A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.
Some of you may have felt my summer silence. There have been a lot of moments that matter and little time to consider how they would fall into the blog:
sending my young teenage daughters overseas for the first time BY THEMSELVES.
visiting family and having my grandmother’s friend and pew-mate at church collapse with a heart attack next to me.
taking my mother to the Ontario Archives to copy and bring home over 2000 pages of our ancestor’s diary to the farm he wrote about in the 1800s.
taking sudden, temporary custody of a long lost cousin’s teenager
the serene ten days Mischa and I ambled through the Pacific Northwest
my return to teaching after 15 years—(some students and colleagues even call me “professor.”)
and so much more…
As I think about where to start, I need first to take my mental zoom tool and zoom out. As a writer, I bring my formal writing instincts to the blog page. I still pre-write and draft with a word processor.
I hesitate to type thoughts directly onto the blog composing space. I might hit “publish,” while trying to shoo the chickens out of the house, and then I’ve got you-know-what everywhere.
Looking at my summer, I wonder what to write about. I promised my newfound professor-self to not assign students the “What I Did This Summer Essay.” I’m one lucky middle-aged woman. I’ve got everything I want and need and more. In today’s climate many people may not.
Instead, I asked my college freshmen to list the things they would love to learn about. And, for the hell-of-it: “The last thing they want to hear their instructor say.” (A bit I shamelessly stole from my daughter’s open house Theater Club skit.)
I asked them to introduce classmates by sharing something personal, something professional, and something peculiar, a team-builder my husband uses at work.
Isn’t the personal, the professional, and/or the peculiar what underlies writing anyway? Wouldn’t you agree that the stories you read, or blogs you write and visit are built on these ideas? I think of the peculiar in terms of what is original or stirring enough to stay with me, and that is what I am waiting for: what sticks. What stories remain after time.
When I zoom in to the details from summer that grabbed my attention and began some a change within me, I go to these moments:
learning that my fifteen-year-old daughter got stranded alone in a foreign city after her travel mates were escorted away by police
hearing my own thoughts echoed in my 19th century ancestor’s writings
trying not to scream HEART ATTACK to the 911 dispatch in a hushed church filled with octogenarians—after my grandmother’s friend collapsed next to me—before I had a chance to say hello or goodbye.
finding a tiny starfish stranded on the shelf wall of a remote sea cave with my husband
I feel like—post summer—I’ve been awakened to revision of myself. And, writing the summer stories will be better, richer for having waited until they’re a memory of a memory.