I chose the novel Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, published in 1988. The initial setting takes place in Pittman County, Kentucky, the hometown of Marietta. However, the main setting of Bean Trees takes place in Tuscon, Arizona, the location her Volkswagon breaks down and her new life begins.
Hello everyone and welcome back to our series of, “The Life of”. My name is Kate Huntsman and today I am inside the house of Lou Ann Ruiz of Tuscon, Arizona, where our friend Taylor Greer is living.
In the next hour, I will have the pleasure to chat with Taylor about her eventful past two years.
I would like to start by asking you what your motive was for leaving home?
Taylor: If you’ve heard of Pittman County, then you know it is a very small town with little to offer. So I made a promise to myself that consisted of two things: avoid teenage pregnancy and begin a life away from Pittman.
I give all credit to my former science teacher, Hughes Walter, who gave me a job at the county hospital. Without the money I earned from this, I would not have been able to buy a 55 Volkswagen bug that allowed this to come true.
Wow, Mr. Walter, you should be proud. Now when you left home you had said you did not know where you were headed. What made you stop in Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma?
Taylor: I had no intention to stop here. However, my car chose to break down and I needed a quick meal anyway, so I decided to stop at a bar after it was fixed.
Little did I know I would be gaining a child that night. Right before I left, a woman placed an Indian child in the seat of my car and told me to take it despite there being no papers to her name. Without giving me a chance to understand this, she got in a man’s pickup truck and drove away.
I cannot even imagine that happening to me. What did you do then?
Taylor: Because I could not leave this child by herself, I took her to Broken Arrow Lodge, still in shock, and cleaned her off. I noticed bruises and evidence of sexual abuse. A few months later, I took Turtle to the doctor for an examination. Dr. Pelinowsky showed me x-rays that proved Turtle had a condition called failure to thrive because of past trauma.
I am so glad she is in your hands. Now I have been wondering the meaning behind the name Turtle. Would you mind explaining that and the meaning behind your name?
Taylor: I named her Turtle because she clung to me like a mud turtle. It was that simple. As for my name, I told myself it would be the name of the town my car ran out of gas. However, I did cheat a little in pushing it far beyond where it should have stopped, thus causing me to end up in Taylorville and become Taylor Greer.
Very interesting. Before I ask the next question I would like to hear your thoughts on the following quote. “The wisteria vines on their own would just barely get by, is how I explained it to Turtle, but put them together with rhizobia and they make miracles.” (Pg. 305)
Taylor: This quote relates to Turtle’s change in character these past few months. The help of rhizobia, bugs that transfer nutrients to wisteria vines, allows these plants to succeed where other plants cannot, a process similiar to that of Turtle’s. Because of what she suffered, she remained scared and distant for the first few months. However, with the love and support of my friends and I, Turtle was able to thrive. All she needed to flower was a little help from those who cared for her.
You sure have a lucky Ma, Turtle. I would now like to dive straight into your newest friendships with Mattie, Lou Ann, Estevan and Esperanza. How did they form?
Taylor: Mattie is the owner of Jesus is Lord Used Tires. From the minute I stopped by her shop I knew she understood me, and took care of Turtle. Since then, she has been my Tuscon Mama and mentor who helps me through my rough days. As for Estevan and Esperanza, they were Mattie’s friends first – Guatemalan refugees that lived in her attic. I became very close with Estevan because he was open about his tragic past. As for Esperanza, she was distant because Turtle reminded her of their daughter, Ismene, who was taken. Lou Ann was the last person I met through a For Rent ad in the newspaper. Our anxieties and inexperiences as mothers made us instant best friends. Living with Lou Ann made me feel like I was part of a real family for the first time. Truly, without all of them, I would not be where I am today.
They sound like wonderful people. While on the topic of friends, I would like to hear your thoughts on another quote. “‘I found my head rights, Mama. They’re coming with me.'” (Pg. 32)
Taylor: This relates to how my definition of home has changed. Because I had a little Cherokee in me, I used to think I had to live in the Cherokee Nation to feel at home. Sadly, when I stopped there, I still felt I did not belong. It took a little girl being placed in my passenger seat to realize your home does not have to be a place, but can be a relationship. I have found my home to be the people that love and take care of me.
That truly is the best feeling. My final question to you is about your legal claim to Turtle. Please include the role Estevan and Esperanza played in this process.
Taylor: It was because of the park incident that I discovered I had no legal claim to her. Cynthia, the social worker, said Turtle would become a ward of the state if anyone found out I was not her legal guardian. She gave me a note with the name of a lawyer in Oklahoma City. This is where Estevan and Esperanza come into play. They were told there was a safehouse in Oklahoma, so I decided to take them and have them pose as Turtle’s biological parents in front of the lawyer. Assuming we were telling the truth, Jonas Wilford Armistead let me be Turtle’s real mom. I remember being very happy that day, and it was all because of my dear friends.
Well that sums it up, folks. Taylor, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your inspiring story. I am so happy you have found the life you deserve. I wish you the best. As for our viewers, thank you and I will see you all again tomorrow when we meet with Brenna about her clothing drive campaign.