Friday, August 31, 2012

Writing Out Loud (Fiction Friday, sort of)

My daughters like to listen to books on CD when they are crafting. The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) and the Redwall series  (Brian Jacques) recordings are their favorites since they are full productions, with actors for each roll. Redwall is delightfully narrated in thick Scottish brogue and includes all the songs, which the girls used to sing constantly (though now they sing pop songs, sigh).
            Today, walking through the cellar to put in a load of laundry, past their sketching and painting, I was struck by the rhythm of the story on the CD player; as if it were written to be heard, rather than read. I thought, yeah, I want to write like that.
            Our stories began as vocal art, told at fairs and festivals, retold year after year. Each new storyteller added her own excitement by introducing some magic or elaborating on the description of the castle or killing off a lesser character in a dramatic fashion. The story changed; sometimes they were forgotten and later revived; often just forgotten though replaced by new stories.
            Whether changed or repeated verbatim, the voice was an important part of the art. Years ago, when I ran a program at the museum for preschoolers, storytelling was a big part of it; it was my favorite part. When I taught elementary school, I read out loud every day. But, these past few years, as I have started playing with writing, when I began the journey to become a writer, I forgot all about that voice.
            On my writing “to do” list this month is to read my work out loud and pay attention to that rhythm. Fortunately, I have two days a week when the kids go to school and the husband goes to work and the only one who will be around to hear me is the dog. I love to tell others’ stories to a crowd, but I’m not ready to perform my own work. I will be, though. I don’t have bawdy ballads like Brian Jaques, nor an instantly poetic sounding brogue, but, still, I can make all of my words sing.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Boy Friends

Yesterday was the last day of summer vacation at our house. My youngest started her first year at the middle school this morning; her sister joins her there as an 8th grader tomorrow.
To celebrate the last day, we planned to spend time with a group of friends we’ve known since my oldest was 2 years old. One family has two boys, the other has a boy and a girl, so with my two girls, we are evenly divided along gender lines. Each family has an 8th grader, each family has a 6th grader; evenly divided along age lines as well. Depending on the day, or the activity, they often divide themselves by either those gender or age groups. Usually, everybody is happy.
But yesterday, there was a glitch. The one girl from outside our family had other plans and was absent from the park and picnic date. I had a small moment of dread thinking my girls would want to bail and I wouldn’t get to talk with the other Moms. (It’s a play date for me, too, when we all get together.)
No fear. They had a blast. Sometimes, they divided by age, with my oldest talking about 8th grade things with her friend, but some new groups formed, too. Mostly, they stayed in a big bunch, adding in some random kids who happened to be at the part that day. Every time I located them out in the park, my girls were with a different group. It was fun to watch.
On the drive home, Thea, my oldest, admitted that she doesn’t have a lot of friends who are boys, but today reminded her that she might want to change that. She had a great time, even without her best-friend–since-we-were-two.
Most of my close friends are female (although my husband is my best friend, truly). I’m a little inspired by Thea’s revelation to look into why that is. Mostly, I’m inspired to enjoy whoever I’m spending time with.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fiction Friday - characters

Just playing around with developing a character. This may, or may not, become a story.

Drinks with Darin

“The chimney needs repointing.” She said it as if it were obvious to everyone. He looked up at the chimney, hoping something there would explain the term. 
“Um, you think?”
She let out a laugh; really, an exhale of breathe with meaning, the translation of which was still unclear.  His smile seemed the best response. He actually liked how ignorant this woman made him feel. She made him notice things, made him look and see and think about the things in front of him. Had he even truly known there was a chimney on the house? Maybe, as some architectural detail, like molding around the front door, but that it would ever need attention from him hadn’t occurred to him. He looked up at the chimney again. There were some gaps between the bricks where the cement had fallen away; that must be it. Repointing. He was going to save that word, use it when he called . . . who does one call for repointing a chimney?
“I can do that for you next week. I have some time.”
She loved the way he raised his eyebrows instinctively when she said these things. It was his “tell” that proved he had no idea what she was talking about.
“No, you’re right, you’d better call a mason. I know a guy who does good work cheap. I’ll call him and see if he’s clean this month.”
“Yeah, he’s an addict. You know construction workers. But he’s a good guy, solid work. “
No, he didn’t know construction workers. But she did and he found himself remarkably unconcerned that she was going to call this drug addict friend of hers to work on his house. Erin looked over at him and he just smiled and shrugged. That had become his signature move since meeting Jamie, a smile and a shrug. But Erin couldn’t leave it there. Drink just in front of her lips, she had to ask.
“So, Jamie, should we add masonry to your list of talents.”
“Oh, no. I can do basic work in a pinch, but if you can get a guy who knows his shit, then get him. Bob knows what he’s doing; comes from a whole family of bricklayers.”
“And how did you and Bob meet?” Damn Erin, this was not her small talk tone. Would Jamie notice?
“You meet guys on the job. Bob’s one of those guys who works when you need him. You can count on him.”
“You can count on an addict?”
“Well, I wouldn’t trust him with my stash, if that’s what you’re after, but he’ll do good work.” Her smile did nothing to help clarify if she was joking about the stash or not. Darin didn’t care; he loved the way she delivered this line as casually as Erin held her drink. She could hold her own, this one.  “Who needs a drink?”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Slice of Life - My mother and Aunt Nora

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the overstuffed chair by the picture window, watching my parents and my Nana walk out to the car and wanting to go with them. They were going to my Great-Aunt Nora’s funeral, but I think I only knew they were going to see Aunt Nora and I wanted to go too. I told my sister about this memory once and she said she couldn’t even remember Aunt Nora.
My mother told me, years later when I was asking about that memory, that she used to bring me along on visits to her mother’s sister. We’d go over and pick up Nana, then go to Nora’s where the grown-ups would have tea at the kitchen table. I don’t know what I did. Mom said she didn’t remember what I did either, so I must have been good.
I got to go on this adventure because, as the youngest in the family, I was the last to start school. So, my siblings would all troop off in the morning and for the only time in my life, I had my mother all to myself.
A few weeks ago, I took my mother to the doctor’s visit that would start her last days. Her kidneys were not working at all; she needed dialysis. I left her at the hospital on a Sunday night, expecting to see her ready for dialysis prep in the morning but when I got there I found out she had refused the procedure and asked to go home. We knew, without the procedure, she would die. She knew too. We took her home.
            My sisters and I stayed with Mom that week. We all found places around the house to sleep; someone was always with her, watching her favorite Westerns. Within 12 hours she was unresponsive. On Thursday afternoon, she died.
            I was sitting on the loveseat by the picture window, waiting for the funeral director to arrive when I thought of that morning wanting to go see Aunt Nora. We lose so many people from our lives. I thought about those trips my mother said we took to her house. Mom and Nana were making the time to spend with someone important who they knew would not be with them much longer. They made sure she knew they loved her by brewing tea and talking. At the same time, they filled their own hearts with her love, strengthening them for the time she would no longer be there.
            I’ve known all year that each holiday could be our last with Mom. My children are old enough to remember the visits every Sunday morning, and for that, I’m grateful. Those memories are strength. My mother knew we loved her because we brewed tea and talked; but we knew love just through her presence.
            I miss my mother terribly. I feel like that little girl, looking out the picture window, crying as her mother goes without her.
            My brothers and sisters have all said she is up in Heaven now with our Dad, holding hands again. I hope she can also pop in on Aunt Nora for a cup of tea. Nana will be there, too. And, in my heart, I am there with them.