Tag: family

Finish Lines

It’s Wednesday evening, and I’m thinking about this year’s journey through March.  I hurt my foot the other day (I don’t know how), and I joked to the other slicers at my school that I was literally and figuratively limping to the finish line.  My foot feels better today, though.  

I started the month by writing about how the ticking of a clock could sometimes untether me from the present, sending me back into all sorts of memories.  This month I wrote car memories and called them auto-biographies.  I wrote writing memories stirred by old letters and postcards.  I wrote reading memories inspired by my favorite books.  All of these memories grew out of entries by other writers in the Slice of Life Challenge.  I also wrote pieces about the people (and the animal) I live with at home right now and the people I live with at school right now.  So, that’s the past and the present.  I didn’t write much about the future.

This morning I was talking with Jess, a fellow slicer I have the privilege of working with.  She spoke about her husband saying that her slices had made their family’s life “cute.”  That’s not the adjective I would have used, but even so, I don’t think that she does that in a bad way or a disingenuous way.  I think she chooses what she wants to capture, the nuggets that the sieve holds back while other moments slip through.  I told her that I’ve had a little tug of war going on in my head and heart this month.  I have wanted to write the truth, but I’ve also tried to focus mostly on positive memories and observations.  I’ve worried that in doing so I might seem glib, writing mostly about the good or silly moments, even as world news has felt so grim.  I may have curated these posts to the point that someone reading them in the future might think life was pretty great in 2022…or I was pretty shallow.  I think I wrote to cheer myself up or to remind myself that every day holds positive moments or to remember that positive memories have pulled me through other difficult times.  

Tonight, though, my ticking clock has me thinking about the future, and I admit that I have fears and concerns.  The leader in Russia makes me angry and sad and apprehensive.  The former leader of our country makes me disgusted and worried that he might rise again.  The divisions and the anger in our country give me pain.  And some of the behaviors I see in school make me fearful about the mental health of our kids.  We have scars from this pandemic and the years that preceded it, and it may take a long time for us to heal.  One person I read said we, as a country or world, are collectively grieving the things and people that we’ve lost over the past two years.  I think he’s right, though some may be in denial.

Those thoughts played on my mind throughout this month.  That I didn’t write about them much was partly a choice made out of self-defense…and perhaps out of mercy for the people reading my entries.  As Jess said this morning, “I’m thinking about the energy that I’m giving off.  We have more than enough of the negative kind.”  

As someone who is well-acquainted with grief, I think there are some lessons in this writing challenge that can help anyone who is grieving.  One is that writing and drawing and photographing can help us find and preserve the things that we love and value.  Another is that reading the words of other people, learning about their loves and their daily struggles, can make us more aware, more empathetic, and more human.  And finally, responding to those “others” by looking for the good in their words and finding the connections to our own experiences, makes them feel less like “others” and more like “us.”

I’m so grateful for the people at Two Writing Teachers who made this community possible, and so grateful to all the writers who shared both their stories and their feedback.  I don’t have the energy to continue this kind of writing every day of the year, but I know that when I pass the finish line and land on April first, I will really miss this community.

Overdue Replies

Kim Haynes Johnson wrote a slice that mentioned sending post cards to her grandchildren so that they know the pleasure of getting mail.  I told her I’d saved a bunch of cards from when I was little.  I also realized I probably never wrote back.

Dear Grandma,

Sorry I took 58 years to respond.   Thanks for the post card with that cool new ‘astrojet.’  I got three new matchbox cars for my birthday that year.  One was a Lincoln Continental. You could actually open the doors, the trunk, and the hood.  I played with it for another six years, but somewhere along the line I decided I wasn’t a car guy.  Maybe it was a good thing that Uncle Michael and his racing cars lived 1000 miles away.

Love,

Peter

 Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks for the beautiful picture of Maroon Bells.  Maybe this card was what inspired me to climb all those Adirondack Mountains.  The swimming was coming along fine, except that I couldn’t float and I was still scared to jump off the diving board.  Don’t worry, by 1972 I could swim across the lake and jump off the tower.  I’m a late bloomer, like those flowers, you know.

Love,

Peter

Dear Grandma,

Thanks for the card with the pictures of the pelicans.  I remembered that rhyme because Mom always likes to recite it.   I’m jealous that you got to see pelicans every morning.  Here’s a fun fact, 11 years after you sent me this card, I got accepted to that college I was waiting to hear from the last time I saw you.  I became an English major just like you, but instead of becoming a journalist, just like you, I decided to become a teacher…who writes.

Love,

Peter

Dear Farfar,

Sorry it’s taken so long for me to write back. Thank you for the card from Belgrade.  I’m glad the FBI didn’t notice that it was a picture of Marx and Engels Square.  They might have confiscated it.  You might be interested to know that Belgrade is back to being the capital of Serbia now, not Yugoslavia.  I’ve never been to either place, but I’d love to see the “Grey Danube” some day.  There’s more fighting in Europe these days. It’s sad and infuriating. Here’s a bit of brighter news:  Your great granddaughter, Sarah, who you never got to meet, is studying to be a Physicians Assistant now.  She’s very proud every time she finds the name of her famous great grandfather in an article or textbook.  

Love,

Peter