I could have said “Well, what with Ma dying and my husband’s white blood count climbing and treatment on the horizon and new grandbabies coming and a wedding to plan, I’m all tied up right now,” and she would have accepted that. But I wasn’t looking for an excuse. I was looking for help. And when looking for help, it’s best to cut to the truth.
“I don’t want this to be the main story of my life, the thing people remember most about me.”
She got it. Is there anything better than someone who gets it?
* * *
I BEGIN WRITING FOR PUBLICATION in my thirties. I tell a story at a luncheon and someone suggests it ought to be in print. I laugh, but later wonder whether it is publishable and how to go about it. That’s the beginning of my trying.
The story is rejected, twice. But by now I’m hooked and keep reading everything I can about writing, editing and sending query letters. I also keep writing.
I sell a short piece and then a longer piece, and eventually, after a lot of trimming, I sell the story I started with, the one from the luncheon.
Things just keep rolling on from there. I write, I submit. I make plans to wallpaper a room someday with my rejection slips, saving one small corner for my acceptance letters.
I am happy as a clam because now I know how my life has turned out. Not a complete tragedy, as some predicted.
* * *
I AM INVITED TO TEACH at a writers conference.
“I’m just a novice myself,” I say, but someone thinks I have expertise.
“In what?” I ask.
“In writing about personal experiences.” I do?
I say okay and come out of isolation. I hear more fabulous stories in a single weekend than in all my life up to that moment! And maybe, just maybe, I say one or two things that help these people, who are all better writers than me, by the way (but I get out of town before too many discover this).
Now I have shared skills with others. I am BeYoND happiness and contentment, really knowing now how my life has turned out.
I am ready to sail off into the sunset.
* * *
THEN BACK AROUND COMES THIS STORY, rising to the surface, moving to the front burner. And don’t I have 50,000 words on the subject, already tucked away? Yes, but they were never meant for publication.
I have no scores to settle,
no bones to pick,
no need to expose anyone.
But now it turns out –
Ma gone a year,
blood counts back to normal,
new babies all here,
and the wedding, a delightful memory –
what I told Amber a year ago is true,
that I have built a reputation far, far from this story
and want to be remembered for that,
and if I write about this,
it’s like a big ker-flush on everything that’s gone before.
* * *
WHILE DICING CELERY it hits me,
how backwards I have had it,
worrying the earlier work will be overshadowed.
I’ve been trying to protect what does not need my protection
and is indeed out of my hands,
as it all has been.
All that’s gone before was prerequisite for now
and can no more be swept away
than the bottom steps of a staircase.
worrying about one’s legacy
can be one of the greatest obstacles
to fulfilling it.
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