Thursday, February 04, 2021


When I was child, in that weird time when memory is just beginning to form, i was obsessed with a black and white checkered volume of illustrated Mother Goose tales.  I carried it from room to room until it fell apart, staring at the pictures, imagining each story based only on the visuals. It would be a hot minute before I could read it.  Before I learned the alphabet, which my dad would have me recite in exchange for a pack of Rolos.  (thus my long trajectory of bribing myself to write with chocolate.)  I'm sure the bribing only happened once, but I remember the feeling of accomplishment as he handed over the candy.  I landed in kindegarten knowing the letters, but it'd be a year or so til they started making sense as words, as patterns, as something familiar. Waiting alone  in the car while my mom was in the store (becuase yo, it was the late 70's), I remember the exact moment the orange-lit words on the Jewel-Osco sign made sense and suddenly the code was broken.  I spent the next couple years writing out letters on those lined newsprint tablets, perfecting a neatness I never exhibit in my scrawling. While I had spent years before obsessed with pens & notebooks,  drawing squiggled lines and making up stories, now I could do it for real.  

On the phone last night, my dad tells me the story of how he kept getting in trouble in elementary school for not paying attention to lessons and instead writing ghost stories surreptitiously at his desk. Suddenly, a secret question was long-answered.  Where this all comes from.  The need to tell stories.  My mother would, when alive, regularly to others say about my writing or my smarts, we don't know where she gets it. My mother was less of a reader, her enthusiasms tending toward True Romance magazines, but then only on vacation when she could unwind. . Words, however,  were always in the house, but the kind varied. Hunting & fishing manuals.  National Geographics. Horror novels passed off from my aunt. Later, overloaded trips home from the library. I had always known my dad was a big reader, even now when a lot of that reading happens online. But I'd never know about the stories. Those similar tendencies that show up, even without having made themselves known. 

My mother spent years painting ceramic & bisque figurines, while she babysat batches of kids, while she watched television every night.  The paint in their jewel-colored jars were strangely fascinating and something we were not allowed to touch lest we dry them out or make a mess.  This fact something both I and my sister could blame for our visual tendencies, but the words, beyond a desire built out of being a reader, were always kind of mystery--something I did not see in my parents or anyone in my extended family (especially in my extended family.).  I occasionally find hilarious that in all of our family, my sister and I seemed the only two who were stupid enough to be artists and writers (even though we both have other jobs to pay the bills.).  How two rather sensible and non-artsy (though if you look closer they were) parented children who lived most of their life in creative head space--who instead of practical things like health care, education, and business like our cousins--we instead locked down hard in the arts and humanties (and of course in doing so, ruined our chances are ever making more money than our

But more like flowers growing suddenly and inexplicably out of concrete, really, the roots were there and richly thriving all along. 

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