I struggle with where to begin my story. Every day.
I ponder for a good couple hours while I have my morning coffee, take my a.m. pills, shower, drive to the doctor’s office, eat dinner, watch Blacklist, play Tetris, take my p.m. pills, read myself to sleep,etc. You name it, I’m wondering where to start. I’m wondering where to start so much that I can’t, and that is how you find yourself with a really stupid case of writer’s block.
You’d think someone with so many places to start wouldn’t have a problem. I’d expect to have some sort of typing diarrhea; not verbal constipation.
Then I start to consider the physical and philosophical properties of time. When one begins to truly delve into the definition of a beginning, a true start to a tale to be told, you get the urge to find out When, and your When can be defined by a number of things. It can be defined by a What. What was most traumatic? That’s not a great place to start if you want to be kind to your reader. I’m not overly enamoured with coddling my audience, but I’d rather not inspire my reader to get up and leave within the first five minutes of my story. And believe me, I have that ability. Don’t let my gently dissheveled and frumpy demeanor trick you into thinking my life is full of mild moments of clarity, no. I’ve got more gross and horrifyingly uncomfortable stories to relate than you, or I, for that matter, could possibly stomach.
Last Thanksgiving I was banned from telling stories at the dinner table while people were eating.
“Pshshshsht. Amateurs,” I thought. Then I looked around me at my family, the people who, during the past 42 years, either heard these stories during a meal enough times to be true authorities on which of my stories are nauseating and which are not, or were witness to and participated in the clean up. I also saw my new-ish sweetheart sitting beside me, who had been doing an absolutely stunning job of charming my parents, making friends with my little sister and actually making my mother laugh.
“Really?” I whined. “But I always tell these stories. You guys think they’re funny.”
The people at the family restaurant seated around us who were enjoying their Thanksgiving dinners probably wondered what table game we had brought with us. Or was it charades?
“Really.” My Mom chuckled. If cleaning up my bodily fluids earned you a merit badge, my Mom would be the equivalent of an Eagle Scout, or whatever the highest rank of Boy Scouts equates to for motherhood. I can’t really argue her on this point. Although, in my defense, she tells the same stories at times. So this really was probably her fault.
“But it IS funny …”
I slumped into my booth seat and played with my mashed potatoes. I had already convinced my parents to have Thanksgiving at a truck stop diner (shut up, the food is fine if you’re hard up for a traditional turkey dinner at the last minute in Portland), and despite some deep and understandable initial misgivings, my sweetheart had fully particitpated thus far in the day’s festivities.
“Are you really grossed out by it? I mean, you were THERE.”
“It’s not that we don’t like your stories,” my mom started.
“OH MY GOD. HOW LONG HAVE YOU FELT THIS WAY??”
She and my father shared a glance, and my sweetheart may have interjected that we could just hear the stories later, at home, or maybe much, much later – as in never, or at least after everyone had cleared their plate.
“I don’t mind,” my sister offered, as she continued to eat. She’s 14 years younger than me, which means I was the Built In Babysitter. Her nonchalant attitude was clearly a sign that I raised her right. It also told me that my parents and sweetheart had suddenly acquired sticks up their butts.
“Alright.” I conceded, strictly to show that I COULD in fact be civilized, and was, furthermore, full of the holiday spirit. I was going to spirit the SHIT out of this holiday.
But I was not going to eat the sweet potatoes, because they tasted like dessert, and I don’t want my dinner to taste like dessert. I want my pie to taste like dessert, and getting rid of my sweet potatoes got me that much closer to pie. I gave them to my sister as a reward for taking my side. She was stoked. I ordered pumpkin pie, with a side of mild holiday resentment. Too gross for dinner. Whatever.
Several minutes of somewhat comfortable silence followed. I swear, my family is secretly Lutheran. We do have Scandinavian roots. They really should have acknowledged at that point that I carry the conversation at meal times, and thanked me.
I can’t say that Thanksgiving dinner was ruined, though, because I come from good people. My sweetheart was also solid, we’re still best friends. And I have a super sharp eye for a clean plate.
“OK, everyone done? Let me tell you the story of The Biggest Snot Balloon Ever.”