Saturday, February 22, 2020

Going Down Memory Lane – An Avoidance Technique

Do you remember being ten? What were your hopes and dreams? What made your day? For me it was getting an A on the spelling quiz, not being left out of the friends’ circle at school, and being dared to walk barefoot through a Texas field filled with sticker plants without getting stuck. (To do so was a badge of honor.) It was petting the heads of horny toad lizards and avoiding my brother’s box of snakes; his joy was to catch them . . . and then simply admire. “Look at them. Aren’t the colors pretty?” he’d say, fawning over blue racers, ribbon snakes, and God only knows what others. I kept my distance, instead escaping the one hundred degree heat to sit on a shady porch with a girlfriend or two playing jacks or weaving potholders on small metal looms; my mother oohedand aahedwhen I presented her with my little creations. I won’t forget those moments; her love was deep, absolute, expressed in her eyes, in her smile, in a sticky bear hug.
            A few years later, when our family moved to Kentucky, I recall walking home alone from school on a broken, lopsided sidewalk being sure never to step on a crack – Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.Who, the hell, thought that oneup? But I remember as if it were yesterday. I can almost see the puffy, cumulus clouds overhead and feel the warm, spring breeze as I tripped carefully for several blocks toward our yellow house on Peachtree Street. Inside the kitchen, the one with the peanut butter-colored cabinets and pale, pink walls, my mother would greet me and ask about my day. We’d share a snack and peruse the wall where a map of the world (or, alternatively, the United States) hung - a lesson for the taking. My brother and I knew our geography well, I can assure, thanks to those huge, paper maps and to parents who provided us a key.
It was during this time that I happily became acquainted with the public library. I adored it – the smell, the crowded confines, the patrons (old and young), and the library ladies whose quiet energy had me in awe. I workedtherecovering old books with homespun jackets made from wallpaper scraps. Learning to crease the corners just rightbecame an art form, a rare talent all to itself. When my job was done, I wandered the rooms and aisles at the library - looking, touching, picking, and finally stepping up to the checkout desk with three, four, five books in hand. I was a voracious, young reader, anxious to go places and meet people who lived in worlds far different from mine. Reading - creating visual images in my mind, as real as life - was contentment for me. I suppose that is why I write today. Creating a scene or character using a random - or more likely, deliberate - combination of words on a blank page gives me a sense of satisfaction . . . and hope, too. Maybe someone else will envisage what I saw.
I could fill a volume with tidbits about my youth but I’m afraid I might be the only one interested in reviewing it all. A few presents stand out though, and I’ll mention those here. When I turned sweet sixteen, my present was a small, violet-colored, leather Bible - all my own. While I was not as attentive to the book as my mother might have wanted, I appreciated it anyway . . . and I still have it today. When I was seventeen my parents gifted me with enrollment in The Famous Writers’ School because I had atalentsomeonetold them. The school rep made his pitch, my folks paid the money, and I mailed in piece after piece, most returned corrected with red ink - rebuffs to my “gift”, but, oh well, I kept writing anyway. Most important to me was that someone believed I was worth it. (Oh, how I wish my parents could read my books now. Daddy saw only the first one before he died; he was so proud.) Lastly, when I graduated from high school, the present I received was a portable, Underwood, electric typewriter. Of course, a writer needed a typewriter, and I was thrilled. I pounded on that thing for years. And here I am now, on my computer doing much the same.
So why? I’m not likely to be discovered. No one knows who I am. But I love to write. Now that another novel is complete, I am making an effort to blog a bit more but even that has been difficult of late - resulting, I’m afraid, in this somewhat inane trip down memory lane. 
I’ve always insisted that a writer must write every day, but I’ve fallen into a hideous trap. Yep! I have had writer’s block. In my mind, I have quite a bit to say, but if I write what I’m thinking, it will result in a rant of words against a world that is angry, corrupt, divided, melancholy, and too often, simply mean. I’ve been in a state of mourning, really, because the life I have always cherished seems to be disappearing. It’s difficult to stay optimistic in a world, in a country, that faces a daunting, unpredictable future. So, I’ve avoided voicing my opinion. It’s safer somehow simply to recall easier times. Remembering is an escape and actually can be very enjoyable. And isn’t it odd what one remembers from childhood? My youth was not perfect; I suppose no one’s is, but it was relatively carefree - a much different time.
So today, rather than stomp my feet and curse at the world, I decided to look back and appreciate . . . and, yes I look forward, too, with tempered optimism. I have to believe the past is a catalyst for understanding where we have been and who we are, both the bad and the good. Surely, if we all can do that, humanity will find the right, the just, way to move forward. I dont want to give up hope.

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