Today and throughout the month of November I am participating in National Novel Writing Month ("NaNoWriMo"). In order to get 50,000 words in 30 days, I figure I need to average around 1650 words per day.
I'm using NaNoWriMo to generate memoir material on as of yet unexplored topics. On occasion I may post bits and pieces here.
It is difficult already, because part of the challenge is not to self-edit--something at which I excel. I'm trying really hard just to let the words flow and not come out like a completed product as I normally would strive for. I am tempted to sit here and explain in detail that parts of my writing that I want to work on, but to be honest, I'm emotionally exhausted. Even just THINKING ABOUT the material on which I'm writing today makes me cry like a baby, and it has worn me out.
Here is a little bit of free-writing that I did as part of my first NaNoWriMo writing. It's unplanned and unstructured. It's more of a collection of memories and impressions than an actual story. But here it is.
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Occasionally people will ask questions like, “Where would you go if you could go anywhere?” My head always jumps to the years of approximately 1982-1985. All of my grandparents were there, there were still a lot of bad things I hadn't yet seen, I still believed in Santa Claus, and I still thought I was meant for great things.
On second thought…let’s stick to 1982. Kindergarten in Miss Wilking’s class was a good time for me.
I didn’t know it at the time, because I didn’t know any different, but there was something special about going to my paternal grandparents’ house and being surrounded by my entire family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Everybody ate and talked and argued and smoked and laughed all at once. They were a noisy, rowdy, and occasionally raunchy bunch. My grandpa and uncles told dirty jokes that I didn’t understand and didn’t find funny. My grandmother encouraged us kids to eat more tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers and less chips and cookies. And my cousins and I ran through the house, up the back steps, and across the steep backyard and back again, constantly on the move in case we were missing something. There was a feel of excitement in the air.
Negotiations of who would get to spend the night with whom began early, and we planned and coordinated our strategy like seasoned army generals. Crouching on the front porch, away from the earshot of adults, we organized our attack and planned for the fun that would follow our sleepover victory.
“Let me ask pappy and grandmother first. They’ll say yes. Once they say yes, your dad won’t be able to say no.”
“When we play school, I get to be the teacher.”
“You always get to be the teacher!”
“That’s because I’m the oldest and I know how to write in cursive like a teacher.”
“No you don’t! You don’t write real letters—you just pretend to cross t’s and dot i’s!”
I can remember the smell and the feel of the lush blackberry bushes up on the hill in the back yard like it was just yesterday. I can feel the bars of the swingset on the backs of my knees like I am still hanging upside down from them. I can see the rust patches on the swingset, and feel it jump when I swing too high. I can remember the chalky residue the paint left on my sweaty hands. I can hear my cousins’ shouts, and I can see my family down the hill grilling burgers and drinking beer.
The air is hot and sticky—the humid remnants of a summer day in the mountains of West Virginia—and the fireflies begin to come out at dusk. I can still feel their ticklish legs walking around inside my cupped hands, trying to strike the balance between keeping them securely cloistered away and being careful not to crush them. (Once my stepdad thought he would be clever and he squished the butt of a firefly to get the glow-in-the-dark light out. He put in on my finger like a diamond ring as I stared in horror at what he had done and started to cry.) I can hear the rise of the cricket chirps in the grass as the air begins to cool and the night approaches. I am once again filled with the desire to fill a jar with fireflies and take care of them—my own personal night-light forever and always.