You know how when people hear your life stories, they sometimes say, “You should write a book.” I suppose that means over the years, some of my stories must have been interesting to others, and lately, I’ve been thinking about writing that book. While I can’t always remember what I had for dinner last night, I can remember things that happened to me over my lifetime…and I’ve also been known to embellish a little here and there, so I’d be able to come up with stories to fill in any gaps.
It’s 1980 and I’ve just had my eightieth birthday, thank God, for I’m getting close. As much as I swore I hated the idea of a party, my family and friends had one for me anyway…and I ended up having the best time ever. People I hadn’t seen for years surprised me by coming, and of course, talking with them brought back a lot of old memories. Some reminded me of unpleasantness, but I recalled most with fondness.
My husband’s daughter, Sissy, had gone through my drawers of old photos, much to my dismay, for some of them could have been considered damning. She made up some poster boards showing my life at various ages. She meant well, but I couldn’t help but feel that I was a spectator at my own funeral. Plus, I absolutely hated seeing photos of myself in private, much less on public display.
“Remember the old Helm’s Bakery truck?” my husband asked us all. “The moment we saw it stop down the street, we’d rush to our mother to ask for enough money to buy a doughnut or cookie,” someone said. We’d wait, almost jumping in anticipation, until that long wooden drawer rolled out, revealing all the goodies we had to choose from. I said, “I can picture it all clearly. I always chose the brownie, for it was pre-cut into squares and covered in a thin chocolate glaze. Sometimes, if I had enough money in my pocket, I’d get two and hide the second one in a napkin for you, Sarah,” I said, turning to my old friend. “I’ve never had brownies like those since. Yum,” she said.
Sarah had flown in from New York and when I saw her, more old memories flooded back to me; images of her slugging a young boy who constantly teased me, and me bringing her something nice to wear, and watching her change into it while my mother drove us to school. One of my stepchildren from my first marriage was there; sweet William. He was an old man now too, only ten years younger than me, although he looked much younger. He reminded me so much of David, it shocked me when I first saw him; he had that ‘forever youthful’ look about him. I hadn’t seen him in ages and we did a lot of catching up. His brother, who had no children, and his sister, who had two, had never married and still lived in the family home, whereas William had traveled and had married twice; he lost his first wife and divorced his second. His daughter had given him three grandchildren, who were all married with families of their own.
“This is for you, Annie,” he said, handing me a clasped manila envelope. “It’s not a gift, really. Save it for a quiet time.” I couldn’t resist feeling the contents, and then I said, “Old photos, eh?” Suddenly I laughed. “What?” he asked. “Remember when I’d drive you kids somewhere, and I’d hit the brakes?” I laughed again. “We’d lurch forward and laugh our heads off. Then I’d do it again.” “Good God,” William laughed too. “Don’t tell me you did that on purpose? You used to scare the hell out of me. I always thought you were just a terrible driver.” “Oh, my.” I wiped tears from my eyes. “I haven’t giggled like this in years.”
“You know, Annie, those were the best years we ever had with my dad. Before you married, we never saw him.” He smiled. “And then we lost you. We were almost grown by then.” “Oh, sweet William,” I said, taking his hands in mine. “Thank you.”
“What do you think?” I asked my husband about a week after my party. “About what?” He looked at me as though I’d been talking to him about something he hadn’t heard. “About me writing a book?” I asked, wrinkling my face in concentration. I was sitting in front of my computer losing at solitaire. “Oh,” he finally answered. “If that’s what you want to do.” I looked over at him while he went back to his newspaper. “Well, that doesn’t sound too convincing,” I said. “Annie, I think you should do whatever it is you want to.” “Do you think my life has been that interesting?” I asked, knowing the answer I was hoping for. “Of course I do. Just don’t put in any sex scenes. They could be embarrassing.” And he went back to his paper.
So there you have it. I’ve decided to write a book. Now I’d have to figure out what I wanted to write about and then get started. I pulled down a few of my favorite books to see how they’d started. I hadn’t ever read with a critical eye before; like how a book started, I mean. I was sure there was a craft or art about writing, but I didn’t have years to spend learning if I wanted to get anything written before I ran out of good summers. So I started at the beginning..