Shortly after Leon and I began dating in the early 1980s, we discovered that we both shared an interest in science fiction. Leon was much better read than me, and introduced me to a number of new authors. One was a woman named Zenna Henderson. I began reading a compilation of several novellas called Pilgrimage.
One story in particular, called Pottage, really spoke to me. Like the rest of her stories, it involves the People, an alien race who were dispersed across the American Southwest when their spacecraft crashed there. They had strange powers, they could levitate and fly, and were despised and persecuted by the local populace because they were different. Pottage concerns one isolated community of the People who survived by suppressing and denying their true identity and not using any of their special powers. How could a story like that not resonate with a gay man just out of the closet?
In the early 1990s, this newfangled thing called the Internet was just coming to prominence. I once did a search on her name (no, I didn't Google it. If Google even existed at that time, I wasn't aware of it. I used Yahoo). There wasn't much information. She had lived in Arizona and had been a teacher. No surprises there- both of those aspects of her stories were obviously written from the inside. She was Mormon for part of her life. This background undoubtedly also influenced here themes of alienation. She was also deceased, for about a decade. I believe that she died of cancer, and did so prematurely as she was only in her mid sixties. The minimal information that was available online about her caused me to view her life as rather mysterious.
Nearly three years ago, I began this blog. In my profile, I list Zenna Henderson's People stories as an entry in the Favorite Books section. About a year and a half ago, I received an unexpected email.
I am an occasional reader of Cobban's blog (Lopaka Lounge), and this evening I happened to click on your name after reading your most recent comment. I was so excited to see that you're a fan of Zenna Henderson's works. She will always be Mrs. Henderson to me, as she was my first grade teacher.I was floored- someone who had actually met her. We have had a small amount of correspondence, and it has been interesting to hear of what she was actually like as a teacher. Last year, just before I went to Arizona, my friend contacted me and suggested that I might look for her grave in St. David's cemetery just outside of Benson.
It was not to happen last year. This year, however, I drove with Homer down to Bisbee to visit with Cobban and his partner Ray. On the way home, we drove right past St. David's Cemetery. As Homer is an archaeologist and avid genealogist, he was happy to stop off and help me find her headstone. I'm very pleased to have been able to pay my respects to someone whose work I admire very much. Thanks, P. for contacting me and sharing your connection with her.
Photo by Homer