1969 - In a park in Lisbon, Portugal, my parents hid Easter eggs for my sister and me. My dad, the family artist, painted each hardboiled egg with slithering snakes, lady bugs, butterflies and other intricately created creatures. We ran around in the sunshine, finding eggs in the bushes and putting them in shoeboxes my dad painted, in place of baskets. Hmmm... funny how the Easter Shoebox didn't become a Miles family tradition.
1972 - Back in San Francisco, my sister and I hunted for Easter eggs in the yard of our cottage at 325 18th Avenue in San Francisco. Here, with a grin on my greedy little face, I'm showing off my bounty of candy-stuffed baskets and eggs.
1974 - In my grandparents' backyard on 23rd Avenue in San Francisco, my sister and I strike Sears catalog poses. We're wearing the patten leather shoes and dresses Grandma bought us. In this photo, as I'm preening, I'm probably dreaming of the
huge See's Bordeaux milk chocolate egg in my basket.
My California Writers Club bio (Michele Miles Gardiner) is now posted, thanks to the club's president, Carol Wood, and her Webmaster husband, Glen. (Photo to the right shows me in front of the address on my library card - 2669 23rd Ave., which was my grandparents' house.)
The bio covers my early love for books and writing, so I thought I'd post this photo of me "reading" Grimm's Fairytales to my baby sister before I could actually read. I just made stuff up...not that my sister seemed to mind.
And to prove my early passion for books, I posted my first library card. It was so important to me I managed to hang on to it for over three decades.
So this morning when It was too early to get up, but I couldn't sleep and had plenty of important things to think about - like the writing assignment I'm supposed have done this afternoon and the bills I need to pay - this is what I thought instead:
Oh my...gawd! I just missed living my life with the name Exotica Gutch (sounds like Gooch), instead of Michele Miles.
See, my father was raised by his step-father, and even took his last name: Miles. My dad's mother told him his biological father had died. But then, when my dad was in his thirties, and I was around thirteen or so, he bumped into someone (a family member or an old neighbor) and they got to talking...and, well, it turns out his "original" dad was not only walking around quite alive - but lived only blocks away from my where my father grew up. Anyway, after this discovery, there was much catching up to do, so we made many visits to this newly discovered Grandpa Gutch...his last name is German. So that means Gutch would've been my last name too if things had worked out differently.
But before knowing I Should've been Michele Gutch and not Michele Miles, my dad liked to tell me about how his mother insisted before I was born I should be named Exotica. This, I'm positive - knowing my dad - would've been fine with him. So if my mother weren't so strong willed and my father's biological father wasn't thought dead, today I would be - EXOTICA GUTCH.
What would my life have been like - or be like now - as Exotica Gutch? Would I have naturally gravitated to singing lead for a Punk band? Would I have been even more picked on in school and thus dropped out to join some traveling troupe of misfits in a painted caravan roaming Bulgaria and Yugoslavia? Would I be a wallflower who'd work at Wal-Mart by day and come home to eat my microwave food alone in the dark while watching re-runs of Soap Operas, envying the characters with "normal" sounding names like Jill Brookstone or Kate Heathcliff?
Oh...the thoughts that haunt me when I should be sleeping or thinking other things. I have only Exotica to blame. She's the little oddball who has never really left me. I am her and she is me. She's the one who causes me to write down my strange thoughts as if anybody on the planet cares. Damn you, Exotica Gutch!
(Photo: My father, my sister and me at the top of the Statue of Liberty - 1969)