Friday, November 24, 2017

The Gift

The day after Thanksgiving, the house is quiet. Last night the energy and chatter of fourteen sisters, nieces, nephews, and significant others bounced off these walls, a large furry family member curled at our feet under this large table where I now write. I’m dawdling. I have lost the habit of daily writing, of beginning each day scribbling words on the page – sometimes meaningless babble, other times scenes that find their way into a project at hand or inspire a new one. A routine ignored in the chaos of a busy life.
The evidence? I begin a rewrite of one plot line in my current memoir project. Frustration gets the better of me as I struggle with facts and chronologies. I dig out my notebooks – two large white plastic laundry baskets full – and search for those pertaining to the story at hand. The baskets hold a jumbled mess of notebooks dated 1974 to 2017. Following the advice I often give my students – get organized! – I sort and stack the notebooks chronologically by year. Once finished, the evidence is glaring: some years display hefty piles ranging from seven to twelve notebooks, 2017 has two.
I spend three and a half days in Mesa, Arizona. One cousin, the flight attendant, flies me down; the other cousin puts me up in her hillside home. A secret mission to surprise my aunt, their mother, on her 90th birthday. My aunt shows no sign of the dementia that cursed my mother, her sister. She’s bright and spry, attending yoga classes, driving her own car, and remembering anecdotes from the past better than either of her daughters or me.
My aunt inspires and encourages me. She asks about my writing, about when The Thirty-Ninth Victim will be re-released, about why the unpublished memoir I’ve written about my mother has not been published, about what I am working on now. She wants to read more of my work. That alone is enough to bring me back to my notebook.

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