Sunday, December 30, 2007

marcie among clouds

Friday night, marcie’s friends gathered to celebrate her life – the person she was. We pulled together and created a party that marcie surely was wishing we’d thrown while she was here on earth, just as we were wishing deeply to have her with us in the flesh.

In a brick courtyard that is attached to a metal smith’s studio, we lit a great big bonfire and sat around it to remember. At the front of our semi circle was a Mexican Day-of-the-Dead offrenda filled with the colors and qualities and objects that made marcie. Bouquets of orange and red roses with peacock feathers poking out, loose roses and other flower petals scattered across the white tablecloth. At the center of the alter, a photo of laughing marcie – her head tossed back slightly, her eyes turned out to us, bright, happy, shining, alive – blue sky and mountains in the background. A plate of food Marcie would’ve loved to indulge in – homemade enchiladas (she was so proud of her own enchiladas), crawfish queso (seafood being the one creature-type she could not permanently give up during her long years as a vegetarian), guacamole, potatoes au gratin, brie and bread, hummus, spinach dip, bread pudding, strawberries and blueberries and pineapple. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of framboise, a bottle of chimay. The Book of Birthdays, open to her day – August 19 – The Day of Startling Surprises. (When a friend helped sort through marcie’s belongings after her death, she came across astrological charts Marcie had completed for many of her friends.) Incense burning in a praying Buddha burner, a deck of cards, Frida Kahlo images, photos of marcie’s son, marcie’s sister, marcie’s husband, marcie’s friends. To honor her as an artist, a camera and an old wooden box full of charcoal pastels. To honor the pleasure she took in aesthetics and her own femininity, glitter scattered across the alter, earrings and a broach, draped scarves that looked like her, sandalwood beads hung around the frame that held her photo. A neatly-rolled joint placed in a small box, because marcie not only loved weed, she took great pride in her ability to roll a joint. She did it with such drawn out dramatics.

Off to the side of the offering, a table was set with a scrapbook and postcards – Frida Kahlo postcards and cheeky 1950s images with sarcastic phrases. Everyone took a moment to write a memory or a message on the back of the cards. One old friend opened to the first page of the book and wrote the story of how he and marcie came to be friends. A story written to her young son.

marcie had an endless playlist of songs on her Myspace page. We hooked a computer up to a speaker, and her music poured into the courtyard – Nina Simone, Ween, Billie Holiday, Sia, Lee Scratch Perry – lots of reggae, some dub. We were missing some things – Stevie Wonder, Brand New Heavies, Sade. But nothing felt missing, except marcie alive.

Over the last month, we had set up a flickr account and people had been uploading photos. Another of marcie’s friends took the flickr photos and created a slideshow that we projected onto the cinderblock wall of the studio. We watched her grow in front of us – marcie as a child transforming to marcie as a mother.

Red lights lit the walls and chili pepper lights draped the inside of the white tent that hovered over her offrenda.

We spoke of her – her bossiness, her nurturing, her humor, the two-hours you had to set aside to have a phone conversation with marcie. There we all were – the collection of marcie’s friends, all of us with such strong personalities, all of us so different and distinctive – the many sides of marcie together like facets on a brilliant cut stone. We laughed and cried. We cherished and shared her. We gave her credit for all she loved to take credit for – “So and so are married to each other because of ME,” she might declare of 4, 5, 6 sets of her married friends. She loved to be the connecter – the one who was the reason that various groups of people intersected, knew one another. What a full and gorgeous picture of our friend we all evoked together.

We spoke of her inherent coolness – how her sister marisa had taught marcie her joint-rolling skills. How she was the only freshman we knew who lived in an apartment. How natural and easy she made it look for an eighteen-year-old to mother a dog. The way she blared her music from stereo speakers. The way she teased and demanded. The particular stomp with which she walked – “I am here. I am at the helm.”

One of marcie’s most cherished friends, an older man who was responsible for getting marcie her first job as a waitress at a 24-hour diner, spoke, in his booming Barry White voice, of the fact that marcie had no skills, she couldn’t wait tables worth a damn, but what saved her ass is that she was so damn bossy. And we all agreed that marcie knew exactly how to command a group of unruly drunk frat boys at 3 a.m. Of her, he said, "marcie was like the daughter I never wanted, but I got her anyway."

I’ll carry the mood of the evening – the way it felt to be wrapped in the arms, voices and personalities of marcie’s many friends, similar to the comfort and security of being swaddled in marcie’s great big bed, her Chihuahau mina curled against me. (My friend e recalled how when marcie was working a late shift or out for the night, mina would sleep in e’s bed. Marcie would stomp into e’s room at 3, 4, 5 a.m. and yank mina into her own arms to carry her to the mother-bed.) I’ll also carry the weight of sadness that hung in the air. How can I not feel both the joy of celebrating marcie and the weight of our collective loss?

As the night was ending, I could not stop fixating on the photo of laughing marcie. It is the image that makes my heart both smile and weep. I wanted to hug it to my chest– burn it into my skin. It’s an image I’ll also carry: laughing marcie, smiling-eyes marcie, marcie among mountains and clouds – looking over us all with admiration and delight, occasionally sending a gust of wind our way. Tickled marcie who I love.