Today I’m floundering. Natalie Goldberg keeps urging me to do timed writings and just see what comes up. But I still have all the slides and ancient slide viewer on our kitchen island. They keep beckoning to me, trying to lure me away from spending twenty minutes tapping and thwacking these keys.
Plus I’m having a hard time dredging up anything to write about.
I have sixty-five years worth of experiences. That adds up to 23,725 days. I don’t remember the first several years, so I’ll subtract three years, 1,095 days. That leaves 22,630 days to write about. I know the math is correct because I pounded it out with my hoof. I should sift through memories of those days to find something that’ll grab my attention. Otherwise, I’ll be tossing out the twenty-minute timer and digging through old family photos.
Here’s a thought, I’ll write about one of my earliest memories. I was about four when I got lost at the A & P grocery store. Mother and I went there with Mrs. Hare in our big pale green four-door Buick. I stood on the bench seat between Mom and Mrs. Hare, with my arms draped across the seatback.
Before I head too far down this path I must tell you a perplexing truth about myself. I’ve been known to usurp other people’s experiences, plant them in my gray matter, water them a bit and within a short period of time I really truly believe there are actually my own adventures. This has happened on a number of occasions.
Case in point, neighbor Brookie once stood on our porch and showed us a pile of photos taken next to her canal on Anna Maria Island, Florida. Manatees frequently swim along the waterways behind her house. One day Brookie had a hose out, watering the begonias when an enormous sea-cow appeared at the edge of the canal. She dragged the hose to the sea-wall and began pouring cool fresh water over the manatees motor boat scarred back. That big cow turned and began to drink from the hose. Brookie said she drank for about half and hour.
Fast forward several months, we were having fish tacos at Wool Street restaurant with Brookie and her husband Earl. I turned to Brookie and asked, “Do you remember the time we fed the manatee fresh hose water? That was such a cool experience.” Brookie looked at me with astonishment and stated, “Alice, you weren’t there. I showed you photos. You weren’t with me.” Wow. I absorbed her reality and made it my own.
Another life experience I abducted was from my sister’s history. Two years ago I committed to doing NaNoWriMo–National November Writer’s Month. Writers sign on write 50,000 words that month, completing an entire book by end of November. My plan was to write a memoir. One story I drafted was about the time, at around age nine, I cut off my ponytail and tossed it behind the refrigerator. I called Marilyn to confirm some of the details and she stated, “Alice, you didn’t do that. It was me. I was with Barbie Herbert and we both cut our hair and threw it in back of the frig.”
So returning to my “lost at the A & P grocery store” story. Maybe my sister got lost, or Lisa McClendon, or possibly I saw it on Make Room for Daddy. Perhaps I dreamt it. However, I’ve carried this “lost at the A & P grocery store with Mom and Mrs. Hare” tale around with me for sixty-one years. Therefore, in the World According to Alice, it is indeed mine and mine alone.
I remember being in the store, following legs and a grocery cart. After a while, I pulled on Mother’s skirt to get her attention. Kids do that. Or they poke you. When I taught elementary school art the children were constantly poking at me, saying, “Hey Mrs. Tape blah blah blah.” The pokes drove me nuts and my name was NOT Mrs. Tape. Poke me again, kid, and it might get ugly.
Anyway, I yanked on Mom’s skirt, looked up to see if I had her attention but the face so far above me wasn’t my Mother’s face. It wasn’t Mrs. Hare’s face. It was a stranger. Back in the early fifties I don’t think anyone was talking about “stranger danger” therefore I wasn’t afraid of this Not-My-Mother person. I just turned and walked away.
I don’t remember much that happened immediately after the yank. What I do remember is being in the parking lot when Mom and Mrs. Hare came racing frantically out the A & P glass doors, screaming my name. I recall Mother clutching me to her and telling me, “You must never do this again! Never leave a store without me.”
Another early memory is sitting behind a large dark green chair in our living room. That memory ends right there. Staring at the back of the chair. No idea how old I was or why I went there.
I need more childhood memories to share. I think I’ll cross the street ask neighbor Lynda about her youth. Within a few months, I will have absorbed her experiences and made them my own.
But now I’ve done my timed writing and I get to dig through slides! Yay me!