Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meeting That Old Friend From Far Away

It is so fortunate to have such a wealth of talented writers from which to learn.  The blaze of the internet's possibilities should not be lost on anyone looking to find some kind of connection to interest or dream.  Just recently, I read Angela Kelsey's post Book 24 of 24 Books in 28 Days: Old Friend From Far Away

The thing that struck me about reading her post is that not only had I neglected to consult Natalie Goldberg's Old Friend when I began memoir writing, but I completely let it escape my mind.  Whats more, I purchased the audio version of the book directly from Ms. Goldberg while attending one of her famous workshops in Taos, NM with the plan to listen to it on my drive back home.  That I did, but wasn't really in the market for memoir advice at the time.

I'm grateful to Angela for bringing it back to the fore.

With this in mind, I am going to begin on a series of blog posts specifically derived from the writing exercises in Old Friend.  It has been a long time since I've participated in Goldberg writing practices.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they uncover.

I'll also try to make my best effort at overcoming the inner-editor and post them in all their ugly glory.

Exercise 1: Tell me a memory about your mother, an aunt, or your grandmother

I remember my grandmother like the first cold autumn wind that blows in bringing with it little affection, but a certain reminder of who you are.  And my grandfather who was warm, blowing smoke rings with his sweet-smelling pipe and whom I later found out, after his death, she hadn't loved, and hadn't been happy to marry.

There are a lot of guesses about my grandmother and grandfather, their life, my mother's birth so early in their marriage.  We wonder if he had the been the one to throw racism in the face of my sister, to encourage the coldness in his wife's heart.

Though she was never cold, not really, not to me.  She was simply not affectionate, not enveloping like I had imagined a grandmother to be, warm and doughy and soft as a fresh baked cookie.  Nor did she bake cookies or bread, or fudge like my father's mother Thelma.  No, Evelyn was the stricter of the two, offset and reserved, willing to bring you in, but not to warm the bed.

I remember spending a week at her house in the summer with my mom.  She had told me to bring my rollerskates because there were kids in the neighborhood who would wear theirs and we could ride together.  I did, but I was shy and waited for them to approach me.  The entire first few days I would be out in the driveway in my roller skates hoping someone would notice me and ask me to play.

It did happen and I made friends with two girls and a boy.  We spent days in the dirt tromping strawberry beds because my grandma said I could eat whatever I found.  At night, after dinner, my mom would sit me at the table, bring out a basin of warm water, soap and a clean wash cloth and I would sit while she washed the day off the soles of my feet.


  1. I just met Natalie at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium. I picked up her book and love it! I'll be back to keep up with your posts!

  2. I love "willing to bring you in, but not to warm the bed." Thanks for reminding me of my resolution, a long month ago, to do these exercises myself! Can't wait to read more.

  3. Stephanie, have you done any of the writing practices?

    Angela, Thank you. Will you publish any of them on your blog?