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 LIGHTBULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life.

They were published once, and as every writer knows, once is not enough.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Part Three, The Present

This is the last of three posts which I have found to be mysteriously wonderful and full of questions. Do I have an answer? Nope. Someday I will and when I do I will be the one thumping on the door which divides and welcomes all of us.
Christmas before last I was working on a holiday column. The season was short and I was running out of time. I thought perhaps I could repurpose a piece I had written over twenty years before when my daughters were seven and ten years old. It was a sweet op-ed published in 1994.

I had a copy of the old piece which I was transcribing it into my computer for an eventual book for my children.  When I got to the end of the piece, it had been misaligned, half of the last paragraph was missing.     

The TV was on. (Refer to Part One)

I tried to add what I thought was missing, but the last couple of sentences stumped me. As I was typing the last paragraph, and struggling to fill in the missing words, for no apparent reason I randomly typed, “everyone knows,” at exactly the same time singers on TV sang, “everyone knows.” I think it was Glee. It got my attention. I replayed the scene. I had heard the two words correctly. Did I type them because I heard them? No, I had started to type before the words were sung.

For a few seconds I looked up at the ceiling and said, okay, I get it, I’m on alert. When I went back to typing I still could not come up with all the missing words. “Everyone knows”, did not seem to relate to the old piece. I had to find the original article.

Over the years I’ve saved almost all of my tear sheets.  My mother saved many in her colorful folder as did my mother-in-law, in a big brown envelope. In fact the Christmas before my mother-in-law passed away she gave me an album with many of my articles preserved in plastic photo protectors. The pieces saved were the really old ones, from the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Finding that album, and the original, would take some time. Time, something which I did not have because I had to leave for work. I did a quick search.

Immediately I found the album under the pile of manuscripts I was planning to box and store in the attic. I set the book down and opened the cover. There,  the very first op-ed, as pristine as if cut from the paper that day, the twenty year old Santa piece.

To me finding the article so quickly was like the Mark Twain incident years before. Or was it just a lucky find? And then I remembered the word match, which had put me on alert.                

“For all the skeptics, non-believers and Ebenezer Scrooges, when the hoopla of Christmas Eve is over and you collapse into bed exhausted, listen carefully. Everyone knows what Santa’s bells sound like. If you listen hard enough, you will hear them because Santa lives.”

Yes, I do believe in the higher-ups above us and messages sent from heaven. I also believe that if anyone could get through from the great beyond, my mom and dad could. I believe that just because we can’t explain it, does not mean it does not exist. Because I have experienced a lifetime of quirky little happenstances that have amazed me, and puzzled me, and in three unbelievable head thumping, heart stopping circumstances, saved my financial ass, I am convinced something else is going on.

Do I know what that something else is? Maybe, maybe not. Finding the article so quickly, no big deal. The words tucked away in my mind simply rising to surface at just the right time? Sure. But echoed from the other room as I typed, what is that about? 

What I do know, and learned early on, is that we must live our lives without blinders on and be open to the mysteries of life which surround us.  What is directly in front of us may show us where we think we are, but what goes on peripherally may show us how to get there.




Monday, January 4, 2016

PART TWO, Sleeping with Samuel Clemens

My mother and father were both writers, honoring their thoughts in journals, poetry and long loving letters. Each wrote a novel. His was science fiction, hers was about finding a suitcase full of cash. The books weren’t very good but the ideas and effort were astounding.

Writing was important to them, and that I pursued my love of the written word was important to them as well. Extremely supportive, and immensely proud of seeing my bylines in the newspaper, my mother kept every one of my tear-sheets in a colorful folder that began to bulge as the years went by. Sure they would contact me via words after they were dead, (see part one), why not, it makes sense right? To a looney maybe.

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, house clean, laundry done, husband playing golf, time for a nap on the couch in my bedroom. I turned on the TV, nothing like a little afternoon Public Television programming to lull me to sleep. Perfect, a special about the life and career of Mark Twain. I figured I’d be nodding off in minutes. Problem was, the program was interesting and caught my attention immediately.

Seems that after Samuel Clemmons (Mark Twain) wrote Huckleberry Finn he set the story aside. Five years later, after a few trips up and down the Mississippi, he decided to revisit Huck. The rest is publishing history; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn became an iconic American classic.

When the TV program came to an end, (it was part one of a two-parter), I was disappointed because I really wanted to see part two. Scrolling the program line-up, part two was not there. I checked on-line to see when it would air, no luck. I couldn’t find it, it wasn’t listed anywhere.  Since I had spent an hour watching TV, during my fifteen minute power-nap, and no longer in the mood to nod off, I was at a loss as to what to do with the rest of my afternoon?

I distinctly remember thinking, if Mark Twain could breathe life into a five year old manuscript he had set aside, maybe I could do the same with mine, not that my novel would be anywhere close to an iconic American anything.

I missed writing. But life and all its responsibilities had convinced me that spending hours at the keyboard was a colossal waste of time and a selfish endeavor. The actual process, separating me from family and friends, fed some sort of needy-dream and seemed ludicrous.

In the beginning when writing became my passion and after I had achieved a small modicum of success, I decided to set it aside because it was time to make memories for our children. I wanted them to remember my presence with them, not apart, writing essays about them. But my novel, a story about a young woman embracing change was a good story. I had fallen in love with my characters and had drawn on many of my own memories, (a pitfall for first novels), to make it read real. Mark Twain’s story made me want to write again.

In my office, at the back of a bottom file drawer was my 80,000 word first attempt at women’s fiction. In the mood to write, and inspired by Twain, and having the rest of the afternoon to myself, I opened the file drawer. That’s when things got a little weird.

Lying flat across the tops of the files was a colorful folder. I knew what was in it, a collection of my published articles which my mother had cut out of newspapers and magazines to save. I remembered finding the folder among her things when I cleaned out her house after she died. Maybe I should read a few of my successes, I thought, to inspire me to work on my book. Sitting on the floor I opened the file.

The first piece in the folder was an eight year old entire front page of the commentary section of the Hartford Courant, a local daily newspaper. Usually my mother cut the articles out and dated them but not this time, the only time, she had saved the entire first page. Down the right side of the page was an article I had written shortly after 9/11, regarding the suffering American economy. In the center of the page, above the fold, was a picture of Mark Twain. I gasped, yes, I actually gasped. Down the left side of the page was an article outlining and reviewing the two part CPTV program about Mark Twain which I had just watched less than five minutes before.

There I was, sitting on the floor, forgetting to breathe and stunned by coincidence. It was as if my mother had reached across time and dimension. The presence of her in the room was as real to me as the air I was forgetting to breath. Gasping again I touched the picture which to me was a sign. What was I being told?

I don’t believe in coincidences, I believe in messages and at that moment my mother was standing over me and telling me to get back to writing.

“I hear you mom,” I said out loud, “I get your message.” I said as tears streamed down my cheeks.

At the time I interpreted the thump on my reality as being a command to get back to my novel. I was wrong. It was a heads up, stay on track message, to what was coming, it was an attention getter.

My mother was a strong woman, ahead of her time, governed by sharp wit and instinct. Fiercely protective of her children she was steadfastly supportive of every endeavor of choice. No matter how outside the box our ideas or broad our dreams, she’d state her opinion, my mother always had an opinion, and then she always said to give it a try. Whether it was a lemonade stand or a quest to excel in something seemingly unreachable, she was there with a pitcher of ice, crushed lemons and encouragement.

My mother was an unpublished writer, an unsold painter, and a musician without an audience. She was an imperfect mother and at times an inadequate wife; to say she was human is to say she was real. As impossible as my mother could be, she loved with her whole heart and was extremely loyal and strong. If there was anyone, other than my father, who could break through the boundaries created after passing on, my mother would figure out a way.

As I sat on the floor of my office that day, trying to take in the circumstance of the moment, that chance played a part in the find seemed impossible. I could not dismiss the feeling that I was supposed to find some meaning in the discovery of the front-page, that I was to garner some sort of deeper importance from the moment. It was just too extraordinary to set aside as just a quirky incident.

When I was growing up it was not unusual for our family to discuss the possibility of the impossible. Stories and incidents which reached beyond the unknown were fascinating to us. Always grounded in reality we believed that just because we didn’t understand something didn’t mean it did not exist.  Having an open mind was as important as taking our vitamins. It’s not like we sat around immersed in a self-made Twilight Zone, we just knew that because we didn’t know everything, we were open to just about anything.

That afternoon my mind raced with what I was being told or shown or thumped on the head with. Now, so many years later, though I believe more than ever that there was a message, I believe back then I got the message wrong. It took me many years to realize fiction was not the message, non-fiction from the heart was.