Saturday, February 11, 2012

Clean underwear

Being caught in the grip of writer’s block is like having a brain in handcuffs. And I have been struggling with it since I last posted here.

Last Saturday, I attended the local writer’s group meeting, who had a guest speaker, a creative writing teacher and English professor from the local university. He talked briefly about writer’s block and how to overcome it. Make yourself write something everyday, he says, even if you can’t get beyond a few sentences. Find something in your experience that you can write about, something in the present that reminds you of something in the past. Even if it is only a few thoughts. Write it. He shared a poem he was working on – but had gotten stalled -- about mowing the lawn on a hot summer day and hitting a Rose of Sharon bush with it, and how that reminded him of the Grapes of Wrath, which he had just finished teaching to one of his literature classes…

I have come up with any number of what I thought were clever opening sentences to start a post in the week since then, but have not been able to develop them any further. I am even having some trouble answering my e-mail.

An e-mail from a cousin back in January – a month ago in fact -- who is “holed up in hotel” somewhere in New York with his partner and their cat, having relocated there from Washington, DC, and trying to find a house to buy, who wonders about the bond between the four of us cousins who are the first-born in our respective families.

I need to ponder that thought and answer him.

And then comes some e-mails from another cousin, also a first-born, who has recently arrived back home after spending close to a month taking care of her aging parents, especially her mother – my remaining Aunty who I love dearly -- who is slowly recovering from a very serious illness.

I had written to my cousin – also a month ago -- about the meal out we ate at a rather expensive restaurant on the anniversary of our son’s death…
We went to Springfield and had lunch at an amazing restaurant in the funky old downtown section. We have been aware of the restaurant for a long time but never went there because it is rather expensive. But as my friend Sheila points out – “Nathaniel’s dead. Who are you saving all of this money for now? If you don’t want to spend it, someone else will be happy to spend it for you…”
 My cousin writes back…

It is important to enjoy the fruits of your labor, this I see for myself also. If you could see our underwear, you would laugh, we both are in need of new panties. We just are not spending the money on ourselves…the ones I have now are not long for this world, I fear. I wouldn't let mom help me with laundry while there, just because I didn't want her to see my undies.
Some of my underwear is atrocious, so I had to laugh at that. Why not throw them away? I have unopened packages of underwear. But, what I suddenly remembered after reading this was not embarrassment as an adult that my parents would see my underwear when I was there on a visit (although, now that I think about it, I can recall washing underwear out by hand, for some reason, and hanging them on a hanger in my old bedroom), but a conversation my mother had with me while we were driving in the car one evening to the library. We were by ourselves, so I suspect my father was home watching the other children.

Always make sure you have clean underwear on when you go out in the car because you never know if you are going to get into an accident and you will have to go to the hospital.

My mother was such an amazing woman and she was so wise and I miss her so much. I remember so few specifics of the many conversations we had over the years… and this is what I remember now? Wear clean underwear?

But of course other memories are flooding our minds right now. Tomorrow would have been our son’s birthday. It is comforting to talk together about little flashback memories that pop into our heads. When he was a little boy, we created a bedtime routine (as advised by Dr Spock, I think) to help avoid problems getting him to bed. Part of the routine was that Richard would put him on top of his dresser and he would leap off into Richard’s arms. And then he would say “One more time…” as a way to prolong going to bed. And so Richard would put him up there “one more time…” and then… and then... time ran out.


Far Side of Fifty said...

It hardly makes sense if I was in an accident possibly my underwear would be dirty. It is funny what we remember..and tiny thoughts that cause all kinds of memories:)

Donna said...

I think all mothers of that time told their kids the clean underwear thing.

Jen said...

UNDERWEAR, UNDERWEAR, you're so high soon we'll have to go bare...:>)