From Here to Eventually, WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Bucket List

 

Lake Placid Village and Mirror Lake from Crowne Plaza Wednesday

I’m not sure what this writing is part of, whether it will lead to a longer piece or just take up a few more pages than it does here.  It is part of a piece on how I have taken on part of my father’ bucket list, left on the list when he passed away in June, two weeks past his 93rd birthday.  I offer 11 sentences for the day, or the month:

Last month, I attended a conference in Lake Placid, further north in the Adirondacks. I am five  months too late to tell my dad about this part of the Adirondacks, or to show him any of the pictures, but I can share them here.  When we were young, he ended up vacationing in Florida, but once we were older, his own preferences were clear. He always drove north when he had time off, to northern Georgia or western North Carolina, drawn to lakes and brooks cradled by mountains.  I share that attraction, fostered by trips to state parks when I was the last child home, staying in lakeside cabins in the crook of a line of ridges. Driving into Lake Placid, I realized how much he would have loved the surrounding mountains, the calm lake. Well, in the summertime or in the spectacle of its autumn colors.  My father was no friend to snow, so the snow veiling the high peaks would have detracted from his enjoyment of the view.

I knew why he had always wanted to see the Adirondacks, as clearly as if we had spoken about it. Although more worn than the Rockies, the mountains shake free of the deciduous trees first, then shake the evergreens off their granite shoulders, reaching respectable heights of three thousand to five thousand feet. Lakes melted from glacial ice reflect the sky, mountains and trees, witnessing the truth of names like Mirror and Placid, while rivers pound through granite gauntlets, frothing white, throwing mist into rainbows above the water.

 

WIPpet Wednesday is the brainchild of K.L. Schwengel and newly hosted by A Keyboard and an Open Mind. If you want to join in, or read other WIPpeteers, go here.

EM

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Garden of Steel Magnolias, WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Christine the child

Flipping to another WIP, a novella based on the life of Christine de Pizan (1364-1431), the first woman in France to make a living as an author. I give you 18 sentences, adding 9+10, and well, minus 1, because that’s where the piece stops.

If you want to join in, post a snippet from a current WIP that has some connection to the date, and link to the blog hop here. It is hosted by K L Schwengel–thank you!

“Christine, please pay attention to your spinning. It is a disaster, yet you refuse to learn. You must use both your hands in concert.” Christine thought, Synchronicity, like Papa explained about the celestial spheres.

Her mother continued her rant, “Look at the lumps in your wool! Your father thinks he can make you into a scholar, stuffing your head full of Latin and science. It’s not right for a woman to know how to write. How we will ever find a husband for you, I do not know!”

I’ll find my own husband, Christine thought. Stifling a yawn at the perennial argument, she searched through her Latin in a familiar game. Oscitate, yes, that’s yawning, she smiled to herself. Out loud, she said dutifully, “Yes, maman, I will try harder.” She picked up more roving to bear out her promise.

She loved her maman, but she wanted more than her mother’s life.  Christine yearned to be a scientist like her father, famous at the French court for his knowledge of astrology and the humours of the body.   She wanted to discover whether the pestilence that had ravaged the world was due to the conjunction of three planets, as some thought, or from a miasma, a mala aria in her native Italian. She would be as famous as her father, some day, and not for her spinning. She would be a new sort of woman.

EM

 

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPPet Wednesday Memoir The Good Girl

More from my memoir.  Thanks to KL Schwengel, who hosts WIPpet Wednesday.  If you want to join, post an excerpt that has something to do with the date and add it to the linky here. My math is 9+3=12+2=14+4-=18 for 18 sentences today.

After dropping out of high school, I went  to a very small women’s college, where I first breathed free as a scholar.  I did not have to hide away so that men might be interested in me, as there were none in my classes. While younger than most of my class, I was not the youngest in the crowd, and quickly acclimated to the ivied halls. My professors treated me as an adult, and I responded, flourishing in the life of the mind.  None of them saw the yawning gap in my psyche where a person was supposed to dwell. My personhood was stitched together like the B movie monster with a transplanted brain, my mind and body unconnected, striving against each other at every decision.

My sophomore year in high school, I dated a young man who ended up being the only one who asked me out more than once. After what I felt was a suitable period, and feeling that no one else would ever be interested in me, I married him at the beginning of my junior year of college. My relationship with him, and thus, my marriage, worked on exactly the same lines as all other aspects of my personal life:  do whatever I was told, never question authority, never rock the boat, never stand out in any way.  My ex-husband, also very young, did not know any better. He constructed and maintained the box in which my soul and personality was locked away.  I became a chameleon, without opinions of my own. With some empathic ability, I quickly mastered ascertaining others’ opinions and preferences, and reflected them as faithfully as a mirror, with no distortions or additions of my own.

When I went to graduate school, and began to find my professors expected me to be an adult, my husband left me for a college friend, saying that he found my ambition to get a Ph.D. distasteful.  Left entirely on my own for the first time in 23 years, I realized that I did not know what music I liked, what books I enjoyed reading, or what foods I liked to eat. I had never done grocery shopping alone, I had never written a check, and I had never lived alone. I knew how to be a scholar, but I had no idea how to be a person.

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday August 27, 2014

I have to do some magic with math to make this excerpt fit.  If one takes the end numbers from the year 2 + 4, and adds the final digit of the date + 7, one gets 247 words.  Ha!  I pulled that magic off!

My alien sons drew unknown resonances from me as they travelled through childhood.  On an early morning walk, my two-year-old tugged me down to his level, pointing at the grass.  I ended up lying on the wet, cool, grass to see the rainbow displayed in a drop of dew.  My explorations in childhood had been through books, except for pools of water large enough to swim.  The senses were suspect, kept muted and at bay, so that the life of the mind could run unimpeded by the physical body that wrapped it in flesh and bone.

My sons were bold explorers of the life of the senses. The first time my son snuggled next to me, glorying in my touch,  I felt a trespasser in a foreign land, as these ways were not countenanced in my parents’ house.  My father often teased my mother, proclaiming the smoothness of his cheek after a morning shave.  I can’t have been more than six, pressing my cheek to his to feel what he meant.  He turned to stone as if my hair were snakes, pushing me roughly from him. I never touched him again without invitation. He willingly touched me for the first time when I was moving a thousand miles away at age 22.  My sons’ bold assessment of, and joy in, the physical world allowed me to see through the curiosity and somehow right reckoning of my boys, opening my mind and heart to things unknown, unseen, and untasted.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

Wednesday WIPpet, August 13, 2014

I give you 13 sentences of my memoir for the 13th day of the month.  WIPpet Wednesday is hosted by KL Schwengel.  If you would like to participate, post a date-related (calendar date, not romantic date) snippet of a WIP (hence, WIPpet) here.

My complicated childhood echoed through the years in odd ways. Although family is very important to me, I rarely tell any of my family how important they are to me. My sons encouraged that reticence when they were teenagers, fleeing emotion as if it were hydrofluoric acid. However, those sons also helped me learn how to be a mother to alien creatures, who acted nothing like their sisters. Furthermore, I had met my daughters when they were 5 and 3, so 0 to 3 was unmapped wilderness, filled with snapping wolves and lumbering bears. My sons laid to rest any nature versus nurture discussions I had in my mind; their drive and fearlessness taught me how to take risks, while making my face pale with fear. They put up with my inability to help them with math and physics homework, as well as my crying through nearly every movie I took them to see. Well, not Pokemon.

My daughters, who accepted me as a second mom, weathered my learning how to be a mom. I remember the stark terror I felt when my oldest daughter handed me a Barbie, inviting me to play with her. I had never played dolls with anyone in my life, and I knew nothing about being a child. She was very gentle with me, explaining the rules, “Barbies are plastic, so they can’t talk back to us. We can imagine them talking, though.”

Both girls guided me through playing in the park, swinging and talking, giving me a childhood I had imagined but never lived.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Innocent Abroad

This snippet is from my trip to London for research in 2011.  I had not travelled overseas since 1974, and my natural poise (ha!) was not always in place. My math was 8+6=14 paragraphs, but my piece of the story ends at 16, so I guess I’ll add the first digit of the year for 16.

Finally drifting into a deep sleep, I was jerked awake when the seat in front me reclined, revealing an extremely large man, whose unkempt head was now in my lap.  I felt I should wash his hair, or shave him at the least. He shifted about every ten minutes, just enough peace to lull me back to sleep.  Then, the loud groan of the seat protesting its mistreatment, my heart pounding in fear before my brain recognized the noise, then further fear for my shiny new knee being crushed by the whole thing crashing down upon it. I had wisps of nightmarish dreams, of which I remember only the sense of unease and discomfort; I do remember wishing that I would not wake up until we had landed.

I got my wish. I fell asleep with my usual wonderful timing—about an hour before I had to get up. I woke to the flight attendants telling the fellow in front of me to put his seat upright for landing. I was still pretty muzzy, as I joined the huge file of supplicants for fresh air and freedom from flying tin cans.  As I entered Customs, my attention was caught by the long queues on the right side of the room: green for UK and EU passport holders; blue for other passport holders with nothing to declare; red for aliens with things to declare. I got into the blue line. Wait, shuffle; wait, shuffle. Finally, I approached the agent, who held out her hand.

“Entry card.”

Huh? ” Oh, they didn’t give me one.”

She pointed to the other side of the room, where small tables magically appeared through the mist of my brain. “Go fill one out.”

Getting out of line, I went over to a table, and picked up one of the pens attached to the table. Like everywhere else in the world where those pens are attached, it doesn’t work. I tried the next one, and the next one, and went to the next table, trying each and every pen, none of which work.

Okay, at the time, I was a rare books librarian. I did not own ballpoint pens; I did have several nice fountain pens, but the reason they are called fountain pens becomes painfully obvious when you fly with them. Therefore, all I have with me is a nice mechanical pencil. Sigh. I got back in line. Wait, shuffle; wait, shuffle. The same agent holds her hand out for the entry card.

“I don’t have a pen.”

She pointed to the tables, “There are pens on the tables.”

“There are no pens that write on those tables.”

She handed me a pen, and waved me back to the other side of the room. So I filled out the form, madly scrabbling through my papers to find the postal code for the hotel. By now, there was no line. I handed the entry card to the same agent, who then held out her hand for my passport. She looked at it, sighed. “American.” Ah, welcome to London to you too, my dear.

She stamped my passport with a certain disdain, and directed me to the exit. I spied an Information booth, so I went to ask about charging my phone.

“Our power points are different from the US.”

“Yes, I know. Where could I find one?”

“We have no electricity at Heathrow.”
“You’ve figured out how to run an airport without electricity?”

 

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday, Memoir

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop of excerpts, hosted by the lovely K L Schwengel.  The only rule is that the excerpt have something to do with the date. If you want to join, the link is here.  Feel free to add your link, and please go visit and encourage the participants.  I am continuing to post from my memoir here,  and it is 3 paragraphs in lovely math of 3+0=3.

I will return to other wips, or at least cheerier parts of my memoir next Wednesday, I promise!

In the spring of fourth grade, I started feeling ill and having trouble hearing, so Mrs. B, my wonderful, kind, homeroom teacher moved me to the front row of the class.  She spoke to my parents, who were unconcerned. Every Easter, my father unveiled the camera for ceremonial pictures among the dogwood trees in our front yard.  In my picture, a stick-thin little girl valiantly tries to summon a smile for the lens, not quite hiding the pain in her eyes.  Less than a week later, I reluctantly told my mother I thought something might be wrong with me, since my urine was the color of Coca-Cola.  She thought I was faking, a bid for attention, but I took an old cough medicine bottle andbrought her the proof. After much railing about the expense and bother, my parents took me to the pediatrician, whom I’d seen the previous summer when my eardrums ruptured.  Once the pediatrician verified that I had not contaminated the sample with any foreign substance, she tested it.  When she came back into the room, she was very angry, and I was so afraid I had done something wrong. Her voice was very tight, but she spoke gently, telling me I was very sick and had to go to the hospital.  Palpable frost entered her voice when she turned to my parents. “She has the strain of strep that causes rheumatic fever,  but it has attacked her kidneys instead.” She stopped, shook her head minutely, and continued.  “She has been ill for weeks, if not months. You will take her to the hospital now, and I will meet you there.”

I was in the hospital for over a week, and confined to bed for four months.  My mother stayed in the hospital with me, but seemed angry and distant as always.  My father showed the first crack in his immobile exterior that first day, turning pale and anxious as the doctors explained my illness. I knew I was very ill, perhaps dying, when my parents allowed me to have as many soft drinks and popsicles as I wanted. I found out years later that my father’s best friend had died of the same disease when they were ten years old. I turned ten the week before I entered the hospital.

I took penicillin for a year after being released from the hospital.  My parents had no medical insurance, and were drowning under the expense of my hospital stay, so the veterinarian who lived next door gave us the canine version at cost. I became the invisible invalid, ensconced on a couch moved into the corner of the dining room.  Everyone walked by me, but never stopped to talk or visit. I lived entirely in my head that summer. I planned my life, daydreamed, read books, and decided I was not going to die.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday, Memoir

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  If you want to participate, post an excerpt tied to the date somehow, and add the link here. This excerpt is from my memoir.  It is much rougher than the earlier excerpts, so criticism is welcome.  It is 23 sentences for the date.

My nearest sibling in age was four years older, and the only one of us who went to kindergarten. By the fall I was 18 months old, I inhabited a dim and quiet house for most of the day.  My mother slept on the couch from the time the older kids left, to the time they came home. I crept silently into my overstuffed chair, and lived a full life with my imaginary friends and my books. I eavesdropped from under the table when my father read to my younger sister, or when my older sister or brother read for my father. In my chair, I began to trace through the pages, finally cracking the code of the letters, and, with tears of joy, the words. My parents were astounded I knew how to read when I was three.  I had received a new book for Christmas from a family friend, and proceeded to read it in the car on the way back home.  Initially, my siblings were scornful, thinking I was pretending I could read, but when they verified I was reading the correct words, no one knew how I learned.  Neither my mother or father had any idea, and questioned my siblings. All of them denied spending the time or effort to teach me to read.  I knew how I had done it, but no one asked me.

I found my siblings’ abandoned readers and dove into them, thumbing through them many times in the three eternal years I waited for school. Books were my escape, my friends, my refuge.  Reading at an early age, after years of long, quiet hours to practice, I stood out in first grade. I gloried in the attention and approbation at first, but teachers’ notice had a dark side.  At one point, my teacher told me to finish reading a story to the class, and left the room.  While the children behaved well in the classroom, even while she was gone, my payback awaited on the playground.

I was surrounded and taunted. Backed by most of my classmates, the largest boy in the class towered over me, jeering, “Spell cat, if you’re so smart!” Even in my terror, I remember thinking, what a stupid word to pick. His face shining in fury, his fist inches from my face, he demanded a confession that I had made up the story and could not read.  Faced with physical harm, I quickly complied.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday–Memoir

I am leapfrogging again to a different WIP.  All three that I have posted are in various stages of writing, and yes, I do hop around according to my mood.

This is from my NaNo rebel project in 2013, a memoir begun as catharsis, but which moved into exploration of early relationships.  10 sentences figured out thus: 7+16=23-14=9. The extra sentence is a gimme, to finish the paragraph without using a semi-colon (I love semi-colons, overuse them, and blast them from my writing as much as possible).


 

By the age of two, I’d perfected invisibility, without magic potion, industrial accident, or cloaking device. When my mother noticed my presence, her eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, reliving the difficult and unplanned pregnancy that produced me.  My father’s eyes skimmed past me at the breakfast table, the “extra” child who set awry his careful budget planning.  I had tried the “cute puppy” route with my siblings, but that had banished me from my brother’s room, and my sisters were almost magically inoculated against my charms.  “If you wake me up, I’ll tell the tigers under the crib to eat you,” my sister’s version of a bedtime prayer, made me a light sleeper at 18 months.  With nothing to recommend me to my siblings, who had to share already strained space and food with me, my best course was to disappear.

Poster child of being unseen as well as unheard, I hid under draped tablecloths, sidled along walls, never looked directly at anyone and only spoke when questioned.  I loathed winter.  Small, thin, and perpetually cold, I crept near any heat register hidden from the open sight line of parent or sibling.  In summer, I’d burst outdoors at daybreak to hide in the back yard’s pine brush and soak up the warmth of a Southern day.


 

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  Check it out–a supportive group of writers to be found here.

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Lost love

This scene occurs when my protagonist has made the “noble sacrifice” of sending away the woman he loves in order to protect her. Nine sentences for the ninth day of July.

I’m not liking the purple prose right now, so any help would be appreciated!

I find myself strong enough not to try to see her, or talk to her, but so weak as to wander by the gate, hoping to see her from a distance, standing in the midst of my memories as if addled. I can feel her in my arms, conjured by my longing. I indulge myself by recreating that evening in precise, jewel-like detail—the feel of the back of her neck under my fingers, which slip slightly in her silken hair; her breasts pressed so close to my chest I can feel her heartbeat. I hold the memory of her blue eyes full of love and acceptance like a candle in a dark, moonless night, knowing I will never see them thus again. Sweet Jesus, that way lies madness. I force myself away, refusing to acknowledge the scent of her which I swear on my soul lingers in the air. I leave some part of myself there; nothing so neat as a heart, all limned in lace and flowers. I drag myself away, leaving skin and blood and bone behind; when I see myself in the mirror of my room at the Stag (delicious irony), I feel shock that my skin is intact.

EM