Three years later, almost exactly, I spent a full month writing about 1700 words a day until I finished my 50k-word novel. It was a story about a terminally ill woman who spends her final weeks trying to make sure things are in order, both tangible and intangible things. I decided to tell the story from three rotating perspectives. Mariah (the dying woman), Rachel (her sister), and Kaye (a distant but present mother). There is dysfunction and there is intense love, all needing to be reconciled. Some of the things are obviously inspired by the story of my cousin, Leigh, but many things are my own. It was very cathartic for me, as I mourned. At the suggestion of my husband I am going to put some of it up here. Here is my attempt...
Things. Things that can be stacked. Things that are in boxes. Things that carry with them real memories. Things that mean nothing to me, but for some reason I need them. Maybe we all feel like if we have stuff around us then we really exist. The stuff proves something. It’s like our own little collection of artifacts, and if we surround ourselves with enough of them we can become immortal. And so many of the things I have aren’t even mine really.
Vo’s old broaches and handkerchiefs from seventy years ago when she was just learning how to do needle work. She probably was a new bride then and they are a symbol of her womanhood in a way. Dad’s old high school football jersey. If Rachel knew I had that hidden away here she would march right over and demand it.
Somehow I have become the family archivist. The photographer. The librarian. I don’t even remember when I took on those roles, but it is a given that I will document everything important that happens in this family.
Mariah, did you get a picture of that? Mariah, have you seen that old edition of the world atlas that Uncle Mike used to read to us out of? Mariah, don’t you have all of Kaye’s letters she wrote home when she was in college?
I can’t really say if I have minded all of these expectations, but somewhere deep down I think it is beginning to weigh on me a bit. It takes some real energy and space to keep track of people’s lives, and I am running out of both. When I bought this house a few years ago I was so glad it was on the small size because I was dedicated to keeping my life clutter-free. I guess I have done a pretty decent job, but recently these walls are closing in and I am ready to push them out a few feet.
Too bad the closet in my guest room is where I need to start. I could barely pull my jeans on this morning and now I am expected to drag that futon away from the closet door? Yeah, right. Why am I so horrible at asking for help? Rachel, TJ and Daryl were over all evening yesterday (well, until I passed out on the couch) and I just couldn’t bring myself to admit I might need some help moving a two-hundred pound piece of furniture. I am such an ass sometimes.