From Arcadia Magazine, 8
Review By A.W. Marshall
What Danielle Luther Luebbe does best in her nonfiction piece, “Palm to Palm,” in the most recent Arcadia, a literary magazine out of Oklahoma, is to remind us our best chance to be aware of our own history is to put those details into clarity.
“Palm to Palm” is patched together eloquently through counter-posed memories focusing first on Luebbe’s father then her mother that cleanly weaves the past, present and future together into memoir, but not romanticism. Luebbe reveals that it is the mundane that matters, from the scribbled words her mother leaves behind on bill envelopes and newspapers after phone calls to her father helping a calf birth. What isn’t mundane, such as the story of her own conception, she cloaks in authenticity, not an overly-sentimental imaging of her own personal history.
There would have been no foreplay. Both are tired; Mother from her forty hour week making bowstrings at the little brick factory in town, over thirty miles away. …My father would have been out in the storm all day, feeding hay to cows, watching their udders, heavy with milk.
In this essay, which places greater emphasis on their distraction than their love for one another, Luebbe grounds the reader in the genuineness—in the simple idea that this is how her parents lived and loved.
She rolls over onto her back, slides her rough hands into his rough hands and lets his heavy weight cover her slight body. The room smells like spaghetti still, the brown carpet saturated with cooking smells. The heater kicks on with a grumble, and a metallic tang that gets caught in the back of your throat.
They may be making love and creating her, but Luebbe knows her parents, knows she wasn’t conceived with Champagne on summer night while lightening bugs flitted about the undulant bodies of her parents. She knows her mother was “listening with one ear for Dusty,” her brother, and that “Daddy is worried about the cows.”
Yet, in this and the other sections, Luebbe weaves a love story, of two normal people leading their normal lives, which are extraordinary for the richness of their ordinariness. She is able to do this by utilizing the close point-of-views of her parents and a clear sense of place, how when her father walked from the tractor to the house, “He takes in the sky, trying to sense the weather. If tomorrow is dry, maybe he’ll fix that fence at the Holgrimson place.” And when her mother cooked spaghetti “she shuffles her bare feet against the linoleum and it crackles where the glue is getting old and dry.”
“Palm to Palm” works because it does not try too hard. It is as much about silence and open sky as it is about her folks. And while she tells the reader of her parents’ first meeting and subsequent elopement, these are simply framing elements for the every day. Luebbe sows love into these words and yet it is difficult to say how this love is communicated—except this: she knows she doesn’t need to over-sentimentalize to reveal their love or her love for them. To overstate, overdramatize or over-romanticize would suggest there was something lacking that needs filling in. Our everyday lives are not only enough, they are special because we live them with people we love.