This March writing challenge is organized by Two Writing Teachers
I stand in the kitchen, waiting idly for the coffee to brew and the bread to toast. I look at the coffee cup I've picked out, and the name of the woman who gave it to me as part of a Secret Santa exchange comes to me. "Pam," I say out loud, remembering what a kind person she was. It's been ten years since I worked with her. Then I notice the stock pot waiting to be washed, and snort, "Tiffany!" thinking of the teenaged co-worker who brought it to my house-warming party as I transitioned from my last retail job to my first teaching job. She was kind of an idiot, but I've used that stock pot for two decades and counting.
Now I'm on a roll, and I look around the kitchen for more gifts. Miki and Jenn gave The Winemaker that espresso machine for his 30th birthday, and he himself gave me the bright red tea kettle. The microwave and fridge are hand-me-downs from one sister, and the end table piled high with paper detritus was a hand-me-down from the other. Carla gave me that "Bloom where you're planted" magnet, Jenn gave us the "Each grape holds a bit of sunshine within" one, Andy the Puerto Rican waterfall one, and my sisters, again, with the chicken magnet.
That blue bowl is one my mother-in-law picked out for us at a ceramics show, the painting of flowers is from a sister, the photo of a rainbow over the small town I served in Peace Corps is from Aija and Normunds, and the photo of Mt. Hood is my dad's work, framed and signed and given to me by him. The Kitchenaid was my parent's wedding gift to us, the small bowl there a wedding gift from my friend Jane's parents, and that big painting of grapes was a wedding gift from my mother-in-law's former boss, who sent it to us despite having never met us.
The Winemaker helped the kids make me that wooden footstool for my birthday, way back during that first summer they were with us.
My sister dropped off the cheerful pot of hot pink cyclamen on the anniversary of our dad's death last month.
The bedraggled 3D snowflake that should really come down was brought home from school by my daughter and presented to me with great pride.
Coffee in the cup, toast buttered, I sit on the couch and ponder the way my connection to things gets folded up with my connection to people. I understand the Kondo point of view, that the things aren't actually the people, so keeping a simple photo, or ONE key item, is a better way to remember people without cluttering your life. But all the same, to drink coffee from this mug reminds me both of the person who gave it to me, and of the importance of kindness even between co-workers who aren't intimate friends. The value spirals on itself--the object is important to me because of who gave it to me, the gift reminds me of certain specific traits of friendship and generosity I want to embody as well, the positive emotions of remembering the object's giver means that it now qualifies both as something I "know to be useful" and "believe to be beautiful" to bring in a much earlier interior design thinker.
Then I look back at my post, and wonder if I should take the whole last paragraph out. Must my writing have an end goal, an "aha" moment? Or given the spirit of a "slice of life," is it enough to just share the gifts I became aware of, trusting the reader to make their own conclusions? Is the "meaning" implicit in the title? I'm leaving it in so any readers can let me know their take on it!
The things we have often tell stories. You made your stories visible with emotion. As for your question - you make the choice. Both ways are fine.ReplyDelete
I like your last paragraph and how it ties up your connections with the memories of those who have come in and out of your life.ReplyDelete
Such an interesting writing question! I know for me in my writing, it really depends on the piece and what I'm trying to achieve. I generally like to leave more up to the reader, but I'll add the reflective component if my purpose in writing the piece is more reflective, more about me and my thinking than about trying to achieve a certain effect or artfulness with my writing. The more artful I'm trying to be, the more I'll try to cut the reflection and let the details speak for themselves. But many of my pieces are more reflective and need the final aha moment to really work, I think. I've read your piece both ways now and my preference is to keep the final paragraph. Without the final paragraph, it reads more like a description of pieces in your kitchen that were gifts, a kind of prose poem cataloguing, and that's nice, but for me, the virtue in the piece is that reflective component, how these small items that you use every day become more meaningful when you step back and think about why you actually use them and what relationships they signal and remind you of. I love how the piece gains a certain circularity when you sit down with the coffee and toast from the first line; it feels full and complete now, like an action has been begun and finished.ReplyDelete
Great slice. I like it with the last paragraph.ReplyDelete
Loved this post and you asked about something that I think many of us struggle with. I also ponder between ending with a question or a lesson learned or just telling the story.ReplyDelete
I love how things can trigger memories of people who we're a part of our lives at one time or another. I enjoyed reading it.ReplyDelete
I wrote today about trusting your inner writer - what does your inner writer say to you about this last paragraph? That's your best gauge, outside of an editor.ReplyDelete
P.S. I really enjoyed your memories connected to the objects - I do the same. I could sense the depth of your gratitude for each person, including the teenager!ReplyDelete
I love how you told a story through the little things in your life. Every gift was gift by somebody whom made an impact- beautiful to say the least.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed your slice and am inspired to try looking around at my things and their connections to others. I think it depends on the piece whether you tie it up with an "aha" or just leave it be. I think this one works well with the connections you made in the last paragraph.ReplyDelete
She was kind of an idiot, but I've used that stock pot for two decades and counting...Love that! I can name every student who ever gave me a teacher mug, and often think of old friends who still have something represented in my home--even the ones who were "idiots". Loved your piece and how you pulled it all together with the last paragraph.ReplyDelete
I like the last paragraph. I think it ties everything together. :)ReplyDelete
Aj @ Read All The Things!