“Tell me a story,” I ask. “I can’t sleep, please.” I’d plead. “I was born. The details are not significant. I LIVED. And then one day I will die.” “That’s not a story,” I’d whine. “It has a beginning, middle and an ending. It’s a story.”
My roommate, Marti, would tell me the same story whenever the stresses of college claimed my consciousness and left me alone on the bottom bunk roaming the ether. It amazes me still that she didn’t smack me over the head and bury me under the house because of all those nights that I kept her from sleep. Some friends are like that.
My story starts as hers did. I too was born. My mother, Patsy, best known for factual alteration tends to create the details on the fly. The fiction writer in me follows her lead.
I came into the world late February during a snowstorm. The streets in downtown Denver were clogged by snow that was knee high while the winds, blustery, bitterly cold, sang their freedom song dipping and dodging through skyscrapers and tree branches, wrecking havoc every chance they had. These days, ‘memoir’ doesn’t explicitly imply the facts are concrete, so you’ll no doubt forgive my liberties. I have fuzzy memories of those early days, but unlike Mary Karr, I couldn’t tell you what my Uncle Tubs said to me when I was three.
I swear I was kidnapped by aliens, or maybe in a coma, since I’ve no concrete memories of those early years. Later, there are entire moving pictures, talkies, too, which I’ve come to believe are my foundation. It’s where I’ve built the me of me-upon. My later memories, the ones I remember are of family close and extended sitting around the Maple oval shaped kitchen table, food, music, dancing, followed by storytelling. My life’s story connects through these memories.
My family is exotic with juicy secrets that the elders tried to take to their graves, but on a good night, if the wine was flowing and the music just so, it was a evening overflowing with vignettes. Even the food prepared for a meal had a back-story. Grandma Della made Depression Bread, Josie made Prune Pie, and when there wasn’t much money, there was Green Chili Stew and tortillas. A meal wasn’t a meal without a story and musical accompaniment. Music, like food, continues to evoke intense sensory memories.
My father, Billy Bucks, would stack a selection of albums on the Magnavox, and as each album dropped down on the turn table he’d tell me the history of what that song meant to him, where he was when he heard it, and oh by the way, I saw Eddie Fisher sing the song at a club on Sunset Blvd….
I travelled from that Maple Oval table in my mother’s kitchen, all the way to London, only to return with my own table of stories.
Mine is a farmhouse, Pine, and rectangular. From that table I wrote my own tales upon the blue, wafer thin, Par Avion paper. When I was too blue, consumed with homesickness, I created imaginary bliss on those pages that I sent home. (My only regret is not having written those letters on a computer, oh, the stories.) Writing letters is where I am most at home with voice and factual alteration. Even though I found my passion in creating my stories years after I moved back from ole Blighty, I do continue to write letters.
My life long Grrl-pal, Shirl, the one friend I’d have to enter the FBI Witness Protection Program, to escape, had saved the letters I wrote to her from across the pond and told me when I re-settled in the colonies, “Bren, you should be a writer.” After a lifetime of hearing stories, being a part of story, telling my own stories, I am at last settled in for the long haul, and creating my very own.
There was never a choice, not really. Who I am is a story.
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