from Hello Stranger, the Barb Moran Story (as told to Karl Williams)

"…To me, ordinary people were boring. I couldn't understand them and they didn't understand me; I was driven into a world of daydreams because I had no way to communicate the only thoughts I could have. I never really liked the way people looked and how it felt to touch them, and that had a lot to do with it. They only looked like people; objects just looked and felt better to me. I did like my brothers and sisters and friends of the family. But still to me people were boring. It seemed there was nothing I could think - let alone say - that anyone wanted to hear. I pretty much had to be by myself to do things I wanted to do.

"…I knew people just didn’t understand me. I was often lonely and people were a disappointment. Although nobody was ever interested in the things that I liked, I wanted to be around someone who understood. I wanted to think someone felt like I did. And - I could imagine certain kinds of people that I wished were in my life: people that were pleasant to look at and touch; people who made me feel safe and welcome; people I could trust not to hurt me; people who’d be there for me. And so I pretended that objects were human. I enjoyed my pretend friends: they made me feel less empty. "…In the early 50's when gas pumps had the lamps on top, I thought they looked like people and that they were cute. I was also attracted to capitol buildings: they looked like someone sitting down - with the dome as the head.I also liked the TV towers in Omaha. The ones for Channel 3 and Channel 6 were the parents. The other one, the “weather tower” for Channel 7 - it was the newest one - had lights on it: red for warmer, white for cooler, green for the same, and if rain were forecast, they would flash the lights. I thought of this tower as the child who wore a jacket that lit up.

"…We had a set of building blocks. I took a certain number of blocks and I named them after people in the family: five big ones represented the older people - 'cause John, Martha, and David were almost like adults to me - and then Mom and Dad; and four small ones represented the smaller people: Catherine, Dorothy, Ruth, and me. I could tell which one was which by the grain of the wood.

"…After the building blocks I played with roller skates the way Dorothy and Ruth played with dolls. Mom told me I couldn’t have the regular skates, because my brothers and sisters were still using them, but I could do whatever I wanted with the keyless skates. I found a couple pair of those down the basement behind the furnace room. But none of the skates was named after the family; I named them: “Tidish”, “Two-eared”, “Berings”, “Matilda” - after the Harry Belafonte song -, “Alice”, “Zippy” and “Pindin.” Zippy, Pindin and Berings were boys and the others were girls. I called them my Skunk family; skunks were furry and like cats; I didn’t know ‘til later that skunks are also big stinkers.

"…We went to Denver three years in a row andin 1960 on a day trip to Colorado Springs when the geysers in Yellowstone went off, they looked almost solid to me, the way clouds look, and I thought I could see faces in them too.

"…Also in Colorado Springs they had some really cute traffic lights - four-way lights hanging from wires. That’s when I started liking traffic lights. Back in Omaha I thought about them on a regular basis. Omaha was a thriving "red light" district when I was little. "Live" traffic lights were standard almost everywhere. In some places they might have had some odd signals that were automated, but ninety-eight percent of the traffic lights were live: four traffic lights sitting on the corners, or two of them hanging from a wire.

"…When I was six and Ruth and I slept in the same room, one morning Ruth said that the cathedral’s birthday was coming and we should buy a present. And we discussed what we’d get her for her birthday."…My folks took me to church every week at the cathedral. With the Latin Mass I couldn’t understand a thing they said. But I simply couldn’t sit still and be quiet for an hour. One time I had a fantasy while we were at church: What if the church would get up and walk someplace and put itself down somewhere else? And people would come out and not know where they were. It was just sort of a passing thought, but that was about the time - I was five or six - I started to see how certain buildings, like capitol buildings, looked like people. I liked the Christian Science church because it looked like a dumbed-down capitol building.

"…At Menninger'sthe staff were in their own little world. Some National Geographics showed up on the unit and when I saw one that had some pictures of English cathedrals, I stayed calm and I never said a word about it.

"…But in the fall they began to act like Thought-Police and to harass me about what I was drawing or writing.

"…I wanted to buy a travelogue about England that had pictures of cathedrals in it.

"…They said No, I couldn’t buy it.

"…By then they knew I liked cathedrals and they knew a travelogue would have pictures of cathedrals in it. But cathedrals were so important to me then that I couldn’t stop thinking about them and when they denied that to me, it was a major loss.

"…There were days when I thought my head would blow off my neck if I couldn’t talk about cathedrals - but they didn’t want me talking about them.

"…And then right before Christmas the Westminster Abbey Choir came on the TV to sing carols – and they changed the channel right away, because they knew at some point the camera would show a picture of the building. It was always like that: they snatched things away from me all the time.

"…I was forbidden to talk about Cathedrals - even though that’s all I could think about. I wanted to talk about Cathedrals so much it hurt and I kept trying to get someone to listen.

"…But all anyone ever said was: 'I don’t want to hear it!'…"

We're happy to offer a selection of Barb Moran's original drawings. These are one-of-a-kind pieces: color pencil on bristol board. Barb is asking a $20 donation for each drawing and, because they are originals and not prints, please indicate a second and even a third choice, if possible, in case another order for the same drawing arrives before yours. All proceeds will go to Barb.

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Content copyright ©2003 Barbara Moran & Karl Williams. All rights reserved.

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