So I am seriously considering abandoning the serious consideration of what I was going to do here, a Memoir, the very word sounding so arch it antagonizes me. As most of my friends, the ones who really know me and care a little know, humor has always been my salvation. And as I started to write this Thing, and made it through my first six or seven years, I saw how very dark were my beginnings, with an abusive mother abused by an abusive husband, which maybe she drove him to, she was so disappointed, bent on revenge and escape and personal fulfillment, something that was not easily achieved by or offered to women of that era. Reading it after the not-really-difficult struggle to remember in detail, my mind clinging to sharp recollections of their fights, and the shadowed outline of my curly hair on the wall as my Dad spirited me down the metal staircase behind their Pittsburgh apartment-- actually my Grandpa and Grandma's-- he liked nothing so much as not having to pay rent-- it reads more Bronte than Gwen, so filled is it with what I will have to admit is suffering. That I did not become truly crazy, as my half-sister was later to do, is some kind of loving miracle, attributable, I think, to the truth that I always had great teachers, great principals, great presidents, (college-wise, at least) who got or cared what I was and maybe even what I might be capable of becoming.
But I can't wait to get to the happy parts, the adventures in Europe when I was just twenty, and the south of Spain was not actually invisible underneath the tourists, there were crags down to the sea, and natives who murmured "Ay, que morena!" as you went by looking sun-glowed and good to them, even if you were chubby. And your first great(you thought it might be) romance was Richard Lester, later to direct the Beatles first movie, schnoring off the wonderful McGiverns, Bill and Maureen, a duo of writers, he of terrific mysteries, she of tender women's books even though she was not a tender woman. And as he mounted you, he said: "I'll close my eyes and try to pretend it's someone I like." Great guy.
He never picked up a bill, or bought a gift for them after living with them for many months in Torremolinos, always saying he had nothing. Then on his way north the car he was riding in was broken into, and he whined "I had four thousand dollars in my bag." Not the nicest guy in the world, or, I would imagine, now, out of it.
Then there was singing at the Mars Club in Paris, all the songs I'd written that had been so enjoyed at the Bryn Mawr Junior prom, all the great women I had known in college, not the least of them those who were in charge. Then there was Charlotte Baum, from Philadelphia, who I met on the Ile de France going over, ran into again in Paris and took in, because she was broke and scared.
And her calling me, decades later, singing a song I had written, telling me she had been inspired by me and so went back to school and now she was Charlotte Sheedy. And my saying, "I'm sorry, Charlotte, but I don't know who that is." A sharp intake of astonished breath. "I represent So and So and So and So," rattling off a roster of feminist authors, "and I'm Ally Sheedy's mother."
Then there were my star-studded relationships, though none of the stars were studs. At least not with me. But all of them had their own auras: Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Stanley Kubrick, from the imagination up.
And then, best of all, there was Don, the husband who really got what I was, and what I had to give, but could not stay long enough to really benefit from it. I still miss him, even though he's been gone longer than we got to be together.
And then there were my dogs. How embarrassing for a woman like me, who should, traditionally, have such a cynical, hard edge, to have had the best truths of life and love demonstrated by animals. I wish I could get one here, but not knowing what the future holds, how long I will stay, what life will actually be like here in the longer run, the shorter one so far looking very encouraging, it might be wiser not to make commitments I may not be able to fulfill, it being hard enough to step up to the plate in a country that doesn't have baseball. Not that I really cared about that game, but it did have heroes. One of them my husband, if only in my eyes.