Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Six Weeks and Counting

So much activity and emotion, so many decisions crammed into six weeks, it’s difficult to hold the images. My overloaded brain struggles to keep up, to form short-term memory and retain it long term. I find myself making endless lists, consulting the calendar, counting the minutes, hours, days.
We began remodeling in early May, a week before my last reading at the Issaquah Library. When asked about my work-in-progress, I responded that my next memoir titled The Ex-Mexican Wives Club would be released in late summer. I naively believed I’d be able to continue editing the final draft in the midst of chaos. I was wrong.

It’s a slow-going project, reminiscent of my childhood – I was raised in an unfinished house my father built up around us. Since my husband and I bought this little house almost thirty years ago, we’ve remodeled several times. Drywall dust, the pounding of nails, the ragged whine of a table saw are not new to me. That doesn’t mean I’m accustomed to any of it or that I like it. I like the progress, I like peeking in at the end of the day and seeing what’s been accomplished, I like to imagine the finished project.
Remodeling is not unlike building a book. Both require endless hours of dedicated hard work punctuated by moments of creative glee and others of deep despair. Both offer the promise of a completed project that I’m cautiously certain will have been worth the effort. Yet throughout the process, the noise and chaos (both internal and external) as well as the endless choices and decision-making drive me nuts.

So I take a deep breath, try not to be angry that the tile guy is over an hour late, and remind myself that our remodeled bedroom and bath as well as my next book will both be completed, each in its own time.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Retracing Life's Steps

Retracing life’s steps is key to writing for a memoirist. One of the joys of this for me goes beyond making sense of the past, but offers the possibility of recreating the present and future. What can be found is something new and wonderful. Such was the case last weekend when my husband and I went to Grayland, WA for two nights of early spring camping.

My father built three small houses on the Grayland beach, and my parents lived in the third for the last few decades of their life together. Dad died in that small house, and my mother refused to leave until dementia made staying impossible. Grayland was the place I visited my parents, later only my mother. In my mind, it was never a vacation destination. Until last weekend.
Tom and I camped in a yurt at the Grayland State Park. We ate loads of wonderful fresh seafood, explored the area by bicycle, and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Last weekend, Grayland became a new place for me.
Next Friday, I’ll be making another trip into the past. This time to Issaquah, the town where I grew up. It’s not a first visit; there have been others. Each has shown new facets of the place and her people, some of whom I’ve known since grade school. I look forward to sharing Mom’s Last Move at the Issaquah Library and to the conversations I’m certain will follow. I hope you can join me!
10 W Sunset Way
Issaquah, WA 98027
Friday, May 10, 2019
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Going Home – Join Me?

The Issaquah Hobart Road snakes southeast through the fertile valley between Squak and Tiger Mountains in the foothills of the Cascade Range. As a kid, I rode horseback along this two-lane road. The summer after high school, I cycled it to my first job at Clampitt’s Cleaners in downtown Issaquah. If you keep an eye to the left side of the road as you head toward the tiny town of Hobart about six and a half miles from Issaquah, you’ll still see the tall metal arch my dad built over the driveway to the home I grew up in, a house Dad built one red brick at a time. A family project.
In the intervening decades, the area has changed as many of the large farms along the road have been subdivided, but by comparison to areas to the north and west of Issaquah, the town and the valley feel relatively unchanged. The old time buildings lining Front Street have been preserved, and the Issaquah Hobart Road is still only two lanes. And while West Seattle has been my home for over three decades, my roots remain firmly planted in the Issaquah Valley.
 I teach ESL to immigrants and refugees. My first class spring quarter had 25 students from 14 different countries – Bulgaria, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Laos, Mexico, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Taiwan, Vietnam – students who, unlike me during my years as an ex-pat in Mexico, have no safety net and may never be able to return to their homelands.

An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. 

According to a recent study done at the University of Washington, only about a third of those displaced people will ever be able to return home. 

These numbers humble me.

On the first day of class, we do an introductory activity. World map in hand we circulate learning each other’s names and homelands. I tell them about the Issaquah Valley, about my roots.

In 2008 when TheThirty-Ninth Victim was published, I felt compelled to “go home.” Although the library I once knew, the place I’d often go after school to read or do homework while waiting for Mom or Dad to collect me, no longer exists, I wanted to share my work at the lovely replacement library. The library scheduled an event and it did indeed feel like a homecoming.

Now I have another family memoir in print. Mom’s Last Move continues the story that began in The Thirty-Ninth Victim, and again I feel that homing instinct, that urge to go home, to take my family story home where it began, to the valley that holds my roots. I am grateful to Zlatina Encheva and the Issaquah Library for their warm support.

Please mark your calendars, invite your friends, and join me in Issaquah on Friday, May 10 at 5:00 p.m. for a reading/presentation of Mom’s Last Move, a story of motherhood, memory loss and the writing journey of a 1972 Issaquah High graduate who grew up on Tiger Mountain.

 10 W Sunset Way, Issaquah, WA
Friday, May 10 @ 5:00 p.m.