The Sullivans

Verse:

16

Reader:

The Sullivans

Location:

Mobile

Verse 16

I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise, 
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others, 
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man, 
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine, 
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same, 
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Oconee I live, 
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth, 
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian, 
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye; 
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen off Newfoundland, 
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking, 
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch, 
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving their big proportions,) 
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands and welcome to drink and meat, 
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest, 
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons, 
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion, 
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker, 
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest. 
 
I resist any thing better than my own diversity, 
Breathe the air but leave plenty after me, 
And am not stuck up, and am in my place. 
 
(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place, 
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place, 
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.) 
Textual Analysis
Whitman's mother once commented that Walt always seemed to be "going out and coming in." She was referring to his peripatetic ways, but her description works as well for the structure of "Song of Myself," where the poet expands out into the welter of details around him, testing how wide he ...
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Textual Analysis

FILMMAKER’S NOTES

Some people just hit you in the heart. I was at Yen Restaurant in Mobile, looking for a hit of comfort food--Vietnamese food--and Cathy, Samantha and Brandon walked in.

Samantha reminded me of myself-- half-Asian, half-white, sort of a tomboy. I approached them. Immediately they were open and warm. I asked Cathy if they might want to read for the project.

She said sure. No hesitation. She appreciated art and music. Samantha did, too. Cathy stenciled boats for a living. Samantha wanted to be an illustrator or graphic designer someday.

Sometimes if people think something isn't going to look good to other people, they won't let you see it, let alone film it. But Cathy threw open the doors in full welcome. Before I visited their home for the first time, Cathy texted the normal caveats--noise, chaos, cats:

It's crazy with the kids home from school. It's loud. And the house is a bit of a mess. We are not wealthy so it's a bit of a poor home. Just simple. My mother has a lot of cats, so it's a bit over the top ...

Brandon was all over the place the day of filming - this little Einstein, running around. I wonder how well Brandon will remember the day we filmed. He'll probably thinks of us as those annoying people - the ones who tortured him and made him sit boringly still for an afternoon. If you watch the video, it's clear he embodies so many of the lines he read. "I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise...Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff that is fine ..."

When Samantha and her mom read, they just put it out there. They stumbled, but they didn't beat themselves up, they'd just start again. At the end of the day, Samantha seemed happy. She was taking selfies with us.

After that Sam and I would check in with each other every so often to catch up. We hadn't spoken in some time, then she texted. Cathy was battling small cell lung cancer. Sam was very optimistic about the prognosis.

It's a cancer that gets big n then small but they said it's treatable. But she wanted to know how the project is going?

When Cathy died, they held a service at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. I remember seashells were embedded in the earthen pathways there.

Samantha arrived. Normally dressed down, she was dressed up. Like we can do when we face things that are unreal. We send in our skirted, suited stand-ins and we smile. We apologize, as Samantha did to me:

Sorry I don't feel like myself.

She opened her arms up big and gave me a hug. It felt like that, that she was giving the hug to me. She has that same generous spirit her mother did.

I think of my time with the Sullivans as a three-part story: You meet someone out of nowhere, you have no idea you're going to be so affected by them or understand all the ways and then they're gone. Maybe that's most stories.

I have so much emotion for this family, it's hard to even express. I was endlessly interested in them. The stories they contained could have made up an entire magazine piece. Told us so much.

I just wish that Cathy could see this.

By Liz Hildreth, as told by filmmaker Jennifer Crandall