Category Archives: Memoir

Cat’s Eye

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

On page 27 of Room to Write, Bonni Goldberg tells us that it is not only with our eyes that we see.  Our inner eyes are comprised of three things:  instinct (“previous experience”), intuition (“gut reaction”), and imagination (“mental flash of possible  scenarios”).

The Prompt:

Look around at anything you literally see and visualize it more robustly by using the above three ways of “seeing.”  In doing so, we should observe which means of seeing is most difficult for us versus which comes easiest.  Today, I’m going to focus on a random image I viewed out the window two nights ago at a cocktail party.

Response:

Standing poised atop the intricately scrolling wrought iron railing of a second-floor terraced house window, the Ninja Kitty remains frozen with all four of its paws aligned in a perfectly straight line.  It holds its balance there for perhaps ten minutes, frozen in fear (or is it a calculating calm?) as it assesses the situation:  having tight-rope-walked itself to where the corner of an exterior wall juts out, separating the ledges of two different flats, Ninja Kitty stands with its two hind paws on the railing above one ledge while its front paws have traversed to the part of the railing where the second ledge begins.  At its middle, then, is the corner wall that, though an inch or two away, surely feels like a blade brushing against its fur, threatening the cat to jump as though it’s just walked the splintering plank of a creaking, renegade ship.

Ninja Kitty appears to have three choices:  1) leap off toward the sidewalk, testing the validity of the old conception that a cat will always land on its feet, 2) moon-walk backward to try getting back onto the first ledge, or, 3) keep easing forward enough that it can attain the leverage it needs to leap onto the second ledge.

Still the blonde cat hesitates, and I can almost perceptibly make out the “Fuuuuuuuudge” thought-bubble about to burst on the sharp tips of its ears; reflecting off the vertical slits of its pupils are the illuminated graphics of a mental decision-tree database, running through iterations of calculations as the cat sizes up its variables of physics.  Vectors and velocity methodically slide and sort and file away in Ninja Kitty’s mind until it’s the make-or-break moment.  This is happening.  And…NOW!  Ninja Kitty bows slightly and launches from its hind legs to alight gently and fully on the second ledge.

Victory is the feline’s, but, before it can even get its bearings and exalt in relief, there is a rustling at the shade drawn over an adjacent French door.  A flat occupant, I reasonably presume, who must have been looking on in peril from an unseen vantage, yet doing so impotently with no attempt at aiding in rescue.  Just as I judge the day-late and dollar-shortness of that cowardly individual, the dark pointed ears of another house cat materialize from underneath the shade.  Then and there, Ninja Kitty’s humility over its recent, dangerous, and embarrassing predicament is vanished, if it existed at all—within split seconds, the cats are rearing on their hind legs and clawing at each other through the glass, staking their outdoor/indoor territory as though it was one and the same.  Smack, scratch, scrape-scrape, they continue batting at each other with electric intensity, and, before I know it, Ninja Kitty is haughtily heaving itself back up on the railing (looking for a moment like it was about to do pull-ups) to no longer give this enemy the time of day.

And there it was, standing poised (in the opposite direction, this time) atop the intricately scrolling wrought iron railing, frozen with all four of its paws aligned in a perfectly straight line.  This was the point at which I looked away, disinterested.  That cat either knew what it was doing or didn’t learn from history and was thereby doomed to repeat it.  I conjecture it is living on its fifth life at most.

Reflection:

Ah, that was a fun little romp, though probably doing no justice to the profound quotation that opens this post!  And I imagine I could have taken it further and deeper if I’d chosen a human subject (sorry, PETA).

The whole scenario was amusing to actually watch, though (the glasses of wine I’d already consumed probably adding to the hilarity of the moment), and yet I can’t deny that I was simultaneously looking on in horror.  I couldn’t help but imagine the possibilities left to the cat in this seemingly impossible dilemma, yet my instinctive impression of how it was apprising the situation and would ultimately act was based on previous observations of cats and their cautious, arrogant mannerisms, as well as my intuitive understanding of what it means to be “catty,” as that feisty bitchiness is part of my own nature when I’m confronted 🙂  Monkey has claws!



Only in My Dreams!

I think after yesterday‘s heaviness, we needs must uplift ourselves with some ’80s radness!  Oh, as if you don’t want to…don’t resist the urge to Running-Man or Cabbage-Patch if need be…

Ah…okay, fan yourself off.  The reason I pulled this little nugget from the cyber archives is to set the theme as I backtrack to the writing prompt about dreams.

The Prompt:

Four posts ago, I mentioned that page 22 of Room to Write asks us to recall a dream:  “It can be a recurring dream, one from childhood, a daydream or a nightmare.”  As we write about it, we should be noticing which portions of the dream sequence evade our memory and which become sharper.  We can fill in any gaps, change, or expand on any of it that we wish.  I’d like to relate a few…

Response:

The first dream that leaps to mind is a recurring one that I had as a little kid.  I know exactly where it stemmed from:  a TV ad for a television station that had something to do with the seasons (or “series,” as they say in the UK) of its television programs not yet coming to an end…I don’t know if it was approaching summer re-run time or what, but what I do recall is that my dream was this extended variation of the advert in which I was the woman involved.  I was wearing a peasant dress and being chased by a hunchback all throughout a dark, cobwebby, grey stone castle.  The corridors, evil perils, and my evasive techniques would vary night to night, but every time the dream ended the same way:  the hunchback would corner me at a dead-end.  With my back against the wall and arms outspread, I’d merely repeat the line the woman in the commercial would say (though in my dream, it was probably sheer nonsense coming out of my mouth), and the hunchback would grunt, turn around, and walk away.

A recurring dream I started having later in life involved water.  The situations and story lines were always different, but the water would be there in some form or another.  Sometimes I was on a sinking ship a la Titanic, sometimes I was standing on shore watching a massive tsunami (of Deep Impact proportions) rolling in at me , or water levels for whatever reason would rise gradually inside my home.  In all of them, I had time to stare down my ultimate death and prepare the air to be swept from my lungs.

Adding to the list, I get that typical one in which I lose my teeth.  Whereas the last two dreams recurred within the span of probably one or two years, this particular one with the teeth has resurfaced my entire life.  I don’t always lose my teeth entirely; sometimes they are loose to the point of my knowing it’s only a matter of time.  Again, the story lines of those dreams will vary, but within them my dream-self burns in mortification, as it’s a total blow to my vanity.  I always feel entirely helpless and unable to hold them in place (not to mention terrified what the dental bill is going to come to).

And to conclude the list, yes, when I was a student I would have the dream about having to take an exam I didn’t study for or showing up to class wearing something ridiculous, but the curse of becoming a teacher is that you keep having those dreams!!!  This time, though, it’s that I show up to class without having my lessons planned, or I show up at the wrong classroom on the first day of school, and the students are never very helpful to me in this dilemma.  Since I’m on hiatus from teaching at present, I don’t get these anymore, except that just a few nights ago I actually had one of the more freakishly normal dreams I’ve ever had—nothing bizarre, really…same classroom and students as I really used to have…except that at the end, I broke down sobbing over how much I missed teaching.  (Um, no need to call Freud in to psychoanalyze me on this one…I think Dr. Obvious can take it from here).

Okay, so what would happen if all my recurring dreams decided to recur on me at once?

I’m running through the corridors of the high school…it’s a centuries-old one in the vein of Hogwarts, and I’m late to teach my lesson on Beowulf…today, we are to debate to what degree Grendel’s mother is a sympathetic character, but I haven’t crafted my specific discussion points nor procured enough copies of the text to distribute nor written up or copied the handout nor strategized how to best divide my students up (Individually?  Pairs?  Collaborative learning groups?), and have I differentiated for their multiple intelligences?

I walk into the copy room only to see the photocopier spraying out sheets of study guides as a cluster of frantic teachers scramble to claim and collate their own; there is no solution nor sanctuary here.  Panicked, I pivot on my heel and chase down the hall to an unfamiliar stairwell where I feel and hear the grumbling of a predator:  Grendel!  I trip up on the low hem of my skirts as I jog down the steps, my sweaty palms on the railing exceeding the pace of my slippered feet.  I duck into the dank blackness of a janitor’s closet as I hold my breath to hear ever louder the rattling huffing of another; I will be trapped here if I stay, surely given away by the scent of my perspiration (or dry-erase markers), so my only hope is to dash and pray I do so in enough haste.

With my heart ricocheting off my breastbone like a racquetball in my alarm, I automatically navigate the twists and turns of the school halls, unsure of where to find my classroom and lamenting this loss in last-minute time to prep my lesson—when I arrive at my class, if I live to arrive at my class, alas, I shall have to wing it.  I grind my teeth in anxiety, debating which is the lesser of two evils to occupy my mind away from the putrid, humid breath at my neck, only to find that my top front teeth begin to sway against the bottom ones.  One slips out wetly, grazing my lower lip as it falls and trails bloody saliva down my chin; another tooth three teeth over then gets crunched between my molars before I suck it onto the bed of my tongue to better projectile spit it back at my foe in defense.  By twos and threes, my remaining teeth ease out of my soupy gums, and I try to organize them with my tongue against the roof of my mouth as ready artillery; in rapid-fire, I spray them out, their pale ivory now bloodied pink, and they pelt my pursuer like quail shot.

I’ve bought myself some time.

Up a winding staircase I go, clacking against the polished stone surface, slipping to my knee before recovering quickly and charging onwards toward an upper level corridor open to the air.  Heaving sharply cooler gusts of air through great gasps, I run headlong into the painted cinderblocks of a dead-end.  Hearing the bell sound off, I realize it’s over…First Period has already started, and I’m not there to take attendance in time to send it off to the Main Office.  Truancy slips will be issued, and it will be all my fault.  I press my forehead against the icy surface of the wall and slowly roll my skull around on its pockmarked surface to spin and face my adversary.

And there he is, slightly worser for the tooth-bullets, but still formidable.  He growls in low rumblings with a taloned claw upraised, and I start to tell him something about television reruns when a surge of foaming saltwater blasts through the open windows.  I swallow it along with my words as my body flails for orientation and gives one last spasm in its urgency for oxygen.

As it all bleeds over into black, I think a forever-silenced prayer…that my substitute teacher will not let any of those students side with anyone who would have spawned Grendel.

Reflection:

Um, yup, just as demented as any of my dreams would be.  The spin I’ve taken on this exercise was stupidly fun.  After focusing for as long as I have been on one main, continuous story line for my project, it was rejuvenating to take a random tangent that is not too serious or personal.  I think I’ve dragged this post on long enough, so will bid you good night and crazy, distorted dreams 🙂


If I Could Talk I’d Tell You…

Sometimes what is really worth saying is what is most difficult to say.  Perhaps anyone can tell a story, but it’s the unsayable that charges the tale with compelling if not conflicting emotion.  Writers write because they have something within that is urging to be said; the challenge, though (and the reason why I think not just anyone can tell a good story), is articulating what we feel so strongly when there may be no direct means of doing so.  This is why people use metaphor and simile or play off the sounds of words themselves to recreate an experience that is otherwise unrelatable.

The Prompt:

To help us say the unsayable, page 23 of Room to Write asks us to “choose a feeling, idea, or experience that you haven’t been able to express to anyone no matter how hard or often you have tried.”  In trying to convey this, we are encouraged to use any of the following writing strategies:

1. Comparison – compare the sensation to a similar feeling that it reminds us of;

2. Juxtaposition – describe conflicting aspects of the sensation, side by side; and/or,

3. Rhythm – structure the words/syntax of our sentences to audibly mimic the sensation.

Response:

At times, it felt my eyes would propel from their sockets, or splash out of them with the popping burst of a water balloon breaking against blades of grass…as if I might literally ‘cry my eyes out.’  My heart felt it might split open my chest cavity like a crab leg gripped in the toothed metal of a lobster cracker; holding my heart back from rupture, however, was an opposing anvil of pressure at my sternum, compressing my breast as though I’d plunged into ever deeper waters.  The dulling of other senses was likewise like treading below the water’s surface, looking up to see the pool of light above while deliberately sinking myself toward what was cool and black, obscuring my perception of life as it actually was through the dark and refracting depths and clogging my ears to reason.  At other times, it was like being strained through a sieve, dispersing the atoms of my being into the broader environment, a melding into the background as I soaked into the carpeting or evaporated into the walls, becoming more and more transparent from my own sight.  A water-logged cadaver deadened by apathy alternating with the quick-pulsing, hyperventilating, lurching engine of emotion that, either way, spun me off the road and left me paralyzed in the ditch, tangled within the weeds where no one could see or hear me.  This is what depression felt like.

Reflection:

Yeesh, I feel like gulping for air after trying to re-feel the sensation of a dark, momentary blip in my life.  Thank goodness this experience was temporary, triggered by a few too many life changes that occurred at once—good changes overall, granted, but changes nonetheless that entailed adjustment and sacrifice.  Ah, the bittersweetness of life…but as I learned in Istanbul’s bazaars last autumn, it is good for their elaborately woven Turkish carpets to be trodden on, as it only makes the knots stronger.  And thus we all strengthen into something of more beauty just when we may want to pity ourselves for being stepped on.

In any case, while I don’t have any issues talking about it (I prefer to, actually, as being able to speak of it in the past tense makes me revel in the happiness of my present and optimism for my future), I never feel I can adequately get the experience across.  And I can’t say for certain I’ve done so here, nor really approached it in the way that Bonni Goldberg has asked; all I can say is that I wrote what came to me most readily, and I know I could rewrite it through various other lenses.

I didn’t deliberately attempt rhythm, but if I want to grasp for sound effects, I detect some unintended assonance and alliteration in the penultimate sentence:  the repeated “aw” sound in “water-logged” that draws out the words like the slowed feeling of trying to run under water, the interspersed “a” and “eh” sounds in “cadaver deadened by apathy” that sound listless and whiney, then the “d” sound in “cadaver deadened” that falls with dull thuds.  The action words with strong, snapping consonants and short “i” sounds that follow (“quickpulsing, hyperventilating”) seem to then speed up the sentence a bit.  At least that’s my take on it…or maybe I’m just making this all up as I go along 😉  But seriously, though, although my little analysis here might be stretching because I didn’t try to strategically embed devices like this, I point out these examples just to show how the sound of language could be used for certain effects, and obviously more effectively when done on purpose.  I think this is at least the 2nd time I’ve bypassed rhythm as a writing technique in my responses, so I really need to start challenging myself more in this area.

But enough about me.  How might you say the unsayable?


The Story of Moi

In my last post, I referred to a pop-up book I had created at the beginning of a graduate school course.  At the time I was pulling a 180 in my career path—after a few years in Finance, various signs pointed me in the direction of teaching, so I quit my consulting job outright to become a full-time student again and earn my masters in Secondary Education to teach English.  The actual book I made for the project is an ocean away in storage, so I can’t include photos here of my lame attempt at the craft, but I did scrounge up the brief reflection I’d written for it and thought I’d share it here since my mind is on it, and I’m still grateful for the perspective it reinforced within me:

As a child, I adored Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand for Robert Lawson’s lovely ink sketchings of Ferdinand, the bull who did not like to romp and fight, but, rather, sit under his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers.  As an adult discontent in my former Finance career, I randomly recalled this book a couple years ago and consequently became aware of how much the corporate bull-fight in which I was participating ran contrary to my nature.  My resultant epiphany prompted by this simple picture book centered on the realization that books have always been my way of smelling the flowers whenever the world seems artificial and harried.

The literature I read has the capacity to provide emotional, spiritual, and intellectual stimulation (denoted in my project as a heart, cross, and brain, respectively), as well as contributes countless other aesthetics that enrich my daily life such that I am better able to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.  Among the flowers blooming within [my project’s] pages are:  keys to understanding new knowledge or ideas, keys that open doors to other ways of thinking or to various corridors within my soul; airplanes that transport me to imaginative, enchanting lands and experiences when the everyday becomes mundane or challenging; the music of poetic, figurative expression as issues of life are harmonized (or made dissonant) in the sounds and rhythms of words; telescopes that foster awareness as I am enabled to see distant worlds and plights beyond my own backyard; and mirrors that force me to confront who I am and muse in self-reflection.

The multi-faceted impact that reading continues to have upon me is perhaps as infinite as the varieties of flora, rendering a library a virtual garden.  Just as Ferdinand left the bustle of Madrid to reside once again beneath his tree, so I left my job to pursue a teaching career that would let me read as much as I always wished I could (and then some!) and try to inspire the same passion in others.  Thus, The Story of Ferdinand has become that of my own.

And since then, I’d devote the last day of each school year with a read-aloud of this book (yes, to an audience of teenagers), leaving my students with the message to not go against their grain in life—“Find your way of smelling the flowers, and be very happy.


The Impact of Words

The Prompt:

Page 4 of Room to Write asks us to describe the first incident in which we were affected profoundly by words.  In describing this, we should address what led up to the encounter, our physical reaction to it, and anything else that was happening simultaneously.  We’re free to fill in the gaps with fiction, if we please, and perhaps construct it as a poem.  I’m going for prose, but you do what you will.

Response/Reflection:
I can’t swear that it was the first time words ever profoundly affected me, just that it’s the earliest memory that my pea-brain can pinpoint right now.  It’s arguable, after all, that I was first profoundly affected when I first learned how to read, but I don’t recall there ever being a “Eureka!” swell of emotion then; it’s more so the appreciation that I can attach to it now in retrospect.  I think of the metallic-spined Golden Books that kicked off my reading career, and my red paperback of The Story of Ferdinand that certainly made its place in my heart–but, again, a meaning established in my adult years when I so needed to hear truths put simply in my ever-increasingly complicated world.  And I wish I could remember the first orally articulated words that may have moved me, but I think it would have to be when I myself took on the challenge of words, the composition of them in forms of my own choosing if not creation, that stands out as most pivotal to the writing life I’ve embarked on since.

I think it was fourth grade when I submitted my first “book” into the running for my elementary school’s Young Authors Contest.  It was an anthology, actually, a collection of poetry that I carefully entitled, Poems of Modern Style.  I suppose I classified them as “modern” based on the youthful and pop cultural content they covered (the ’80s punk aesthetic being a component) as well as the fact that I did, with the exception of a few haikus, create my own poetic structures to follow.  It’s difficult to recall what exactly led up to these choices; I can only assume I chose the poetic medium because I couldn’t think of a plot around which to develop a decent story of any length (not to mention I’d probably noted the failure of my previous year’s prose piece, something about a lost bunny or puppy trying to find its way home.  The dialogue was painfully monotonous; I clearly knew nothing of dialogue tags at age 7).  So I suppose I had a range of miscellaneous ideas floating through my head that did not necessarily follow a cohesive theme, yet could adequately be dumped under that catch-all descriptor of “modern.”

The poetic form gave me the freedom to explore all these ideas in flowing form or fragmented sketches.  Yes, I was 8 years old and an avid Shel Silverstein reader that was of the school of thought that all poems had to rhyme, so constrained myself in this respect, but it was rules like rhyming or the number of syllables measured in those haikus that really did prompt me to stretch and squish and swap words to comply with those forms without sacrificing meaning.  That would be, then, when I caught the first glimmer of understanding how word-rich the English language is, that there are so many degrees of meaning even among synonyms that we are at liberty to play around with all sorts of words in trying to find the specific ones that truly convey what we’re seeking to say, whether in isolation or combination.  Poetry forced me to think more deliberately, weigh each word’s worth more when there were so few alloted to a line and so few lines beyond that.  Sure, I certainly remember cranking a couple of those out, feeling satisfied enough on the first try and ready to move on, but there were others that taught me the value of revision and being a discerning reader of my own writing.  I further recall that I had drawn illustrations to accompany each poem, demonstrating that interplay between word and image and how they create meaning in synergy…or maybe it was also because I loved to draw and thought it made the pages pretty.  (It did.)  I painstakingly copied the final versions down onto construction paper of alternating rainbow colors and bound it all together to submit for the judging.

This process acquainted me with the eye-strain and sore hand muscles that accompany writing, but also with how these symptoms of pain were salved by the flutter in my stomach that signaled both the thrill of creative achievement and the anxiety over what others may think once I placed my baby in their arms.  And even the agony of anxiety was utterly diminished when they announced the results:  I was a finalist.  I didn’t end up winning, but I had made the top four, and that was the first external recognition I’d received of my words that wasn’t just a grade on an essay.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have relied on outside reinforcement, but it was the validating boost this shy girl needed to affirm that what I’d worked so hard on and genuinely enjoyed all by myself was something of merit that others could enjoy too.  In the short-term, it inspired me to tackle an illustrated “novella” as a sixth-grader two years later for that same contest (I won, even got to go “on tour” reading select chapters in different classrooms) and cemented a love affair with words that will stay with me for a lifetime.



Lack of Memory

The Prompt:

Spinning off the previous prompt, Room to Write now challenges us to freewrite on what we DON’T remember.  This can consist of memories we’ve tried to recall or wish we ever had, or can be entirely sarcastic in the vein of, “I don’t remember asking you for your opinion.”  And because it is freewriting, we are to write continuously without pause. so it won’t necessarily make grammatical sense.  Before I get started, I’m going to make a quick run to the loo so I can concentrate, otherwise, I’m going to write a lot about not remembering my bladder ever hurting this badly or the last time I soiled myself.

Ahhh…that’s much better.  Okay, now I’m ready.

Response:

I DON’T REMEMBER the exact moment or day when I first met my husband, I just remember knowing at that precise instant in time that I wished I had met him before the boyfriend I was dating at the time.  I don’t remember ever being the first to say, “I love you,” because I don’t remember ever being one to willingly succumb to the mistakes most women make.  That said, I don’t remember why I let myself over-analyze those first relationships so much and not assert my opinions more.  I don’t remember when I first started doing so, finally, but I’m sure my husband sure does as my first real victim.  I don’t remember I don’t remember I don’t remember I don’t remember I don’t remember why I let myself go ahead and choose a college major that I wasn’t passionate about, and I don’t remember why why why why why why I let myself go forward with that career as long as I did.  I don’t remember when exactly I ever felt I had a clear grasp on my future and what I was meant to become.  I don’t remember so much about my grandmother, as she died when I was only five years old, and I don’t remember why, when she was alive, I was so shy any time she spoke to me.  I don’t remember why I was so afraid of Minnie Mouse when I was three and at Disneyland that I started bawling and made her cry, too, in turn.  I don’t remember much about my grandfathers, other than what my parents have told me about them, as I was not even alive when they still were.  I don’t remember having a close relationship with my longest living grandmother, who I knew until my adulthood, as I don’t remember ever knowing how to start a conversation with her and be genuinely interested in most things she had to say, at least, not until it was already starting to be too late.  I don’t remember why I didn’t make more of an effort to know my extended family better, other than perhaps because I felt close enough to my immediate family members, that the rest weren’t necessary.  But I don’t remember so much of my ancestral history, how So-and-So is related to What’s-His-Name, and I won’t ever remember these things after the ones who do pass away and won’t be there to remind me.  And thinking of that terrifies me of all that I’ll cease to remember over time, all the details and breaths that we each take in each other’s company that we should be recording in our minds and hearts because of Time, that fickle and fleeting mistress that ultimately takes all away and the memories that went with it when we take them to our grave.

Reflection:

Hm.  Not so thrilled about this one.  That was really, really hard.  I mean, it entails trying to remember what you don’t remember and trying to do so nonstop without thinking about it too much.  I never fully let go of it like I was probably supposed to because I knew I’d end up spinning off in some other direction and deviating from the task at hand, God forbid.  I understand the principles of writing and keeping with a theme and maintaining consistency in plot and characters, etc., but I wonder if my problem right now, the reason I’m having difficulty getting on further with my novel, is that I’m too insistent on holding onto this kind of control and that to get where I’m planning to go really does require letting go and going off the beaten path, that that will actually be the true path to the end goal, even though (especially since) it’s not the shortest point from A to B.  I guess I shouldn’t be reveling in this as though it’s some big new realization…I’ve known it all along, and these exercises are reminding me that I was not remembering that…

Huh.  Isn’t it something how things can come full circle like that.


Memory

The Prompt:

On page 2 of Room to Write, Goldberg challenges us to another freewriting exercise, this time not being allowed to stop until filling 2 pages.  I’m going to be writing mine on a computer screen, so I’ll just keep going until I’ve written what I estimate would fill 2 journal pages.  The other parameters we are given is that we are to begin with the words, “I remember,” and launch into whatever memories we can recall, however recent or long ago and however accurate or real they are.  The idea is to again tap into that mass of grey matter we cannot consciously access, and if we get stuck, repeat “I remember” until additional memories dislodge.  Wish me luck, and the best to you as well!

Response:

I REMEMBER squinting in the sun for what felt like at least 5 minutes because my older sister had told me that staring at the sun was a sure-fire way of having to get eyeglasses.  I remember always wanting to wear eyeglasses as a kid, to the point that I did, in fact, stare directly at the sun on a cloudless day and eventually received a tortoiseshell pair with fake lenses for Christmas (interesting that it was only two years later, in 8th grade, when I really did need glasses, and was prescribed my first pair after being diagnosed with far-sightedness and astigmatism).  I remember also always wishing I could wear braces, once again getting that little gem of a wish granted by freshman year in high school.  I remember wanting a lot of things as a kid that I eventually did get, or never got and realized it was the best thing I didn’t, but one thing I remember always having and always savoring was the happiest childhood with my siblings and parents.  I remember my sister dancing in a baby pool with me even though she’s nine years older and wrote song lyrics to dance by–I believe the song was called, “Twisting by the Pool.”  And yes, we did the twist.  I remember in much more frigid weather, my brothers who are seven and ten years older than me chasing my BFF and I around the snow-covered backyard and pelting us with snowballs.  I remember my sister building snow fires with me in the “cave” created by that giant evergreen in the backyard when the heavy, wet snow weighed down its branches to offer us dark yet dry seclusion within.  I remember wiffle-ball games in that backyard, my brother whipping a ball at me so fast and totally on purpose and it smacking me directly in the thigh and leaving a very big, very red mark.  I remember standing in the grasses of that backyard in solitude, taking in the warmth and happiness of a summer vacation sort of day, and how sometimes when I looked into the clear blue sky, I would see what I called my “fairy”:  it wasn’t anything that I made up nor actually believed was a fairy.  It was a strange sort of translucent illusion that looked like a flower with layers and layers of petals, and these layers and layers of petals would appear to rotate inward as though on some sort of circular conveyer, rendering the image a glowing and flashing clear light of movement that recurred to me time and again without apparent rhyme or reason.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, diminishing, perhaps, with my childhood like beliefs in Santa and the Easter Bunny.  Maybe it was my fairy, my very own private one, my guardian angel that is still with me even though childhood fancy doesn’t allow me to see it anymore.  Or maybe it was just a since-healed impairment in vision caused by staring at the sun for a long, long time.

Reflection:

Whew, okay, that wasn’t so bad!  It was interesting to find in that process how quickly the memories got flowing one after another once I got started, so much so that my fingers couldn’t keep up half the time.  I really think I could have gone on endlessly, when you consider how many different years in different locations and spheres of people you can reflect on, but go figure that I ended up focusing on my childhood backyard most.  I was all of a sudden transported to that arena where I spent so many summer and winter vacations playing with my family, friends, or just on my own, and while I didn’t get very descriptive of it in my writing, it was as though I could see every blade of grass and leaf to be had back there.  Clearly, that setting was a meaningful stage for those initial developmental years, and I think if you try this exercise yourself, you’ll learn something about what you value.  You may even be taken into negative memories, which could be that much more telling of you and the meaning you make as you move within the world.  I really hope some of you do comment on this with your own freewriting, as it would be fascinating to see what you unearth and how you evaluate it.


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