Heart of the Story

I step onto the trail. The snow has blown in and erased my path with drifts.  I know the path well.  Looking ahead of me I can tell which tree branch I usually duck under and which one always hits my arm.  I will recreate my trail.

As I leave the treed in area and head into the open prairie my foot steps hit resistance.  The snow is like creme brulee – a hard crusty surface with soft snow underneath.  I know this snow.  This is snow-fort snow.

It is a perfect day.  A warm wind, blue sky and the sun delights to see its reflection in the million glistening stars it creates in the snow around me. I plop down and begin cutting out blocks for a snow fort.

I am in a bit of a trance.  When I realize what I instinctively just did I feel a little silly. But hey, I cut some more blocks anyway remembering all the snow forts my friends and I use to make. I should include them in my story somewhere but wonder how to write about them.  Then I remember something else…

I turn the corner from the back alley to the street. I feel like I am gliding home.  Lynn is with me.  It is daylight and most likely afterschool.  As we turn the corner I see my house and then dad, with his snow scoop, shoveling snow.  He walks along the drive way filling his scoop with snow and then piles it up against the house.

I can remember the first time I asked dad why he piled snow up against the house.  I was small, maybe five years old.  He told me he did it to help insulate the house.  The snow piled up against the walls would keep us warmer.

“Like an igloo?” I asked.

“Yes, kind of like that.”  he said.

I remember thinking my dad was really smart for knowing that.  But now, in this second, as I turn the corner I don’t know if I feel proud or embarrassed about my uniqueness. None of my friends pile snow up along the outside walls of their houses.

I see Lynn’s expression and I wish we could be like everyone else. I don’t know what the small smile she wears means.  I don’t ask.  All I know is this is not the first time we have done something weird around her.  We are forever doing something my friends have never seen before.  She will still be my friend in the morning. Somehow this knowledge feels only half full, incomplete, not enough.

I stop cutting blocks of snow and just sit there.  My chest feels full.  Feelings of pride mixed in with shame surround me.  I gotta get back to the house and write this one down before I forget it or lose its passion.

In search for a meaning or plot to my story I wonder if my antagonist is my community, society in general, that tells me what I have isn’t enough.  I had no idea as a child that I was poor and without until society told me I was poor.  It was like I had no idea what that word even meant.

I may have found my theme:)

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The Day Is Mine!

Here is something I wrote strictly from the point of view of me as a child.  It is funny how some memories come to me this way and others are so matter of fact as an adult’s perspective.

I’m the first one up. It is a sunny day. My sisters are laying so still. I crawl out of the double bed I share with Melinda gently and quietly.  Gladys doesn’t budge on the top bunk and Eleanor still lies on the cot by the window with her arm hanging out of bed.

I tiptoed to the kitchen where I hear dishes and pots moving and clanging. Mom is busy.

“Good morning”, I say. Dad has already gone to work. We don’t see him much during the summer. He’s gone before we ever get up and when he comes home we are often in bed.

Sometimes when we know he’s coming home for supper we hang out on the road watching and waiting to see his car. When we do see it turn the corner at the end of our crescent we run down the road as fast as we can and pretend we are hitchhikers for dad to pick us up.

Maybe we can do that tonight.  Right now I eat cornflakes and mom tells me my clothes are out on the line. I’ll be the first one outside!

As soon as I finish eating I head outside.  I open the door and then cower to protect my eyes.  Our house is so dark compared to the bright sun. Once adjusted I dash to towards the clothes line in my nightgown. The close line is at the back of the yard. I crossover the gravel driveway to get to the grassy path.

I am so tough that I can walk on these rocks and I am only six years old! They don’t hurt my feet at all.  I am going to be even tougher when I am bigger!

I think I am the first one up in the whole neighbourhood!  The first to breathe in this morning air.  I don’t hear a sound anywhere around me.

I dance, playing with the dew. It wants to make me as wet as possible so I try tiptoeing and jumping to get to my clothes. I’m giggling because the dew is winning.

It is tickling me with its cold wet fingers.  As I jump and dance not only are my feet wet so are my legs. I grab my sundress off the line careful not to break the clothes pins. Then I run back to the house. Hopefully the dew won’t catch me if I run fast.

I get inside and change in the kitchen so I won’t wake my sisters. I slip on my sundress ignoring my wet legs. Throwing my nightdress on a chair I dash outside barefoot. The newness of the day is mine.

The Hardest Part

Walking up and having thoughts in my head, not really sure what they are but I know I want to write about my childhood.  Yet I can’t pull myself out of bed.  I don’t want to get up and remember.  It feels so hard.  It feels so challenging.  Yet I can’t shake this pressure, like so many memoiries trying to get out at once.  A mob.  I can’t distinquish one from the other.

I find my note book and pen.  The trick is to write it all out as fast as I can as soon as I get out of bed.  I don’t even go to the washroom unless it is immenent.  This is what I did.  I got up and let my memory flow from my mind through my pen.  After

Listening to this energy within me I pull myself from my warm bed into the chilly morning.  It is 2:30 in the morning.  I must write.  I find my note book and pen.  The trick is to write it all out as fast as I can as soon as I get out of bed.  I don’t even go to the washroom unless it is immenent.

This is what I did.  I got up and let my memory flow from my mind through my pen.  What falls out of me is one of my worst memories.  The memory of my mom, two of my sisters and myself driving away from my Dad as he stands in our drive way.  What was the heart breaking moment in this scene of my lfe?  Well, I didn’t understand why he didn’t wave good bye to me, us.  I sat in the backseat with two of my sisters.  I really didn’t know what was going on but I knew my Dad looked different.  He wasn’t acting the way he normally does.

April 1993
Dad is 69 years old and I am 17 years.

I felt that I was going to the city for an adventure.  I was excited.  We were coming back to visit.  Why would Dad find this trip different than the others?  Oh the mind of a naive twelve year old.  When I think back on myself I imagine me as a little girl but I was twelve.  Surely I should have had more comprehension than to think this was a holiday!

“My brother came to pick us up.  The car was loaded with our stuff.  Mom and David in the front seat and Eleanor, Melinda and I in the back.

“We backed out of the driveway and sat on the road for a moment. which was customary when someone leaves.  Whenever someone left there was a fit of waving and horn honking only this time was different.  I sat in the backseat, by the window closest to my dad standing on the driveway.  I wave but he just stands there.  I am not even sure he was watching us.  He was hunched over.  I couldn’t see his face.  He was looking down or away maybe?  I waited for him to wave back but he didn’t.  He always waved.  Why not now?

“Mom yells in the front seat, waving her hands like she is holding the reins of a horse carriage, “Go!  Go! Go!”  David stops waving and drives away.”

Excerpt from my writing

Memoir Writing: Discover Your Life: Imprinting

What are the images and perceptions we gained from ourselves as children from our parents? They instilled in us some of the first police we have about ourselves. (Remember, if you get a glimmer of some memory peaking in at the edge of your mind grab hold of it! Don’t let it sneak away!)

There is no doubt that we grew up with love in our house hold.  Although I am pretty sure it came almost all from my dad.  He would give us hugs and piggy backs to bed.  He would play games with us, trapping us in his legs and giving us whisker rubs on our checks.

Dad with three of us. I am the one with the bottle.

Mom booted us outside so she could have some quiet in the house.  She only ‘hugged’ me twice as a child.  They were not really hugs.  I just got to lay my head on her lap once cause I was tired on the bus ride from Rose Valley to Saskatoon.  The other time I was on her lap.  As an adult she hugs me all the time though.  When she sees me hugging my kids she says that she never thought to hug us girls when we were little.

This is an old picture but it is one of my favourites of mom and I.

Going down town with dad was like being a superstar when I was a kid.  All four of us girls in tow as dad led the way down the street, in and out of stores.  We were Hjalmar’s girls – his “four dolls” as we were often refered too.  I sware dad took us to town just to get attention.  He was otherwise a very quiet and reserved man.

One thing I wish dad never taught me was the notion that what I had to say was not important.  My dad is 52 years older than I am.  He raised my three sisters and I with the idea that children are to be seen and not heard.  When we speak it was only to answer the questions we were asked and not to say anymore.  If I was caught carrying on then I got a firm squeeze on the shoulder or arm or even plainly said to me, “That’s enough now.”  This left me feeling embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

This message is deep within me.  I am attempting public speaking lessons with Toastmasters and let me tell you it pops up.  My voice trails off when I assume I am ‘carrying on’.  It is going to be hard  habit to break.

In summary I grew up with the two messages of be quiet and listen to others while being cute.  Too this day when my husband says I am cute it drives me batty.  It feels like the biggest insult.

He also taught me to be of service to others no matter the cost of myself but that is probably a whole book.  Hey, I guess it might be Sunlight.  Hmm…

Back to this blog post.  What messages did you receive from your parents as children and how does it impact you now?

Memoir Writing – Discover Your Life – A Significant Moment

What one event or circumstances in your life did more to make you into who you are than any other and why?”

                     –  The Call of the Writer’s Craft by Tom Bird

My significant moment is described in the introduction to Sunlight.

Every story takes you back to the place where you feel the beginning was happening. The place where your life initiated you on your journey. My life was set in motion one summer day in my home town of Rose Valley. I was riding my bike up and down our prairie street in front of our house. I was so impressed with myself, the way I had control of the bike, how fast I could go, and how I stopped. I was a master at bike riding. I didn’t see how it was possible for anyone to be better at it than me.

“A feeling washed over me, I knew it through-and-through, that my life was here for a purpose. I stood there on the half-paved road in front of my house absorbing this knowledge like light from the sky. A gift. It became part of my being, my blood.”