I was eavesdropping at the bus stop, on kids waiting to go to elementary school:
“Max got a stop. He got like so mad, coz coz Sebastian flushed his hat,” says the girl with braids and freckles.
“Did he yell?” says her friend with the pixie hair cut and rain boots.
“He used bad words and pushed Sebastian in the garden. He like totally lost his temper, like it was gone forever.”
Totally lost it, like it was gone forever. Gotta love kids. I exchanged a smile with another mother.
“Where did it go?” I ask.
“What?” The two girls ask in unison.
“His temper? He lost it right? Does that mean he can’t get angry any more?”
“No. That’s silly, ” says Pixie Cut, her hands on her hips.
“Yeah, that’s silly. It just like, grows again,” says Braids-n-Freckles.
Silly me. But I can’t resist asking more questions.
“So you just lose a bit of it and then it grows back?”
“Right,” Pixie-Cut responds. “My dad like totally loses his temper all the time. It doesn’t go all the way gone. His is like, really sticky.”
I can no longer suppress my laughter.
Later that day, a friend skyped to ask me to call another friend-in-need.
“Now don’t be too cheery. You know how you can be, that sort of optimistic thing is not always helpful you know. You should think about that.”
To find out more about Robyn T Murphy and her writing, please visit her website here.
]My parents nicknamed me Bird’s Eye before I even started school, because I was always observing and commenting on what I noticed. I made up stories about everyone – neighbor kids, the TV repair guy, riders on the bus I took to downtown South City with my mom. One constant in my story was that I was always the main character, the star. But I hated my nickname. My older sister was Princess. Who would want to be Birds’ Eye?
I’m a storyteller, which means I’m fascinated by the details of people’s lives. My husband doesn’t get my interest in the mundane details of the lives of our friends. What time do they get up? How long is their commute? When did their daughter start piano lessons? Do they prefer french fries or mashed potatoes? But I know that what seems to be mundane details frame the stories of our lives – that yes, the devil is in the details. Other people might be tracking baseball statistics or celebrity gossip, but I’m watching you.
I’m guessing some people might call me a gossip. I want to know whom the neighbor down the street’s son who I haven’t even seen for a year is taking to the prom. I’ll ask you how your sister’s doing after her divorce even though I’ve never met your sister but you talk about her, so I’m following her story. I’m not a meddler, I don’t interfere – not in real life anyway – but once I get one of these people on the page, and start telling stories, watch out. Who knows what might happen to you there?
Marianne Lonsdale’s essay Giving Birth to Creativity appears in Mamas Write.
Putting together an anthology is like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box for guidance. While some pieces snapped right in place, laid effortlessly and fitting perfectly together, there were also overlaps, gaps, a few jagged edges, and some just too large to fit within the frame. Fortunately though, the designers of the puzzle pieces—the amazing writers so willing to revise or give us something entirely new under very short deadlines—trusted our vision, and eventually, the pieces made a whole.
And just like the puzzle that came together, we also fell in place as a team. Editing on foggy Friday mornings with Bittersweet’s spicy hot cocoas in hand became a rewarding routine.
“Why I Write” was the book’s original unifying theme, and the essay I wrote in Kate Hopper’s wonderful online workshop for our group described how I dealt with my mother’s dementia (and also how I didn’t). It was cathartic and brought unexpected feelings to the surface. But it just wasn’t right for the anthology. The piece didn’t fit within the frame. What the anthology really needed was some lighter fare and another essay about reading to close a gap. I had one of those in the archives, so that’s what ended up in the book. As it is sometimes, it’s not about the individual piece. It’s about how it fits with the rest.
We learned a lot with this first book (yes, Bittersweet Press plans for more!). I’m proud of the anthology and of all the writers in it and everyone who pulled together and helped take it from the idea stage to the we’re-doing-five-readings-stage, a jigsaw of people who all took a part and made something whole.
Joanne Hartman’s essay Intervention appears in Mamas Write.
In the days when my parents were telling stories, before their memories of the past began to disappear, my father liked to say that every night when he and my mom put me to bed and closed the door, I was talking. The next morning, when they returned to wake me up, they opened the door to find me still talking. For all they knew, according to Dad, I’d been moving my mouth for a solid ten hours.I was the third of five children, born to two verbal parents skilled at spinning yarns, and sandwiched among siblings who learned from the masters. To be heard in that crowd, I needed to yammer and jaw: “Listen to me! Over here! I, too, have something to say!”
But over the years, my passion for speech shifted. Instead of spewing out random thoughts that entered my head, I wanted to write them down. I needed to write them down. It didn’t matter if the writing occurred in a simple black-marbled notebook or a fancy cloth-covered journal, on a scrap of receipt or the back of an envelope. What mattered was the act of committing words to paper.
In many situations, I remain a chatty raconteur. At big family gatherings, especially, with my dad and mom presiding at each end of the table, I love to tell a good story. And at home, sharing a meal with my husband and kids, or driving or hiking or playing with them or anyone else, I revert to my persona of gabby child.
At the same time, though, at this stage of life, I finally recognize the value of not talking. Of seeing where silence takes me. The great, vast and open possibility of staying quiet.
Jessica O’Dwyer’s essay The Mother In The Square appears in Mamas Write.
“Boys are better than girls because they have penises,” my four-year-old-son Bryce announced during breakfast one morning. Glaring at his two- year-old-sister, he continued, “Girls have breasts, but penises are way cooler.” Thanks to Bryce, I learn something new about this part of the male anatomy almost every day.
I remember changing newborn Bryce on a cloudy April day. He had just fallen asleep at my breast, but I needed to change his diaper. I opened the Pamper’s tabs, and urine shot straight into my eye. The derelict penis went on to squirt the freshly painted wall. My mother, standing nearby, nodded, “Cold air just makes them go. Make sure you put a cloth on him before you do anything else.”
A couple weeks later, I was again changing Bryce’s diaper and noticed that his penis was standing straight up. I had no idea that babies got erections. I waited for it to go down but it didn’t. I became restless. Chortling Bryce seemed oblivious to the action below. Not wanting to smoosh his fragile organ into the diaper, I fastened the tabs loosely.
One day when Bryce was about three, I noticed him tugging at his penis in the bathtub. Casually, I asked him what he was doing. “I am playing with my castle,” he said. The circumcised ring around the tip of his penis did resemble the deck of a castle. I never looked at any penis the same way again.
Potty training a boy is extra tough. After six months of wet pants and extra underwear in plastic bags, Bryce finally got the urinating thing down. Then, he refused to use his potty and insisted on peeing standing up into the toilet. He seemed completely unable to control the first and last bits of flow. The steady stream would take a spasm-like loop around the bathroom floor. If I didn’t clean up the pee immediately after its arrival, my nose would remind me of it the next day. I asked my husband to give our son penis management lessons. He showed him “the varying hold”, which seemed to involve squeezing the penis varying amounts depending on the outflow. My husband also showed him “the shake”. A successful shake whisks the last bit of urine off the penis and into the bowl, not onto the wall. Bryce paid careful attention to his father’s repeated lessons.
Bryce gave me another penis lesson when he was five. We were watching “Singing in the Rain”. Although he loved the title performance, Bryce was somewhat restless during the romantic dances between sweet, wholesome Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly. Bryce was transfixed, however, when Gene danced with black-banged Cyd Charrisse, who played a gangster broad, more interested in money than love. She offered her long leg to Gene’s face. They danced in a low, tango-like style. By the end of the number, she dumped Gene and went back to her richer patrons. Afterwards, Bryce said, “My penis feels tickly.”
“Oh no”, I thought. Why didn’t Bryce’s penis get tickly when loyal, talented Debbie Reynolds kissed Gene Kelly in the sunset? Is he only turned on by vixens? Bryce’s next lessons in penis management will span decades.
Beth Touchette’s essay Two Mermaids appears in Mamas Write.
O is a theme for me this year. I turned 45, which is OLD. I realize that “old” is relative, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling that way.
My son is turning 18 in a few months, which also makes me feel…old! The lines forming above my lip remind me of an old tortoise’s mouth. The toddler in my neighborhood who stops to look for ladybugs on my silvery front yard bush definitely makes me feel old since we had a toddler when we moved here. My tree swing out front often has little neighbor kids surrounding it. Again, old. [Read More...]
Falling in love was always easy for me. It started at age 6. Maybe I was younger than most when it happened, but when I fell, it was head over heels, bright as the sun kind of love.
Not talking boys but sci-fi and fantasy. Star Trek, Doctor Who, Star Wars, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, Battlestar Galactica, Lord of The Rings, Blade Runner, Indiana Jones, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Harry Potter, Firefly, Buffy, Lost, Game of Thrones, Fringe, Supernatural and Marvel superheroes. Within 15 minutes of cracking these books or watching these shows and movies, I fell hopelessly, enthusiastically, obsessively in love. [Read More...]
I tried to kill my late wife.
This was in 1996, fourteen years before she would breathe for the final time, minutes after midnight on August 30, 2010, after a five-year struggle with breast cancer.
I attempted murder the day after my brother married along Boston’s harbor, in front of nearly 300 people, including John Denver, who was managed by my brother’s in-laws and sang at the ceremony, most of whom snaked through the hotel for the conga and the hora.
Many of us gathered the next day for a fancy brunch with mimosas and glasses clinking and a sumptuous spread of sliced fruits and vegetables and platters of smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese, and tuna fish. There were two chairs in front of me as Verna stood facing the opposite direction. I grabbed the chair on the right unaware that Verna was already lowering herself into it. [Read More...]
We shared a room for a couple of years until she moved out. At last, after watching her sign to an invisible being in the ceiling above her bed, it was long overdue. My father did not know what to do with a daughter who was deaf. She had made it through high school in New York City where people were more used to difference. My hope is that she was not made fun of there. I know when she was younger her atonal voice and her attempts to communicate in public were made fun of. [Read More...]
Writing started off as something done in secret or in the few stray moments I could catch during the day. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to write about and tried different things to give it structure. I pulled out textbooks from graduate school and even my master’s theses since that was the last thing that I’d written that was longer than a to-do list or a note that said “Do not wake the baby!”
My writing slowly progressed to something that formed complete sentences and paragraphs, but I still wasn’t happy with the way they sounded. I switched writing gears and tried fiction for fun. As least it would be practice and it was hard to do research while I was traveling over the holidays. [Read More...]