I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD-SLAPS, SPEED-BUMPS and LIGHT-BULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life, is the name of my memoir/essay collection with why I wrote what I wrote and what happened after. They were published once and as every writer knows, once is not enough.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

To write how she talked




        

This small suitcase is similar to the little black makeup case which held my mother's manuscript for over twenty-five years. It was discovered in my attic on the eighth anniversary of her death, April 16th (check out my post on that date), I explain why I am writing about my mother's lost and forgotten novel.

  

I’m up to chapter six and though my mother’s writing is first-draft bad, the story is compelling.

In my words:
Twenty-two year old Marty inherits all of Uncle Toby’s holdings, the huge run-down inn where he died and 1200 acres on the Connecticut River. She and Abby, a young friend from college, decide to live in the inn and fix it up. Though Marty has walked by Uncle Toby’s room many times she has not yet discovered the bag which rolled under the bed and has yet come to terms with being the last member of her family.

In her words:
Marty listened attentively as her friend endeavored to explain that the relationship in families can be so intimidating that at times one finds it veritably impossible to retain ones identity. The ties that bind might, at times, be so excruciatingly tight that one wished to loosen them a bit to allow for independent moments or thoughts.

In my words:
And that was my mother, a woman who became a secretary for the head of a huge company, (today’s administrative assistant), a woman that could have and would have run that company eventually, except that my father’s job required they move cross country. She went because as she often said, “God-dammit, his job comes first”. She bent and molded her future to fit his and ours. Regret came later, I think, which settled into, “well that’s the way it was, fuck it; can’t change the past, so pour me another vodka on the rocks.”

I wish she had written like she talked. Her use of language was as real as honesty is brash. That filter people have to quell words, so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, she didn’t have that.  I think I miss how openly honest she was, and yet maybe not, she could be brutal. The Maureen O’Hara character in the John Candy film Only the Lonely, that was my mother. I haven’t seen that movie in years but maybe I should, just to revisit the woman who was my mom.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The book in the little black case.



This small suitcase is similar to the little black makeup case which held my mother's manuscript for over twenty-five years. It was discovered in my attic on the eighth anniversary of her death, three days ago. Back up a post or two, and I explain why I am writing about my mother's lost and forgotten novel.

In Chapter two I have met the driver of the car and his ‘cohort’ her word not mine. The use of that word made me smile, it is so my mother. The local police department knows that the two were up to something but not yet sure of just what it was.

In her words.

We spotted them just as they turned onto Oak but almost lost them when they turned down Grove Street. They tried to run after we shoved them off the road into a ditch on the Stanton Highway. We got them though, traveling 90 miles an hour.

In my words.
The men are released and my first thought, do they remember where the bag fell out of the car. Or did they ditch the bag because it was evidence. I want to find out.

She’s clever, my mom the writer, either by design or by circumstance. She lets us in on the death of Tobias before his niece, Martha, or Marty, many miles away and on her way home to him, finds out that he has passed away. The old man was deeply loved by Marty, though he may not have known. Uncle Toby was the last surviving member of Marty’s family. I thought it odd that we are spared Marty’s reaction to the grim news. But, as I thought about how the story is unfolding, it seems right. Maybe my mother didn’t want to dig that deep or maybe it will come up later but for now it works. With her entire family gone, Marty is alone.

Her words.
Her thoughts and memories were more of her friends who attended her tenth birthday party than those of her parents. She wished she had more memories to cling to but as time went on they became less important to her. She still missed them but sometimes she wondered why because she thought of Aunt Carrie and Uncle Tobias as her parents. She looked enough like Aunt Carrie, her mother’s sister, to be her daughter.

My words.
That paragraph, if stemming from imagination only, swims dangerously close to the hint of a secret, born from horror and tragedy within our family.  I am on page 32 and every character she describes, I know who she has modeled, every location I am familiar with, or have been told about. All of it, so far, I can pin down to her past experience. This hint, planted in those few lines, set my mind to wondering; from where in her past did the doubt of parentage emerge.

I am imagining that perhaps this book will answer a question I have been holding close to my heart for decades.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The book in the little black box



This small suitcase is similar to the little black makeup case which held my mother's manuscript for over twenty-five years. It was  discovered in my attic on the eight anniversary of her death, two days ago. Back up a post or two, and I explain why I am writing about my mother's lost and forgotten novel.


I stayed up late last night reading the first five chapters. Actually I read the first three, and skimmed four and five, because I was so tired.

Mom was smart, she wrote about what she knew; what it is like to teeter on the edge of old age. Though the book is seriously overwritten, and some of the language is antiquated, it has a wonderful sense of place. The town, I know, the Inn, I heard about growing up. She reached into her past, and drawing from those rich  images, she made them better - then I remember from her telling, when I was little. We all do that I think.

It didn’t take long for me to slip into that magical place a reader goes when they can’t wait to see what happens.

These are my words:
Tobias is old, infirm, and alone. He is awash in guilt because he was the driver, in the crash which killed his beloved Carrie. Many nights he relives the horror when he dreams about the accident and is left adrift in sorrow. At the end of chapter one the old man is resting in the shadows of his front porch after one of his dreams. He is tired, very sad and he feels a dull ache in his chest which he knows is more than a broken heart. It is late, the neighborhood is quiet, except for the sound of a police siren far away.

These are her words:
He leaned against the railing with one hand; the other placed on his right hip for balance, as he listened to the blatant clangor pierce the midnight silence and increase in volume as it headed toward him. The glare of headlights swept the corner of Oak St. as the car swerved and careened madly in an effort to hold the road. It rapidly approached the house. It was not a police car because it had no flashing lights. All at once the car was directly in front of the house. The rear door opened and something fell or was shoved from the backseat of the car. The object fell to the sidewalk and rolled onto the walkway leading into the front yard.

In my words, not rewriting but telling you what kept me up to read.
Tobias struggles to physically bring the object into his home and up to his bedroom. That struggle, which my mother describes in excruciating detail, ends the life of the old man. The object, which he succeeds in getting to his room, rolls under the bed just as Tobias dies. As the reader I wanted to know what was in that bag under the bed, as the writer’s daughter, I do know, because she told me.

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today was the day she died



I am in the midst of cleaning out my attic, see previous post. While I have been traversing the years up there I have come across memories so precious they take my breath away. From yearbooks to baby books, antiques to silly collectibles I have found my past and it is me. 

Once we die everything ends up in somebody else's yard sale. Well my shit is ending up in mine.

This lifetime archeological dig turned up something that never belonged to me. Something I never worked on and only glanced at once, many years ago. It was in a little black suitcase that looks more like an old record player case; my mother's manuscript.

She asked me to read it. I started but never finished. At the time I didn't think it was very good, at the time I wasn't very good, so what did I know. 

I am older now, than she was when she finished her book. How heartbreaking that I never gave it back and never discussed it with her. When I think about the anticipation we feel when someone reads our stuff, I can just imagine how much my silence must have hurt.

Today is the day she died, Easter Sunday, eight years ago; today is the day she is discovered.

I will read and post about it; standby. 
I open the black case. It was a make-up case because there is a mirror on the inside of the cover. My image is blurred by old silver backed glass.

There is a sticky note on page one, I had written; “book should start on page seven.”
Page seven; this is the sentence I thought she should start with.

“Life was never the same for Tobias after Carries death.”

To be continued.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Meeting with a two by six

Like my attic but picture a waist deep archeological dig.
            I fell.
            My daughter and I were in the attic, sorting and cleaning for two events, yard sale and house going on the market, (someday), in order to downsize. My attic is huge; it holds an immense amount of crap. The ceiling is high and slopes to the eaves as most attics do. I can almost stand up at the lowest part but not quite. Bent over and rummaging through boxes at the edge I bumped my head a few times. About two hours into the seemingly impossible job of hoeing out stuff, bent over and back hurting, I stood up fast, to relieve the strain. My head met the down-slope of a two by six, as they say, full speed and head on. I heard a crack, which I assumed was my skull, screamed, jerked, did a 180 and fell into a pile of junk.
            I expected a harder fall.
            My daughter yelled, “are you alright." She raced to my side. "Should I call 911, should I get dad?” Over and over she kept asking me if I was alright, should I get dad. I did not want to speak until I knew I was okay. This of course sent my daughter into a tailspin of concern.
            My head hurt, my back felt weird, my mind raced from body part to body part; what hurts, what’s numb. I felt stupid. Visions of my head filling up with blood and bursting raced in and out of my brain. Am I conscious, yes?
            My daughter stood over me. “I’ll get dad, do you want me to get dad? Do you want me to get dad?” I wanted her stop asking me that question. I needed time. “Do you want me to get dad?”
            “What the fuck is your father going to do?” I snapped at her as I sat up.
            “Well don’t yell at me,” she said, “I thought you were dead.” She went back to culling through a box of dozens of college notebooks.
            She thought I was dead?
            What if I was dead and she ran and got my husband three flights down, found him out in the yard somewhere, told him what happened and they ran back in, back up three flights; he would have expired on the spot - maybe.
            I’m not dead.
            I wanted to tell my concerned daughter that yelling at a dead person for answers to questions which require a cognitive response seemed a bit non-ancillary to me. But I kept my mouth shut.
             I put my head in my hands and fought back tears. The tears were not from pain, but from the shock of the unexpected, and totally stupid, I was at fault, trauma.
            My head hurts.
            Though I have had only a few symptoms I’m sure I have a slight concussion. My body aches from the fall. My pride is as black and blue as my hip.
            I went back to the attic today, bumped slightly once, swore, carried on and did not bump or fall again.
            What does this have to do with writing?
            When I was flat on my back, recalling the sound of the crack, the fall, and hearing my daughter’s panicky voice - while I laid there assessing my body parts and before I yelled at her to not call my husband because he wouldn’t know what the fuck to do, I thought, I should write about this. 
            Isn’t it ridiculous that no matter what we experience, observe or feel, our first inclination is to document and share? 
            I shared.