You may have noticed that my masthead changed with the new year. Since the Magnetic Poetry project has come to an end, I wanted to take on another year-long project. My conditions: It has to be uniquely mine, and it has to involve writing. My blog readers (and I thank EVERY one of you, especially when you take the time to comment) seem to enjoy it when I dip into my past for material. Since I have about ten zillion photos in the archives that include many of my mother’s photos as well as mine, and a seemingly infinite amount of memories, I hope to combine the two on my blog each day.
My relationship with memory has a certain poignancy. I have no children who will say, “Tell me about that time…” or “Not this story again…” as I often did with my own parents. They were both storytellers, so it seemed particularly cruel that both of them suffered diseases that rob the memory: my father’s Parkinson’s disease, my mother’s Alzheimer’s. However, though both of them had moments of confusion and disorientation, they could be gently guided into sharing their long-term memories until shortly before they died.
In a way, my novels are my children. They get sprinkled with bits of stories from my own life and the lives of people I know (or have known): meshed, reassigned, shortened, made better, made worse. Whatever works to breathe life into the characters. When these stories are read, they’re filtered through everything a reader believes, likes, distrusts, yearns for, laughs about, despises–the whole gamut of that reader’s experiences are sitting in his mind and heart.
In essence, all writing is collaborative. We write everyone and everything we’ve known or wished we knew. We work with editors and friends and critical readers to shape and refine our stories. And then our readers rewrite our stories to fit into their unique perspectives.
Over the past year, I’ve read a lot about the process of memory, and its accuracies and inaccuracies. I’ll try to be accurate with both the photos and what I remember.
When I was going through pictures to create the new masthead, I found this one. I correctly identified: SOFTBALL! I don’t know how my father, a good softball player on winning teams, produced me. The Brides and Kathy S try to get me to come to their games, and I always babble things like “softball trauma,” “junior high nightmare,” or a simple shrieking, “NOOOOOOOOOO.” I’m pretty sure there was never a worse softball player than my early teen self. Even after I was finally schooled on the basics–a base? a shortstop? a strike?–I was hopelessly inept.
Keep your eye on the ball? You keep YOUR eye on the ball and make sure it doesn’t come anywhere near me. I closed my eyes when a ball came from the sky when I was practically in the next county, which is where my “team” in P.E. sent me to get me as far from the game as possible. If a ball did manage to turn itself into a rookie-seeking missile, it went through my hands, through my legs, or hell, I don’t know, through the fabric of the space-time continuum.
And batting: OMG, the nightmare that was batting. You are supposed to stand there while someone hurls a ball at you! A ball that can hurt when it hits you! I just closed my eyes and hoped it would somehow dematerialize before it came near me. Needless to say, I never heard or felt that alleged satisfying crack of bat meeting ball. Or got to run to first base–though I think I may have walked a time or two. All of this, of course, to the taunts and jeers of the opposing team. And my own team. And possibly people brought in from biology or civics just to watch me. Which, praise the spirit of whoever is the softball equivalent of Babe Ruth, my father never saw. He never had to know the shame of fathering Jacksonville High School’s WORST Softball Player.
Kathy S looked at this photo and said they don’t make bats like this anymore. They do still make great softball players…I’ve heard.