A girl is given a gift by her dying mother- the memories all the women in her family.
|FROM WHERE WE COME
A One-act Play
For 3 women, 1 man
(extra characters possible)
Doctor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . a professional psychologist famous for studies and publications dealing with multiple personalities
Linda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 year old girl - dressed like a street-kid
Original Birth Mother . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Native Mother (Beothuk)
Native Mother . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Native woman (Beothuk)
Native Girl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . young girl - almost any age
Mic Mac Warrior
Assorted characters and spirits from the past.
Note: Special thanks to the Flying Pink-slip Players of Heritage Collegiate 2003-2004. Its members worked with me to help develop this play. Their creative enthusiasm brought my words to life.
FROM WHERE WE COME
AT RISE: A psychologist’s office. Desk. Window. The psychologist sits at his desk. His secretary either buzzes in or enters the office to notify him of his next appointment.
Secretary: “Your next appointment is here doctor”.
Doctor : "Okay. Show her in.” (He doesn’t look up from the notes he is taking.)
The door opens and a young dishevelled girl (Linda) timidly takes one step completely scans the office from the floor up and then apprehensively enters She slowly approaches his desk. The Doctor continues jotting down notes and doesn’t notice her.
Doctor : "Please sit down Linda, and make yourself comfortable. You don't mind if I record this?" (He manipulates a machine on the desk and places a microphone in a position that will catch her words.)
Linda: "No." (whisper)
Doctor : "So Linda, tell me, what is the first thing you remember?"
Linda: (Sarcasm) "I’m fine. How are you?”
Doctor: “Er . . . fine I guess . . . You say things with you are fine?
Linda: “As good as ever. (She grabs the picture placed on the desk.) Is this your family? Your wife is pretty. Do you only have one child?”
Doctor: “Yes. But she’s ten now. That’s an old picture. Linda we are here to discuss your memories. Can we get back to that now?”
Linda: “Yeah, I guess.”
Doctor: “So what was your first memory?”
Linda: “In my life?"
Doctor : "Your life? (pause) Oh yeah. Well . . . yes, we can start with your life for now."
Linda: "There was darkness and then a bright light that I could see, even though my eyes were closed. I could feel large fingers gripping my head and back. I was cold . . . terribly cold."
Doctor : "Why were you cold?"
Linda: "It was the first time air touched my body . . . it's not pleasant when you're all wet."
Doctor : "So you're telling me that you can remember your own birth . . . is that right?"
She suddenly looks up and stares straight into his eyes. Trying to convince him.
(The Doctor writes something in his file. Linda stands up and walks to a bookshelf displaying several books and framed diplomas.)
Doctor : "Is there anything else you can remember about that day?"
Linda: "Yes sir, I can remember everything . . . are these your books?”
Doctor: (With an air of pride) “Yes they are mine. That one you have in your hand spent three weeks on the best-seller list!”
Linda: (reading book titles) “Three Girls in One, Many Minds. Did you really write them, or did you get a ghost writer to put their words behind your name? You don’t seem that bright.”
Doctor: “Sometimes looks can be deceiving Linda. Now, you say you can remember everything about the day of your birth?”
Linda: (Cheerfully) “I can read minds too . . . (seriously) I know you’d like me to describe my mother's death."
Doctor : "Tell me about that," (Excited. Continuing to jot notes.)
Linda stands and steps behind the chair, placing another object between her and the doctor.
Linda: "I remember being taken from her, cut from her, and within minutes I felt her being taken from me."
Doctor : "How would you describe that feeling? Did you know that she had died . . . or was it just the physical separation; a kind of post-partum experience?"
Linda: (condescending, determination) "I knew when she died. I felt her departing spirit mingle with mine. (Linda begins to move around the room.) Were you there with your wife when your daughter was born?"
Doctor : "Why do you need to know that?”
Linda: (Linda’s confidence begins to grow.) “You weren’t there were you?! (She circles the desk.) What were you doing? Working? Bragging about your research to some big psychological audience?”
Doctor: “This is not about me Linda.”
Linda: “I know that. Do you know where your wife is now? What about your daughter? What is your little girl doing right at this moment? Who’s interacting with them? Who’s touching them? Who’s changing them?”
Doctor: (showing restraint) “You said that your mother’s spirit joined with yours at the moment she died. What did that feel like?"
Linda: (Flops back into the chair.) "Alright we’ll talk about me . . . I remember, I felt everything that was once my mother, you can call it her spirit, her essence, her soul, whatever! It left her physical body and joined with mine . . . joined with me . . . my new-born life energy and gave me a gift . . . if you can call it that."
Doctor : "Is this gift your amazing ability to recall everything in your life?"
Linda: "No, not my life, I believe that I was born with that ability. I don't know how. The gift my mother gave me on the day of my birth was . . . my heritage."
Doctor : "What do you mean?"
Linda: "I have been given the memories of twenty-six generations of my ancestors, covering over five hundred years."
Doctor : "Memories? Don’t you mean stories that your mother collected about her ancestors?"
Doctor : "Then what?"
Linda: "Everything. I remember every minute of every day of all my female parentage for the past five centuries. I have the memories of my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, her mother, and her mother; twenty-six lives are in my head, and in my soul. This is nice carpet. What made you choose white?"
Doctor : (Frantically writing.) “What?”
Linda: “White carpet, what ever possessed you to choose white carpet? You know when I first saw it I was afraid to step in the room because I knew that I would mess it up.”
Doctor: “Don’t worry about it Linda.”
Linda: “I didn’t say I was worrying about it! You’re the one stupid enough to put white carpet down, and then ask someone like me to come off the street and tramp all over your space.”
Doctor: "Okay . . . Linda, back to your memories. Did you say you have over five hundred years of memories? How is that possible? Maybe I should ask how you think it is possible?"
Linda: (Defensively folding her arms) "I have already told you how I received these memories! I don't expect you to be any more open to the possibility that I'm telling the truth than any of the doctors I’ve seen before you! I don't know how it's possible, I just know that it is! . . . and I want you, or anybody else in this world, to believe me! I need to convince someone besides myself that I'm sane!"
Doctor : (Laying his pen in the fold of his file. Holding up his hands) "Okay, I didn't mean to upset you. If I try my best not to pre-judge you, or categorize you, and you answer all my inquiries without getting upset, I will try to see your memories from a historical perspective instead of a psychological one. Would that please you?"
Linda: "Do you know that you are the first person who ever put any historical significance to my memories? I know that you only said it to appease me . . . but it's a start. Where would you like me to begin?"
Doctor : "Well, you told me about the earliest memory in your life and that revealed a significant amount of information . . . that is definitely helping me understand your situation."
Linda: (Under her breath sarcastically) "In what way?"
Doctor : "Why don't we begin with the earliest memory that your mother transferred to you. Maybe that will also reveal something important."
(Linda closes her eyes. A scene opens with native woman giving birth. There can be a midwife or the father present helping her. There is a flickering of firelight and drums can be heard in the background.)
Linda: "The very first memory that was given to me is over five hundred years old. Once again there was a darkness that was replaced by light. It wasn't a bright, steady light as during my birth; this light was duller . . . and it flickered as it changed intensity. The air was cold against my new-born skin. The smoke filled air burned my throat and lungs as I took my first breath."
(Continue with scene...newborn native baby cries.)
Doctor : "Excuse me Linda, (native scene goes black with his interruption) but you speak in the first person, saying "I" and "me," when you describe these memories. Do you believe that you lived this life, or that part of your "essence," at one time, was part of this experience?"
Linda: (Lashing out at the doctor)"You're analysing me again, you over-professionalized, unknowledgeable idiot!!"
(Linda stands up and turns toward the door. She looks at the door and then the window. She quickly turns and heads to the window that looks out on the city streets below.)
Linda: "This room is too damn perfect! I can’t move! I can’t breathe in here! (She tries to open the window) Can you open this damn window and let some fresh air in here!?”
(The doctor walks over as Linda backs away and he opens the window with minor difficulty. He steps back and she takes a position in front of the window. She breathes in the fresh air a couple of times. When she finally speaks, she does so softly, evenly, carefully thinking of every word she is saying.)
“I'll answer your analytical question, just to help prove that I'm not nuts. No, I did not live the lives of my matriarchal ancestors, but I feel as if I was there. I was there . . . in a way I was. Isn't everybody a final product of their ancestors? Doesn't every event in your (Linda uses a gesture showing quotation for the next word– holding up both hands and moving index and middle fingers) progenitors' lives affect what you are in some way; genetically and or emotionally . . . whether you know about it or not?"
Doctor : "I guess that's one way to look at it."
Linda: "It is the way!!" (Screaming) “I should know!!”
Doctor : "Okay," (Holding up his hands in a surrendering gesture) "I'm sorry for interrupting you. . . . Please continue."
(Linda folds her arms defensively, turned away from the doctor's eyes, and focusses on the view from the office.)
"Please forgive me. It's just the professional in me that tries to analyse everything. My job is to second guess: to find correlations between incidents and personalities. I agree with your statement that your ancestors make you what you are . . . I just never thought of it that way before . . . please continue. I promise that I will listen . . . you were saying that (He checks his notes.) you were born and there was smoke and fire?"
(Scene with native mother receiving her newborn child from the midwife.)
Linda: "I remember her mother . . . my mother. I was placed in her arms and touched her bare warm skin. We were wrapped in a bear skin and the heat from her body warmed me once again as I fell asleep to the sound of her heartbeat."
"She was my mother . . . the first mother, the mother of all my mothers. She is the only one that I have only external memories of. She is the only one that I don't know completely. She is my true mother. She died over four hundred and fifty years ago, after leading a full life, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I never met her."
(The native mother holds and rocks her new-born child. She begins to sing a lullaby.)
Native Mother: “Who-ish-me ou-ner-mish, [laughing little bird]
who-ish-me ou-ner-mish, [laughing little bird]
tu-au-thaw-too, tu-au-thaw-too [stop singing, stop singing]
puth-u-auth, puth-u-auth [sleep, sleep]
ou-ner-mish, ou-ner-mish.” [little bird, little bird.]
(He watches as a tear comes to Linda’s eye. She is still looking out the window. Linda begins to sing the lullaby along with the native mother. The “native mother” scene fades and Linda is left singing on her own. She finishes and turns to the doctor.)
Linda: "I was Beothuk."
(The psychologist's eyes widen with interest.)
Doctor: “You were what? (Excited) Umm. Wait! Could you sing and translate what you just said over here, in the microphone, so I can get a clearer recording of it? You know those words, that language you just spoke!”
Linda: (Ignoring him) "It’s snowing again. Just look at all those little people down there, bundled up like cocoons with legs, running from their cars to the different shops. You know the snow covers all the dirt and grime but it’s only for a little while. Their tracks show the dirt and salt that’s underneath.”
Doctor: “Linda, could you come back to the seat please.”
Linda: “We were never so rushed. We lived on the island. Have you ever been to Newfoundland ? We hunted, fished, made love, raised our children; we existed. To us, there was only filling our stomachs, taking care of our children, and being Beothuk. When the strangers came, we were wary, but it didn't take long to see that their fear would kill us.”
(Once again she turns to look at the snow falling on the streets of the city. He waits. She continues to stare.)
Doctor: "So you say you were . . . Beothuk . . . from Newfoundland?" (Mainland accent)
(She nods her head. He stands)
"That is amazing. I'm sure you have some stories of Beothuk life that you could tell me. I know very little about Newfoundland and nothing of the Beothuk culture. Please come over here and sit down. Let’s talk about this."
(Linda clenched her fists. She storms over to the desk, facing the microphone.)
Linda: "What would you like to know . . . how peaceful we lived, how we respected all life, young, old, male, female, animal, or the quaint way that we smeared our bodies with red ochre to decorate ourselves; it was mostly used to keep the mosquitos away! Or maybe you would like to know where we dumped in the woods?!" (Her voice becomes more intense with each word. She grabs the microphone.) "Maybe you would like to hear about the slaughter of a tribe by Englishmen who mistook excited greetings as an aggressive attack. I can tell you about the French incited massacres of my ancestors by the Mic Mac, or maybe something more personal, like the smell of liquor and sweat on an Englishman as he forces himself upon you, and the birth of a child that was the result of that rape!"
(Linda puts down the microphone and returns to the window. Quiet. He stares intensely at her.)
Doctor: "Was one of your matriarchs that child?"
Doctor: "Was she accepted by the Beothuk people?"
Linda: "Yes, for the little time that she . . . I, spent with them. I was loved as a child should be loved, and I know that her mother cared for me as she did any of her children. My light brown hair and green eyes weren't considered negative traits to my people, but I felt that they were. I felt even worse when those traits spared me from dying with my family."
Doctor: "Tell me what happened?"
(Scene opens with native women and children being attacked and slaughtered by Mic Mac warriors. A little girl with lighter hair is running with her mother. Her mother is attacked and killed by a warrior and the girl is captured and dragged away. Optional: She can then be presented to a white family.)
Linda: " The Mic Mac were at war with my people. When they attacked our village they mistook me for a young settler who had been abducted. They spared my life and presented me to a French family for a reward. I was raised as a White girl."
(The psychologist proceeds to write his notes as Linda stands quietly with her hands folded across her stomach and stares out the window.
He finishes writing and looks up from his file.)
Doctor: "I'm sure all of these memories put quite a strain on your life. Keeping them to yourself can be detrimental. I suggest that you chronicle these memories in some way . . . sharing them with me, or writing them down, would offer priceless information to historians and psychologists alike. For now, to end this session, why don't you tell me more about yourself."
Linda: (surrendering whisper) "What do you want to know?"
Doctor: "Describe your life so far; how does it compare to the lives in your memory?"
(Linda walks over to a book case containing the books and studies of multiple personality studies etc. She thinks for a few moments and then begins to speak without any sign of emotion–monotonous and practised.)
Linda: "I was born a bastard child, the result of a date rape. As you know, my mother died during my birth and my father had nothing to do with me. I was adopted by a family who gave me up at the age of nine because of my 'behavioural problems.' I don't blame them for that. Then I was shifted from foster home to foster home until I turned sixteen, two months ago, and I decided to live on my own. Nobody objected to that, (aside) except maybe my last “foster father.” Last week you tracked me down and here I am, telling my story to a psychologist for the hundredth time. In comparison, most of my remembered lives were better, some were worse."
Doctor: "What is your favourite memory . . . your favourite
Linda: "My first remembered life is the happiest.”
(Scene with native mother and daughter picking berries.)
“I especially cherish the memories of picking blueberries with my mother. There were times when we would talk for hours, and other times the silence would pass the time with pure contentment. The berries were sweet and the smell of the end of summer filled the air. The one pleasure that is consistent in all my lives . . . is picking blueberries."
(He finishes writing some notes.)
Doctor: "I believe that is a good note to end this session. During your next visit we will discuss recording your memories."
Linda: "No, there's too much."
Doctor: "I believe people should know."
(She lashes out.)
Linda: "Should know what? Should know about me or about you? You believe I'm crazy and ( picks a book out of the shelf) I'm a perfect subject for your multiple personality studies! (opens the book randomly) To you I'm just another subject that can boost your stature and ego through your publisher! To you I'm just another multiple personality case . . .someone with an entirely new way of covering the beatings, (drops the book) the abuse of childhood!"
Doctor: "I think you have lived a very traumatic life and . . ."
Linda: "You don't know! I've lived a traumatic life, and experienced a dozen more in my mind! (Linda points to the window.) I can see how things change and how they stay the same! Five hundred years of living is crammed into my head! Do you know what a different perception of life that can give someone?!"
Doctor: "No, but I would like you to share it with me."
Linda: "Share it with you?! My God! How could telling you make any difference?! You don't even believe it's real!"
(Linda walks over to him; her hands are clenched.)
"You think I'm crazy!"
(She reaches out and grabs him by the arms. Staring intensely into his eyes.)
"I'm not crazy!"
(This final section can be revealed in many ways but should incorporate several actors/dancers and music.)
Linda closes her eyes and lets her feelings of desperation take over. She feels her mother's presence as she did on the day she was born.
As he stares into her darkly desperate eyes the liquid orbs swirl in his mind and he thinks he can see an image of a woman drowning in her pupils. In his peripheral vision he catches the faint vision of feminine shaped mists entering the room through the open window.
The presence of her mother becomes more intense as the souls of all her matriarchs combine with hers. She feels the images, the memories, moving from her body, being transferred in some metaphysical way, to the man she holds so tightly. Suddenly he begins to experience what she lived with every day of her life. Her touch, extreme frustration, and need for someone to understand her life, her memories, causes a transfer. Her matriarchal spirits answered her pleas to be understood and he begins to live the lives of twenty-seven women in the last five hundred years.
He experiences the hard working lives of Beothuk women: the loss of children due to the white man's disease; the rape and slaughter of Linda's last Beothuk mother. In his mind there are the lives of several women who were abused by their husbands, and one woman who was beaten to death while her children watched. He lives lives of love and lives of hateful oppression. He understood what it was like to have to work twenty hours a day, raising children, cooking, cleaning, tending gardens, gathering berries, sewing and knitting clothes, and working at the flakes on the beach, while husbands were forced to migrate to more prosperous fishing grounds for months at a time, just to keep the family you loved from starving. One woman lost all her possessions in the great fire of 1892 and was helped by her community to rebuild her life, while another lost her family by alienating herself with alcohol. He lives through a time when there was no government rule, French, English and Canadian rule. He sees Mic Mac and Beothuk, English and French, Catholic and Protestant, kill each other. . . over nothing.
Finally, he lives Linda's life; from the minute she was born and her mother died. He experiences the years of frustrated thoughts with her adopted parents, when she would be beaten and locked in the basement for telling her friends explicit stories of her remembered lives. He lives the helpless years when she was moved from one foster home to another--right up to the last home she lived in, where the man of the house would sneak into her bedroom late at night . . . he lives it all, and he can't handle it. He breaks as the reality of what could happen in five hundred years enters his consciousness.
Linda lets her grasp on his arms go and he immediately falls to the floor, on his knees. As she walks to the door Linda looks back at the broken man. He is grabbing at something she can't see on the carpet and putting the invisible objects into a container that isn't there. Occasionally he puts an imaginary handful in his mouth and smiles.
Linda lays her hand on her stomach as she leaves the room.
Reilly Fitzgerald ©copyright 2002