Thursday, November 24, 2022

the written word


Ed Ruscha

Dear So & So, and You & You,

I woke up wondering what in the world to bring to the potluck.  Roasted squash?  Gingerbread?  Cheese and crackers?  Shortbread?  Jello?  None of that sounds right. 

Next I wondered what kind of narrative a son or daughter would create of the deeds and words of a parent.  What story would one write:  My mother was a good woman.  My mother was honest.  My mother was a fish, she smoked, she vacuumed up my toys out of spite.  My mother was distant, on another planet.  She never had time for me, just her cases.  My mother had eyes in the back of her head.  My mother was an octopus.  My mother could fix anything.  My mother soothed with chocolate.  My mother always sprayed stinging medications on injuries.  My mother was vain, she obsessed over her looks.  My mother was heartbroken that she could not fit into the standards of beauty.  My mother never learned to drive.  My mother was confident.  My mother was controlling.  My mother worried too much.  My mother didn't care enough.  My mother let me down, she lifted me up, she put me on a pedestal and I could never live up to it.    

Why such a narrative in the first place?  Because people will ask you who you are and why you are.  You will be called upon to have to some answers, and people are accepting of the kind of answer that seems to contain causality:  I am this way because my parents were that way.

This is not all I woke up thinking about; I was also counting the books on the shelf, and thinking about writing.

When I was in preschool* they would write, on little lined sheets of paper, stories I would dictate.  I always supposed all 3 and 4 year olds narrated in this way; but now, I wonder.  I was inordinately pleased with these little sheets of loose paper.  Like the murky, magical workings of the world had been captured and made manifest.  Look at this amazing evidence of the invisible mind!  Look at how it can be read, over and over!  And so, maybe, everyone does "write" these stories in preschool, but maybe not everyone experiences their words on the page as a miracle.

* Preschool was my introduction to formal education, which, when we moved, was put on hiatus until I was 16; community college.  The other 12 years were spent in what would now be called "unschooling."