This is what I ask you. . .Can we ever know true what the good Lord intends?
Can we ever know our part in making it so?
This was always a story about things turned right.
Weren’t never just a story on what’s done wrong.
~ Sarah (FLIGHT, A Novel)
Every Thursday morning while in Santa Fe I go to memoir class. Great exercises and prompts, lessons that serve whether fiction or truth. Not being one for reminiscing, I typically write scenes for my novel in progress rather than traverse my own life. Contemplation of the here and now, insights from the past woven in as far as I usually go if it gets personal. This week was different, tho. Make a list of people you’ve lost. Pets, family, friends. Prioritize. Of course, my parents, number one. Write a paragraph on each. Perfect exercise for a profile in the novel. Oh, yes, mother stuff all over my work. In my first novel, a mother’s sacrifice and it’s aftermath. In my work in progress, a pregnant teen who’s run away, carries a letter to her mother that she adds to regularly over the months. Carefully choosing what she shares of her life further and further from the coal fields she left. Mother stuff.
After I wrote my first novel, I was surprised to see parallels to my own life. How my dad was in a key character. How what happened to the little boy happened to me. My mother and I weren’t especially close. As a child, I frustrated and confused her, she told my husband. You’d ask a question, and while I was thinking of the answer, you’d ask another, she told me. Others said she withdrew from me. Not from her overwhelm with her meticulous, precocious daughter, but to counter the favoritism my father bestowed my way. To balance the seeming denigration of my chubby sister. In my novel Flight, a mother receives a prophecy, withholds herself from her son to make him strong, to prevent his attachment to her so he can fulfill his destiny. And it tears her heart out. I rewrote the story the way I wish it had been. A sacrifice, for me. Not really a choice. And the pregnant teen, her close relationship with her mother. Their camaraderie, comforts. I rewrote that, too. Filled in the holes of my mother’s love, because I know she loved me. Stepping back further, I see I’m rewriting both our stories, hers and mine together. A great wonder that it took so long to fully see it.
Last week I shared my husband lost his job. Has a condition that won’t go away, makes things hard. Days after that our landlord wrote he’s raising our rent 30%, or 62 % if we choose month-to-mouth. A whopping $1100/mt. increase. I planned to move soon, anyway – the place high maintenance, frustration with our non-responsive absentee landlord – but six weeks seems so short a time to find another good home, pack and move. Three nights ago I thought how I could easily claim a ‘hall pass’ for a day off to depression. I went to bed with a short prayer for help. Just before dawn, I dreamed a man came into the room where I was. One of these four watches has something in it, he said. I looked at mine, noticed a raised circle of glass on the crystal. Yes, this is it, see here, he said, scraping a tiny speck of something discolored from the edge. And took the watch away. When he returnee it, I realized he’d removed 1/2 oz. of gold. You took my gold, I accused, trying to figure how much he owed me. No response. Done, gone. And when I woke, I got it. Don’t give away the gold of my time.
That afternoon, on an errand at the railyard, I stood looking at the sky, the cottonwoods, feeling the dry cool breeze, listening to the sweetest accordion music. Classical notes that rendered the air heavenly. Not like accordion, at all. Taking my time to be here now. I crossed the tracks, gave the young man a few dollars. Lovely, thank you, I said. He tilted his head so his hair fell across his face, smiled. I’m happy to be here, he replied. Yeah, me, too, I thought. And it came to me. If I can rewrite stories of my childhood without intention, I can rewrite the story now spinning my head sideways now. I’m gonna be alright.
Tell me. . .what stories would you rewrite?
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
A favorite: Surprise gifts.
A secret: I ask for help nearly every day.