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Violence grows in Iraq

By Remy Benoit

From The Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan, and MSNBC Iraq militias splintering into radicalized cells
New groups appear more ruthless in use of violence.

It is always interesting to read about how things are viewed in a variety of states. As my Granny was born in Butte, Montana, way back in 1895, I keep an eye on what is being said there. Governor Brian Schweitzer is a very interesting man.

From Rolling Stone and Tim Dickinson, a little ways Down History Lane, Schweitzer on Iraq.

Governor Schweitzer in Iraq.

If you don't know much about the history of Montana, well, let's start here in Butte Butte's Far Eastern Influences by George Everett.

How about the Butte connection with a West Point man named Bradley? The Captain Who Fought World War I in Butte, Montana.

I miss you Granny! This one is for you, Marion Eva Domenica Benoit


I enter the house through the vestibule adjoining a sun porch whose filtered rays have not warmed anyone since I was a child.

The faded, old, flower print sofa still rests there with its sagging cushions and pillows casually tossed, when?

Leaving its light behind, I step inside the door to the darkness of heavy furniture in a drape shrouded living room that serves as a formal antechamber to Grandmother's apartment. My fingers run across the surface of the harsh horsehair sofa and pick up images of my cousin and I sitting, one on each end, young feet not reaching the floor, not allowed to cross the middle line, told to behave properly. The shadowed light falls on the silver and amber cordial set on the server; the cordial set that now rests in my china closet.

I choose not the banistered steps that lead up to the second and third floors but open instead the heavily draped French doors that lead to her bedroom. Two dressers, a heavy mahogany bed, towering mirrored armoire, and triptych silvered dressing table crowd the room. There are no signs of the man who once shared it. Every surface is covered with female trappings of feathers, hats, letters, jewelry, gloves.

Grandmother sits, her back slightly bent with her 63 years, at her dressing table. She is unaware of my presence. The air is sweet, heavy with her fragrance, tied to the inseparable aroma of coffee simmering two rooms away. I have never known a time when that pot, filled with grounds, egg shells and salt, wasn't simmering. There is complete silence in the room and time is suspended as I look beyond Eva to the top of her dressing table. There rest fancy glass perfume bottles, jars of guaranteed freckle vanishing creams, and an ordinary kitchen glass filled with water. A long, rat-tailed comb sits in the water. Hairpins of various shapes are scattered amidst lipsticks, rouges, and a pink powder puff in a round box of loose facial powder.

The rising and falling of my breathing is the only movement in the room until the left side of the dressing mirror shimmers and fills the room with light. The Eva who is sitting there now is in the full bloom of young womanhood, golden red hair cascading down a straight back. I follow those gray, sparkling eyes to where they see a young woman who left behind a youth spent helping to raise five brothers and sisters. I see the girl's brief flirtation with the escape of becoming a nun. There is the promise of love for a tall dark-haired man; she the chambermaid, he the million dollar bell-hop sporting spats and a walking stick. They come together for a little while, joined in need for experiences, for adventure; joined in marriage. I feel the pain of them torn apart by his obsession with gambling.

Eva's eyes move, this time to the center mirror, the light dimming a little, her hair done up in a crown of rat supported curls. Divorced now, traveling with her daughter, a touring actress, she is doing Uncle Tom's Cabin. A box of Valentine chocolates follows her from post box to post box, arriving, cracked and dried. Her touring company folds, her shoulders curve forward a little. The light grows dimmer.

I watch her walk into an Iowa restaurant, holding in her hand a sign that reads Waitress Wanted. She needs the job. The Armenian widower behind the gleaming glass counter, standing in front of rows of sparkling glasses, is smitten with her luxurious hair, her sparkling gray eyes, her intensity. She takes the job, his heart, and his hand in marriage.

He sells his restaurants. Together they back plays that fold in the night like gypsy camps. Her acting is now to fit herself into a new role in a new place.

They come to Philadelphia in an old red truck with a daughter, a big German Shepard dog, and a yellow canary. There is no money for even one more gallon of gas. Odd jobs, a down payment borrowed from a sister, puts them in a three story house, with servant stairs.

This house.

I watch her run this boarding house for twenty-five years. This bedroom becomes her refuge, her tomb. Her back bends more, the grey eyes loose their light, become somber and dark.

They move beyond the vanity, past the chenille spread on the bed, to the dark armoire. Inside one of its open doors hangs an old rose boa and a new pastel, silk robe.

Eva turns and sees me.

We leave the bedroom, walk through her sitting room and sit down at the table in the kitchen.

This is her stage. Here she entertains, her right leg bouncing to keep her circulation going.

The coffee pot gurgles. On the table sits an oversized sugar bowl. Her insulin is in the refrigerator.

Eva hums, mixing Beautiful Dreamer. and The Prison Song.. I gaze out the only uncovered window at the pansies that grow in profusion, the only flowers that grew within miles of her birthplace in Butte, Montana.

I am fifteen when Eva dies. That was forty-five years ago. The house has long been sold, with the armoire. The dressing table is gone, as are her travel diaries, the silk robe, the boa.

But there is that one day, just before her show moves on for its final curtain, when she looks at me and says, I am going to buy a trailer, go out West to look for those spats, that walking stick.

She holds my eyes across the table, grins, says Never say never, and pours another cup of coffee, no sugar.

Those are words I taught my children. Eva had a few other truisms she taught me. I have passed them on also. When whatever is too much, walk away from it for awhile, and Never burn bridges. These ideas would work well in governance and foreign policy as well as in private life.

We all have stories; please do share some of yours with us.

Miz' Remy


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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