Monday, April 1, 2019

That One Day

I hadn’t even looked at my blog for a long time. I AM a writer. I have written curriculum with kids, I have written books, chapters and articles about teaching. I wrote lengthy newsletters to my students’ parents about what we did each week in class and why we did it. I wrote during my class’ writing workshop. I’ve written songs, responses to books, lots of things. Really.

But I let this blog go. I stopped writing about the essential every day noticings a writer needs in order to sustain an edge, that look at the world, that observational stance, which makes one more careful, more watchful, more keen to pick up on little things that make a big difference. We live those moments all the time. But writing about them gives them their rightful place in our lives.

It’s all those small stories that make up the big story of our life. And when you write them down, they find their importance.

Here’s one. A couple weekends ago, Heidi and I went up to our son’s house. He and his wife bought this honey of a place in Tega Cay. It had just been flipped. The previous owner went through as fast as possible and slapped down carpet over tile, ignored drainage issues, and painted surfaces that deserved a little more TLC before being whitewashed over.

Devin found mold behind some sheetrock and had to gut a downstairs room. Carpet had to be pulled up, plasterboard broken up and removed, everything needed to be bleached. He had to get it all down to the bare bones. Not pleasant but necessary. He invited me up for the construction. 

Neither of us had ever done any extensive rebuilding like this. Instead of replacing the sheetrock we used tongue-and-groove pine boards. There were four outlets on the wall, space for trim, lots of measuring and cutting. It’s not like it was all that hard to figure out what to do. It’s just that we figured it out together.

Here is this big strong man, who I used to carry on my shoulders, who used to delight me with his first insect discoveries, his first guitar licks, his first tricks on a skateboard, catching his first bass. Then his first crush, his first car, his first experiences in college. Then getting into grad school, getting that doctorate, marrying the love of his life, buying his first house.

That one day of us figuring out – Measure twice, cut once! – on the edge of understanding, of making small mistakes and figuring out how to fix them so no one would notice but us. That one day of measuring and cutting, of drilling and screwing, of trimming over larger than expected spaces and spackling and calking in places where it was needed. That one day of laughing and reminiscing and catching up on the miles and time between us. That one day of sawdust in our noses and too loud noises in our ears, of cool water drinks and fast food sandwiches. That one day.

If you’d asked me on Monday what I did over the weekend, I probably would have said, “Heidi and I went up to Devin and Shae’s and we refinished his sunroom.” But it was more than that. It was that one day.

I looked over the little profile piece for this blog. Sheesh, it is out of date. I will do the necessary repairs to the blurb, but after teaching little kids for thirty-eight years, I am a retired classroom teacher. It feels weird to say it, to write it, to be it. When I find myself at Lowe’s at 9:00 some random weekday morning to get paint for that shed I’ve let go for so long, it still feels weird. When I look at the clock throughout the day I wonder what my old class, my old best friends are doing right now. When it’s recess time I wonder if they are playing the games we used to play. I wonder what books they are reading, what science they are learning, how their writing is coming along. I wonder if they laugh as much as we used to. I wonder if they still read books that make them cry.

Here is a little piece Heidi and I published in a book called 
Open a World of Possible

That being said – here comes the part that sounds trite – I am working on my first novel. I told you I am a writer. But don’t many people, at some time or another, start their first novel (and never get it finished, never get it right, never get it submitted, never get it accepted, never get it published)?

I have been working pretty seriously since September, and it is more than half finished – well, the rough draft. I do understand that a ton of work has to be done in the finishing. You know, filling in where there are gaps, trimming over larger than expected spaces, calking, spackling, measuring twice and cutting once. So far I’ve only measured once. But I’ll get there.

Thing is, it doesn’t feel like work. In some ways I have been preparing for this for my entire adult life. I have read the greats (Stephen King - On Writing, Strunk and White – The Elements of Style, Ralph Fletcher – What a Writer Needs, William Zinsser – On Writing Well).

I know that in future blog posts I will write more about my sixth grade characters set in northwest Indiana, in a Catholic school, in the 1967-68 school year. Back in the day there were 170 school days. The working title is One Hundred Seventy Days With Marilyn.

I hope that you stay on board.

I’ll be back.

I promise.

1 comment:

The Dashboard Poet said...

The way you drove home the value; the quality of "that one day," is mighty. I mean powerful! It returned me to time spent with family and friends, and the essential purpose of needful time spent. Thank you for your post. And I am so pleased that you're back and writing. Please stay with us. We (as a collective) need (require!) voices like yours to add breadth and depth to our lives. It would much please me if we were ever to meet, face to face, one day. But whether that is, or is not possible, I consider you a friend.

~ Jim