O the Places You Will Go

Today’s “Rag Tag Daily Prompt” is “Tangled Shoelaces” and my fourth thought on this topic is Velcro. When the little girl who lives up the alley comes to visit me, the bright pink laces on her shoes are ALWAYS untied. It drives me crazy. The first words out of my mouth are not “Hi Michelle!” as they should be, but, instead, the first words are, “Tie your shoes!” Then I’m amazed to be an adult telling a kid to tie her shoes. SO my next thought is “How did I get to be that grownup?” and then I understand.

I love Michelle. I don’t want her to fall on her way to see me. I was saying, “I love you, little girl, for the love of god, DON’T FALL!

Among the “souvenirs” I unearthed a couple days ago, and in the same folder with the dog stories, is the first really good short story I ever wrote. I was working at the law firm. My desk and typewriter were in an immense room (pre-cubicle working world) with a dozen other secretaries and paralegals not to mention the sainted word processing machine and its operator. I didn’t have anything to do so I sat there and dreamed of faraway places and wrote stuff, including the story I found yesterday. I sent it to the New Yorker back then. Of course, it was rejected but with a REAL note, “I’m sorry. I tried. It’s a good story.”

I was 27 at the time I wrote it. I was living about a mile from the 17th Street law firm where I worked, and I walked to and from work every day. Those walks are a large part of the story. The story itself is about my dad, my maternal grandmother and my relationship with them.

It was painful to read, not because it’s poorly written (it isn’t) or anything like that, but because so much has happened in the 40 odd years that have passed since I wrote it (for the most part odd) that the very serious things in the story seem far away and juvenile. After I read it I put it away in the folder (but I didn’t toss it!) and thought, “Well, that’s embarrassing.”

Later, I thought about that young woman (I was) and thought, “How could she possibly have KNOWN? She did the best she could with what she had. It’s not embarrassing. What if she were your student? What would you say to her? You wouldn’t say the story is embarrassing. You’d say, ‘Nice work! Keep writing’. Why are you harder on your former self (selves) than you’d be on anyone else? You didn’t pop into the world completely finished, sweet cheeks.”

True enough.

I remembered how she (I) had written and written and written but really had NO story. The reality is that young woman had THAT story, and she wrote it.

“Good for you,” I thought. “That’s what matters. Write the story you have.”

It took years and a lot of scary life experiences for me to find my story. There was no way I could have known it would be where I found it or even that there was such a place in the whole world. I couldn’t have known what it would be. It was far far far away from anything I could possibly have imagined in 1979. The ONE thing I understood in 1979 was that reality is stranger than any imagined world.

13 thoughts on “O the Places You Will Go

  1. Sounds like you had a champion at the New Yorker who didn’t have quite enough power. Oh well! I’m glad you got the note, and I hope you took it as encouragement it was intended to be.

    Isn’t it an odd mix of chagrin and delight when you stumble upon something you wrote long ago? Sometimes, I think, “Whoa; that was good!” but at the time I wrote it, I thought it was crap. Different lenses, less baggage. We were so hard on ourselves.

    • “I was so much older than, I’m younger than that now…” πŸ˜‰ Or something. But it doesn’t matter. The purpose of life is to go walking with one’s dogs. ❀

    • Tracy, it’s a good story. If it were not my story about my life, I’d not have been embarrassed by it. I couldn’t have known when I was 27 all the other stuff that was going to happen and looking back on it from here was kind of surreal. As for it being worth hearing voices of all ages — we don’t have a choice. πŸ˜‰

        • At 27 I was 3 years away from China. I don’t think it had even occurred to me yet. I got my MA that year, was involved with Peter (complicated boyfriend) — lots hadn’t happened yet.

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