My mother is going to come by for my birthday. I am very excited. I have not seen her since I was three. I am going to be ten so it is seven years since I have seen her. You may remember hearing about her. Her name is Violetta Brun. She was famous once but now people have forgotten about her like Amelia Earhart is forgotten and Marie Curie too. She is now only remembered by my father and me. My father has told me her story many times and I never tire of hearing it.
As told by my father, Howard Brun:
Violetta is a tall, very thin woman. At a distance she looks like a giant preying mantis. She has long slim arms and long stick legs. Her hair is dark brown and it flies from her scalp like a flag. Her eyes are bulging little brown ant eyes but she has a cute pug nose and a tiny heart shaped pink mouth and a sweet musical voice.
As a little girl Violetta was always fascinated with two things: paper clips and rubber bands. If she saw one of these items lying in the street she felt compelled to pick it up. Her parents did not approve but the feeling was so strong that Violetta found a way to slide her long arms down to the street and casually without her parents noticing, pick up either a paper clip or a rubber band. It was an addiction. It was serious. She could not deny it. The impulse was as strong as booze for an alcoholic, or crack cocaine for a drug addict. Violetta stored these collected items at the bottom of her closet or the last drawer in her dresser or in the toes of her shoes or under her mattress or in her cheeks or under her tongue. When her parents found them they were distressed and berated her and they threw them out as she stood there sobbing, her shoulders shaking. These were her “finds” and what harm were they? But her parents were embarrassed with this “hobby”. She was punished. She had to sleep in the bathtub. One weekend she was locked in her room and only fed once a day. She had to go to school with the words HOARDER painted in lipstick on her forehead. Classmates made fun of her.
But it did not change Violetta. The pull of the paper clips and rubber bands continued. When she was old enough to move out on her own, she got a job in the office of a science professor. She rented an apartment and filled the extra bedroom with paper clips and rubber bands. When she had a few promotions she bought a house. Now paper clips and rubber bands filled a garage and the extra bedrooms.
Listening in on the science professor’s lectures somehow solidified in her mind that science was something she wanted to do with her life. So she began to study and that is when I met her. She was reading all kinds of scientific books and I was a librarian who found them for her. We began to date and it wasn’t long before we fell in love. But enough about that.
Gravity interested Violetta. Apples fell from trees onto the ground instead of up into the clouds. People walked on the ground and did not get sucked up into airplanes. Gravity made people and things stick to the earth. Violetta decided that she would spend her scientific life trying to defy gravity.
She began to construct little things out of paper clips and rubber bands (it was hard to know what to call them so she called them dinkuses). They were quite primitive, but led to her first experiment. She tried to defy gravity by sending earthworms into trees. It failed. Then she made a larger dinkus and tried to put mice on the roof of the university gymnasium. One tiny mouse seemed to succeed for several exciting seconds and then gravity brought it down to the ground with a thud. Next she was shooting Mitzi, a neighbor’s miniature poodle onto St. John’s Lutheran church steeple. This resulted in another failure and a big splat. She moved on to experiment with pigs and llamas and one poor homeless guy, all were never seen again. Violetta called these victories.
Finally Violetta decided to use herself to defy gravity. Her science professor strongly urged her to abandon the idea but that had as much effect as her parents not wanting her to pick up those coveted rubber bands and paper clips. She was determined. You were almost three at the time, Deirdre. Still, Violetta felt defying gravity was her life work even though she loved you very much.
So, on your third birthday we went up on Saddle Mountain, the mountain that overlooks Seaside, Oregon, and there was this large installation, a huge dinkus really, quite complicated and entirely made of her collected rubber bands and paper clips. It was voluminous. Violetta wore a special costume—a purple sports bra, fuchsia short shorts, a head band of lush apple green silk, her white Nike shoes, and no socks. A small crowd gathered – about twenty people from Seaside, two photographers from the local paper, and a TV news crew from Channel 6. And of course, you and I and her reluctant science professor.
Violetta made a speech in her usual concise manner. “I am going to defy gravity,” she said. She may have intended to say more but the science professor swooned and fell to the ground unwittingly landing on the paper clip pedal that launched Violetta off the mountain and into the sky and somehow the velocity of his fall propelled her into space with such force that she entered into a rolling, whirling, unknown erratic orbit and she has traveled the world and the universe several times and the reason we know is because she had been clutching her cell phone and so she texts messages back to the science professor. She also shouts when she passes near Earth.
Of course Violetta created quite an argument in the scientific world. Some argue she has defied gravity but others say she only launched herself via her stupid (their words) makeshift NASA-space-takeoff rip-off and it is just a fluke that she is still spinning through the universe albeit in a crazy unconventional hard-to-calculate orbit. So the science community is conflicted about Violetta’s contribution to science, if any. Several scientists have come to fisticuffs over the matter.
Whenever she gets close enough to earth she shouts out things like “I’ve just come from Australia” (or Saturn or Heaven, yes, she says there is a Heaven) “and I seem to be heading for the Moon” (or wherever).
She has also communicated that she eats flying insects, small birds, and gillyplunks which she says are strange sugary creatures with fish-like gills that flock around the planet Uranus. Recently she shouted to a Japanese fisherman that she figured she would fly by her original take-off place, Saddle Mountain, on Deirdre’s tenth birthday so we are very excited about that, aren’t we, Deirdre?
I’m crossing my fingers.
So that is Mommy’s story and Daddy and I are now going up to Saddle Mountain and hoping to see her zoom by. If we do and she shouts, “Happy Birthday, Deirdre!” it will be a very happy tenth birthday indeed. Wish me luck.