwartzie – the youngest gorgeous black longhaired cat from the Salem shelter – is chasing everybody else around. Xena allows him to chase her a few times, before she gives him the evil eye. I had three cats in bed last night, everybody but Schwartzie. He tried to get the others to play with him during the night, but they preferred to cuddle and sleep. He has to get over being nocturnal. The other cats sleep most of the night, except when there’s a mouse to catch. We had two last week. Xena dispatched one and Willow, the other. For a soft-bodied, sensual rather timid cat, she has all her hunting instincts intact and she’s a fine mouser.

Sitting in that straight chair for hours hurt my back and knees, so I saw my osteopath yesterday and I’m getting acupuncture this morning.

One of my workshop poets from two years ago lives on the Cape and has become a friend. She dropped off her new poetry ms. yesterday and I’ll probably get to it this week. We’re going to set up a small group of talented local poets to meet monthly and exchange work.


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