Leaving My Self Behind

Leaving Myself BehindLeaving My Self Behind is the story of Harvey Mudd, born into a Los Angeles family of wealth, prestige, and respectability that traces its lineage back to the pilgrim fathers, a family in which patriotic attachment to America would be assumed.

Mudd reveals, however, that his mother and father were not what they seemed. In a life-long search for their true stories, he discovers that the America he was taught to believe in is not what it seems either.

Excerpt from Leaving My Self Behind:

Four days before we boarded the ship, Jim and I had been in Los Angeles, at my house, packing. My mother was having a formal dinner party that night. Film industry personalities were included among the guests, not stars, for that wasn’t her style, too flashy; but executives and studio lawyers. I had asked the lace-collared maid who was serving hors d’oeuvres to ask my mother if she would come to the kitchen for a moment. I had a question and, being in blue jeans, I knew better than to appear in the living room filled with beautifully dressed women and men in dark suits. I’d done that before, and had felt like a stray dog that had wandered into a garden party. Everyone had been polite but had been relieved when I’d been chased out. Sending a message to my mother was the better way. My question was an easy one. I wanted to borrow an old suitcase of hers that had gathered dust in the attic for a decade. My mother appeared. I asked the question.

“How dare you interrupt my dinner party for such a question?” was her reply. “No, you may not.” Without acknowledging Jim’s presence, she turned and walked out. Jim was not surprised. He knew my mother. I took the suitcase anyway, and returned it eighteen months later. It had not been missed. Into the suitcase went clothes for a year, the books I had promised myself that I would read.

I worried still about my long-term physical survival, for I had had a serious cancer, Mortality was not an abstract issue for me. One of the books in the suitcase that I carried with me had been the letters of John Keats. He had died young, at age twenty-six; I thought his letters might help me deal with my own fear of dying. I don’t remember if they did or not, but I loved those letters, so very wise for a young man. The paperback that I carried with me in 1960 still sits on my bookshelf.