m wood pen

freelance illustrator: have pen, will travel

 

miw 1987

miw 1987

i have even more of an appreciation for writers now that i’ve begun the daunting task of this blog: it’s no piece of cake.

for the last week, i’ve felt like someone took a paint scraper and removed every shred of creative thought from my head. literally.  all gone.

granted, what remained was a whole lot of energy for drawing, scads of menu ideas for holiday weekend, gallons of scintillating conversation round the campfire, the ability to pick out a really good outfit, and innovative ways to fold laundry.  but to think of something to write about?  forget it.  nothing.

so, another pickle that has come from this blog thing is that people read it.  hello: can you say pressure?  not only do they read it, but they like it, then they tell me, then they ask me when i’m writing another one, then i find the task horribly frightening, of course, convinced that they’ll all think i’m boring, which then further delays my ‘creative process’ and the page stays blank.

this morning, zap: along came a sentence and my sweet, fatigued brain embraced it and i felt a flicker of thought.  racing to the laptop to pound away on the keys (are they keys if it’s not a typewriter?) i felt like i was on a countdown to get this out before it floated out of reach.  of course, the fat dog was barking at the door, so i had to let him in, then feed him, then pat his head so that he knew that he was allowed to eat his kibble.  i poured more coffee.  the cat appeared needing something.  she was ignored, she’ll get over it.  then the dog appeared at my feet, staring up at me while i typed.  energy sucker!  i shooed him out, shut my doors, closing out the interlopers, ready to begin.  can i just say, i really know why writers go off, all alone, to remote cabins in the woods, undisturbed and uninterrupted?  and i assume: they don’t bring pets…!

one more delay: this song blasting in my head is so not doing what it need to, so i’m going to fiddle around with pandora until i can find a better one for calming, creative inspiration.  stevie nicks.  thank you, universe.  just what i needed.  “i’ve been afraid of changing cuz i built my life around you, but time makes you bolder, children get older, i’m getting older, too.”

here i go.

this morning, i was told, “you have met me at a good time to know me.”

wow.  i had to smile.  this is so jam-packed with substance.  and it made me think.  sure, here i am, typing away, drawing, shooting out fun thoughts & cool clients & cooler kids: doing my thing and yes, this is a really good time to know me, too.

but what about before?  what does this say about me, or my life, in other times?  and that’s when my mind went on a little trip.  what am i really like, and how have i been, before this very morning?

at fifty-one, it’s no easy task to start tripping back in the time machine.  of course, i’ve kept diaries since i was twelve.  i don’t think that i’m  going to start a heavily-detailed fact check on myself to add to this stream of blabbering today, but it’s good to know i have the research material if i need it.  so, what about this, anyway?  what was i like?  who have i been?

here’s a snapshot of a darling, blonde, curly-headed baby.  riding along in the grocery cart with my mom, sweet cherub!  delightful smile!  sparkling bright blue eyes.  shoppers would come over, how could they not, to lean into this sweet baby, stopping to tell my mom how darling i was.  one, two, three seconds (good timing is everything), i’d instantaneously twist my face into one of the most macabre distorted scary faces!  the women would recoil in horror!  some would scream!  every time. so, what? twisted baby?  not a good time to know me.

a few years later, two or so, a black and white snapshot shows, again, this curly haired little waif playfully posing with a hula hoop in front of a neat little brick & frame house.  what a darling little jumper-dress thingy, with ankle socks and saddle shoes.  adorable!  lean in closer, and something seems a bit odd…!  i’m holding an old cigarette butt, assuming a smoker’s pose, and wearing a satisfied smirk on my face.  creepy tot!

a move to the country, and a slightly larger house, with rooms to fit the five children, collection of dogs that came to call, and here is a lovely sibling bonding scene.  my parents took a photo to savor the memory of their three youngest children gathered in front of the new fireplace, all smiles.  what went down just after the shutter clicked would have shattered their warmed hearts.

i was five or six, with the little ones, four and two.  we each had a box of snaps.  who doesn’t love snaps?!  we sat happily chewing these multi-colored licorice treats, not much talking going on. suddenly, a plan came to me, the execution flawless.  “do you know what would be a really good idea?” i asked the little ones, my voice syrupy in sweetness.   my question met with widening eyes and silence (still the chewing), i went on.  “if we all pour our snaps out together, divide them by three. we’ll all have more!”.  i had eaten nearly my entire box, and those slow pokes had barely scratched the surface: i wanted more candy, ruthless and determined.  with trust in their hearts, and smiles on their licorice-smudged faces, they poured their snaps into the pile on the rug.  (not even a hygienic story, we had dogs!)  they watched with zeal as i counted out the three piles.  they were so huge!  this was too easy: taking advantage of those two trusting moppets!  then, with a flourish, i handed their snaps to each of them, their little pudgy baby fingers dropping snap by snap back into the jolly red boxes.  the deed was done, my box was now two-thirds filled, and off i went to chew in peace.  victorious.  sated. deceptive.  manipulative.  a liar!  no, not a good time to know me.

when i was in kindergarten, i fabricated the truth.  my poor mother.  day after day, after the bus dropped me off at the end of the driveway, and i’d had a little snack, my she would ask me how school was.  like clockwork (i really wonder why they didn’t bring me in to ‘see someone’!), i’d report the daily round-up of events.  never one to bore an audience, i came up with some whoppers, all delivered with such certainty, i could have wowed larry king.  “so-in-so and what’s-his-name climbed over the playground fence, ran to the church at recess…she was wearing her sisters first holy communion dress, and they eloped!”…”mr. whoosy-what’s-it is in the hospital!  their dachshunds bit off his toes!”  only when my mom called mrs. whoosy-what’s-it to offer her a casserole for the family post-tragedy did she see what she was dealing with.  a little teller of tall tales?  no, a liar.  not a good time to know me.

growing up in the country, with a very supportive but laid back mom who was going back to college, (with dad busy at the bank downtown who gladly admits to this day that he had the easy job: get on the train and earn money and get away from all of those kids), our summers sort of resembled “lord of the flies” story line…no one was stoned to death, but i remember a lot of wild running about, some major sibling torture,  many misunderstandings that resulted in trips to dr. fats-schukerman, and the cause of my aversion to golf.

the setting was bucolic: five acres on the fringe of the vast forest preserve.  a new barn surrounded by a horse-filled pasture, and filled with fragrant hay, and fresh manure…great for pelting at one another!  my brother, an avid sportsman, set up a golf course of our very own.  ingenious, he buried campbell’s tomato soup cans in various positions around the side and back of our property.  we fashioned flags out of sticks and rags, and spent many happy summer days taking in a rag-tag round of golf.  one summer, we all gathered at the first tee, just in front of the barn.  my brother went first, a fine shot, close to the pin.  my older sister was next, that girl can wallop a ball.  we all watched it sailed off, a beautiful landing.  my turn next.  i grabbed my wood (back when the wood was made of wood, and where on earth did we get all of these clubs, our own little mini hodgepodge sets and hand me down golf bags: so cute!)…put my tee in the grass, placed my shiny white golf ball on it, stood back, got into the ‘mode’, my pinky overlapping the other one, just how my dad taught me to hold the club.  sight the pin, look at the ball, place my feet firmly on the ground, sight the pin again, look at that ball, back swing, and let ‘er rip.  less than a second after hearing the ‘pop’ of the club hitting the ball, i heard an impossible-to-describe ‘crack’ or ‘thud’.  omg.  then i heard, “i hate you.”  i turned to see my sister clutching her blood-soaked face, her blood-streaming hand clutching her head, running towards the house.  i can’t even type this without getting all woozy!  fractured skull.  a quarter of an inch from killing her.  literally.  if asked, she’ll show you the scar on her forehead… okay, so you wanna know me at eleven?  i don’t think so.

if you had met me on a particular day in high school, you would have thought i was a boy.  okay, so i was slow to develop.  and i also had super-short hair because they hadn’t invented ‘product’ yet for unruly wavy crazy curly hair and it was just easier to chop it off.  off on a day on the ‘slopes’ (it’s the midwest, i use the term loosely) with our high school ski club, my friend and i made our way to the next position in the lift line.  i’ll never forget this, as we eyed the super-cute, ryan o’neal look-a-like chair lift operator…he looked right at me, i swear we had a moment, our eyes locked in something that could launch a lifetime love, right?  “step up, boy…you’re next”

!!!!!!!!!!

note to self: grow out hair.  stat!

this stuff is tragic, really.  but, since i have work to do, as much fun as these trips down memory lane are, i have to wrap it up.  maybe this should be part one of a series?  that way, i’ll have my inspiration already cued up, a safety net for when ‘writers block’ strikes again?  really, i’ve gotten so off track from what i thought i’d be writing about….

i’m not going to write, “i guess what i’m trying to say”, because i absolutely hate that line.  have you noticed how often it’s used in movies?  can everyone in hollywood please come up with an original way to say that?  better yet, show don’t tell: the character doesn’t have to say ‘i guess what i’m trying to say’, as we, the audience, is, for the most part, pretty intelligent and as we’re watching the character turn to speak to the other characters, we’ve noticed that they ARE saying something…!

but where was i?  yes, the big finish.  the shaping of my persona, as the kids say, “i’m good”… with the results.  yes, i still make awful faces, i still practice the art of telling tall tales, i still hate golf…but i’m happy.  i am what i am, it is what it is…it is a long and winding road, isnt it?  we all have years riddled with clutter, especially me, but today?  this bright sunny second day of june in what promises to be a spectacular summer of play, laughs, campfires, creativity, notions and imagination?

yes, you met me at a good time to know me.

 

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