Another task in my recent writing class was to imagine a character who had lost everything in a fire. All people and animals are fine, but the belongings, the “stuff” of their life is gone. I did not need a moment. My hand flew across the page and by the end of the short assignment, I came to a startling realization about my mother. My sister and I have spent the past two years creating time together to look through all of my mother’s memories beginning with clothing and continuing with personal letters and important papers. Over and over again we exclaim, “Why did she save everything?” I have come to a happy conclusion and am once again in awe of my mother’s ability to transcend time and space to visit us and remain an active part of our lives.
Lost in the Fire
She slowly sat down on the curb, letting the officers words sink in, “There is nothing left,” what did that mean? She mentally walked through the small house, one room at a time, (there were only three) and now somehow, what had seemed so small, suddenly seemed filled with so much. Each closet had held years worth of memories organized on shelves; those that no one knew of, others she didn’t even remember, and now, without the visual reminders and tactile images, those memories would be lost forever.
There had been boxes of family photos dating back to the 1870’s sealed with ancient tape, and too many albums, the oldest photos pasted on black paper with curly script descriptions and names of unfamiliar people who had immigrated, leaving all of their belongings behind, she was not so different from them now. All of the lovely cards from her father’s train travels as a salesman for women blouses written in flowery prose to her sister, her mother and to the child she once was, were lost along with the Western Union Telegrams with short messages stating safe arrivals in other states. There had been collections of timeless watches, cuff links now obsolete, tiepins from her father and embroidered handkerchiefs from her mother. Memories no longer relevant in today’s disposable world, yet cherished objects that had been held in the hands of her loved ones. She had everything. She was the last in line and as loved ones departed, their precious mementos became hers. Three sets of china and crystal wine glasses that had toasted happier times could not withstand the intense heat and flames and the silver whose patterns had been carefully selected and listed on wedding registries were molten globs of useless metal.
The books, there had been hundreds carefully organized by genre, favorite short story collections, architecture, poetry and the history of the city she loved. There were picture books, the most special and those signed by authors reflecting a second career managing a children’s bookstore. The books were gone too, and in a sense, part of her that was irreplaceable. She was older now and her memory lapsed when trying to conjure up titles and authors. Files of papers she wanted to save, to refer to and relive another day were ashes now. The years she had spent teaching had been housed in one file box including letters of admiration from former students and the most precious, the certificates, accommodations and articles about her innovative teaching style in the educational journals.
Who would remember now? How would her family know who she was, who she had been, after she was gone? The mementos were really not for her, after all, but for her daughters, so they would know who she really was, for she was far too shy to boast and thought they would be bored hearing about those long deceased relatives-people they had never known. She had always meant to write things down, to create a family history, a journal but life had been busy and the later years consisted of medical appointments, senior classes at the Community College and occasional lunches with the ladies (her posse of four). Suddenly she noticed that reading with fading eyes was strained and writing with stiff hands became a challenge she was too tired to tackle. The memories were the links to the past and now that past was gone. She sat wondering, imagining a journey, slowly fading, becoming lighter, paler, quieter, ceasing to move and even a drop of water on the tongue became too much to bear.
The view while dining...
There is nothing quite as nice as spending a relaxing day with a dear friend and today was that day. My good friend Laura and I took a nice drive to a lovely resort-Terrania walking the grounds and dining at the grill overlooking the ocean. This is heaven! We ate a great lunch with the ocean breeze blowing and the warm sun shining down on our shoulders. Following lunch, we walked along the ocean path gazing at the turquoise sea below.
What a view!
This site formerly housed Marineland, and I remember going as a child to see the marine animals. There is currently a path along the cliff that leads to a small private beach. I really can’t think of a more lovely location. So all of this beauty inspires me to think seriously about beach living. Why is it we are drawn to the beach as we get older? I find myself transfixed by the sea, the pelicans, the waves and dolphins frolicking in the surf. Is it possible that change can be positive? Maybe all things really do lead to the sea.
I started day one of a two-day writer’s workshop today, entitled Discovering Our Muse. What a treat! I got to spend the entire day at UCLA, with 12 other devoted writers and a wonderful teacher to guide us through writing exercises designed to get the creative juices flowing. If I had any doubts about the timing of starting a writing program, today confirmed that now is the time. Today I felt like me and I felt connected to the DNA that apparently established this deep desire to write. I am still not quite sure about my eventual writing genre, but the desire to write is so overpowering that I am sure this is my path. Today I discovered that I am more fearful of not writing, than I am about making the commitment to write. Here is my answer to the writing prompt: “Sometimes I’m afraid of becoming someone…”
Sometimes I’m afraid of becoming someone who never really learns from her mistakes. My life has been a series of roller coaster rides up and down a journey of life in L.A. The highs consisting of fantastic travel experiences, meals out at various restaurants, homes filled with “things” I thought I had to have, and weekends chilling on the California Riviera and the lows directly below with everything magically disappearing as if it never was.
Usually when one repeatedly rides a roller coaster, or drives through a winding canyon, the curves and bumps become predictable and one builds up immunity to the queasy feeling, the butterflies in the stomach and the wretched nausea implied in the words, “I told you so,” or “here we go again.” That hasn’t been the case for me because the temporary view from the top is so engaging that my blinders go up and I have a hard time anticipating the inevitable fall.
Lately, my fear of repeating patterns is becoming stronger than my desire to bask in that heavenly glow. My mid-life is bringing certain things into focus, such as the rapid approach of qualifying for an AARP membership, senior discounts at the movies and those early bird specials. In my foolish youth, I was immortal and invincible. My life’s tools consisted of a giant eraser and a bottle of whiteout, that accompanied me on my travels down my life-path conveniently wiping out major blunders. In my young adulthood, I became the expert role player; able to emulate those I aspired to be by simply accumulating the trappings of their seemingly perfect life. That didn’t work. Now, I have come to an understanding that who I really am, is who I am meant to be and that the only way to alleviate the fear of failure is to accept the possibility that my path might venture around a corner and I will have to muster up that blind faith that will allow me to take the necessary chances and make the changes needed to reach my goal.
Sometimes I’m afraid of becoming someone who never really learns from her mistakes, so with that in mind, I am developing a plan, a learning curve, to teach myself how to become a learner. I am organizing a real-life class to teach myself how to move forward without taking two steps back each time. I am reinventing, reflecting and rediscovering the important elements in my life and working out a way to invite myself to partake in these real moments and make them my future.