Tag Archives: memoir

Roots and Wings

“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

They don’t let me write publicly about them anymore. Not by name, anyway.

They captain their own ship now. Except, of course, when they’re steering toward rocky cliffs or when the sea is too stormy, then I get the helm. Or maybe they are the stormy sea, and I’m the boat. Or vice versa. Or maybe I’m a particularly powerful head wind, slowing their course, and try as they might they can’t steer out of it.

Or maybe I don’t yet know what metaphor to use for this time in our lives – a time when our intertangled selves, which has been one whole thing for so long, are disentangling into three separate beings. (But whatever the metaphor is, it involves being yelled at for “all my rules” in the same thirty minute period that I have to remind them – yet again – not to leave trash, dirty socks, and a pile of papers strewn over the living room floor.)

All of which is to say: they’re teenagers now. Continue reading

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Jettisoned Scene from Memoir 1: Roger Gillespie

1/12/17

The memoir is clipping along slower than pitch dripping. I’m finally close to figuring out what to include in the final manuscript. (For those of you stalking my writing to see if  you’re there, in the end, you’ll probably discover you’re not.) However, I’m much clearer on what will not be included. There are scenes, like the one below, that I’m fond of, but that don’t belong at all. One-off scenes like this one don’t lend themselves to the narrative, so they have to be abandoned. And, in this case specifically, it seems no one remembers Roger Gillespie but me. Was he even real? Was any of it? If you’re a memoirist, maybe you can relate to this tension.

Roger, if you do exist (and I believe you do), I hope you’re well. 

 

I sat at Roger Gillespie’s patio table picking glass out of my face as I waited for him to come outside. When he came out, we made nervous conversation. I chain smoked cigarettes the whole time, no matter the fact I was recovering from a pneumothorax. Each time I put a cigarette out, I would use the soiled filter to clean a section of the enormous and filthy leaded glass ashtray to gleaming.

“Do you have a trashcan?” I interrupted Roger, looking up.

“Yeah, over there.” He pointed.

I got up, dumped the ashtray, returned to my seat, and lit up another cigarette. I had half the ashtray clean and I felt an overwhelming compulsion to clean the other half. It didn’t even occur to me that I could ask for a wet washcloth or a paper towel. It wouldn’t have been half as satisfying anyway.

At 17, I wasn’t even legally old enough to smoke. But after the accident, after everything, I didn’t feel beholden to most of the rules. Those were for people who were meant to be kept safe. It was too late for me. Besides, who was around to tell me no? Continue reading

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Excerpt from Hell is for Children: Aunt Sunny

When Aunt Sunny came to Barstow to help mom when I was five, light and lightness filled our house. From the moment she walked through the front door, it was clear Sunny was the alpha. She wasn’t arrogant, but mysteriously self-composed and confident. Enchanting. Two years younger than my mom – 22 – Sunny was tall, thin, blonde, tanned, tattooed – wearing a tight black Harley shirt and tight fitting, high-waisted jeans. She was the most physically beautiful person I’d ever seen. She exuded something I couldn’t identify then, but which I understand now – a kind of pressure bomb sexuality. Something that could go off any second. But it was contained. There was no hair trigger. She was fully in control and I fell in love with her.

And my god, the way she made my mom laugh and come alive in a brand new way. Mom’s anxiety of being alone with two little girls and a dog after Reggie left was replaced by a new confidence, catching some of Sunny’s infectious self, but also waking up to a part of herself that involved a deeply felt history.

Sunny arrived in Barstow with her boyfriend, Dennis. He didn’t stay long, only a few days because he had to get back to personal business in New Mexico, but I was delighted he was around. He was the most non-threatening man I’d ever met until then. He, too, glowed with a similar shine. Also, he was hilarious and would entertain my sister Kim and me by sitting in a chair, wrapping his arms underneath his knees, and lighting his farts. Continue reading

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The Monsters that Come for Me in My Sleep

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, I’ve committed to finishing my memoir. Finally. After almost a decade of cogitation, percolation, and procrastination. Voice building. Muscle building. Gut building. I’ve decided to call it Hell is for Children. Because, this. I’ll have a first draft done by the end of the month and a draft ready for an agent by the end of the year.

But, my god.

The monsters are visiting me in my sleep. I’m 3 months alcohol-free, but after a long day of writing, I’ve been dreaming that I ingest opiods and red wine. I hate it, in my dreams, but I can’t get enough. I wake up in the morning with the residue of guilt and defeat on me. I get it though. I get why I drank. I get why my brain seeks it, even in my sobriety. Lidia Yuknavitch said at the Ojai retreat that “your wound is your superpower.” And if my wound is PTSD (and it is), then my superpower is this outpouring of guts and honesty in the form of structured words on a page. My voice. My muscles. Continue reading

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My Unchaste Interview

Unchaste Readers: Women Reading their Minds is a spoken word series that creates and recreates itself bimonthly on the 3rd Tuesday in Portland, Oregon.The Unchaste Readers are women aged 21 to 71 who speak of finding and losing all of the things that women find and lose. They hold our hands as they tell hard stories that they’ve survived or are still surviving. They make us laugh at them and at ourselves in the kindest, most creative ways.

The Interviews of Unchaste Women is an interview series of former readers, which is hosted on the Unchaste blog. I was fortunate to have read my mind for an Unchaste show in 2013 and so was asked to participate in the interview series. Here’s what I had to say: Continue reading

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