A memorial, it would seem, is about the memorialized, so my own journey in figuring out how to speak at Louise Doggett’s memorial today should have been secondary to Louise herself. In the end, though, so much was said about this woman by so many different people at this great event, that it struck me how any given person is so much all about who that person touches and how they are touched. In speaking about someone who is gone, we talk about how they live on through the lives of others. Often we talk about things that maybe never actually happened, but in our memories, this was what became real through someone else’s influence. We transformed. Perhaps this is what it means to be a perennial.
My family was greatly touched by the Doggett family; for me those were especially formative years. I was honored to speak and this is some of what struck me at three in the morning about what I wanted to say today:
Let’s go back to the decade of the 1970’s, when the Watson family moved to Sacramento and met and began our long love affair with the Doggett family.
I spent a lot of time in the Doggett house on Crocker Road, and in my memory the house itself was like a garden in the wilderness. To me, it was a huge and magical place where all sorts of wild things grew.
Through the front door, when I listen I can still hear Louise calling “Victoriaaaaa” – kind of like a bird, and I can see inside the house. The piano stood just to the right when you walked in. Music was an undercurrent, like a blood flow through the house, and it seemed to me Victoria was particularly adept at playing anything at all she wanted — like “Beth” or “I’d like to teach the world to sing.”
The master bedroom was to the left, which I strangely remember as being a place for foot baths (this drew much puzzlement from Victoria when I said it, so it’s clearly a piece I invented all on my own). Wendy’s room just beyond was the image of sunny lemon yellow and a matching sunny smile from Wendy. Then there was a back room with a TV that regularly played Monty Python and the Carol Burnett show, complemented by an assortment of medical books that were somehow treated like porn what with the naughty pictures in Greys Anatomy books. This seems to be the scene of many ghost tales during slumber parties in my memory too.
I don’t remember Louise hanging out in the kitchen much. The cooking I best remember in the kitchen was to create Ethel’s Sugar Cookies and Scotte’s boiled, peeled tomatoes. There was a kind of forbidden attic place where the strong and somewhat mysterious Scott had his lair.
But I spent the majority of my time with Victoria, Orangie, and Blackie in Victoria’s sunny front room.
Where was Loiuse? She was in the garden. In the huge back yard. With a hat, a basket, gardening gloves, a flowered mumu, and probably a few various forms of magic potions. And a rabbit named Petunia (or was it a guinea pig?).
Louise gave me one of the most significant relationships in my life in her daughter Victoria, and her tremendous spirit continues through the many untold passages of creativity from person to person to person. Almost like navigating through the wilderness, in a garden that she not so much tamed as tended, she wrought — and she gave — great gifts of life. What more could be said? Thank you Louise.
In the end many people spoke of many things today, and I did stand up and talk about some of the things above. Just now they seem not so much all Louise — but not so much all me. Somehow I feel both introspective and universal.