December 27, 2012 § 9 Comments
I teach creative writing workshops. When my writers are kids, I walk the room looking over their shoulders to see how many stories begin, “One day…” and to make sure they are writing, not defaulting to the preferred response, drawing their stories.
If my writers are adults I write too.
One moment I’m ostensibly in charge. In the next, I have a sudden deep knowledge of lives unfolding in a place that bears no resemblance to a room full of writers. That other reality did not exist until the moment I imagined it, but in that moment it was all there, fully-formed.
This ability to be suddenly, and completely somewhere else is just proof that the child who was good at making believe never forgot how to do it.
Maybe the biggest difference between the pretending I do now and the pretending I did as a kid is that I no longer imagine princesses. Instead I inhabit the lives of ordinary people, often on ordinary days.
In the following piece of exercise writing I was in the florescent light of a nursing home hall, watching a woman named Mavis lean on the handle of a stainless steel push cart.
December 23, 2012 § 8 Comments
Hugging their notebooks, they swarmed the tables, ready for my writing workshop–except for the class that had just attended a funeral.
The class hamster had died.
The children were grief stricken. Shoulders shaking they gasped for breath as they cried.
“How long have you had your hamster?” I asked.
“A long, long time,” a boy moaned. “Since the beginning of fourth grade.”
Amazed at their unrestrained sorrow I realized that they had probably just attended their first funeral–and that I had become an old hand at death.
But like them, I began as an immortal novice in a world without end.
December 13, 2012 § 7 Comments
As a child, I greeted each Christmas season with held breath, waiting, not for the gifts, but for a feeling. I could almost always pinpoint the moment when the ineffable tide of Christmas washed over me.
Cookies in the apothecary jar.
Mildred’s pound cake.
The annual playing of a scratchy LP, “Christmas in Sweden.”
No one but my father spoke any Swedish, and his grasp of the language was buried under the drift of years since Swedish was spoken at home.
It seemed that every song on the record contained these words, “Yoopa yoopa yoopa, yoopa yoopa yoopa!” Occasionally thrown in were words like,”Fura luska loota lisa!”
Each Swedish syllable contained an implied exclamation point. Although we had no clue what we were singing, we sang along joyously!!!
December 7, 2012 § 7 Comments
At first we are amazed by how alike we are. You say what I just thought. I know what you will think before you do.
Dazzled, I see through the lens of you, you through the lens of me. No light exists when we are apart; we are an angel choir of two.
Then, as understanding deepens, and the newness wears off, we see what is different. We realize that we are good-different and we are bad-different.
Still, you are worth it. I am too. So when the different causes friction we compromise.
Little by little, we wear into each other to become a working whole. As we divide what must be done I cede to you the things you do better than I, maybe even allowing those skills to atrophy in me, but is it necessary that each of us do everything?
You fix what breaks. I manage our money. I grow the tomato. You turn it into sauce.