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May 13, 2011 / lynnettedobberpuhl

Creative Nonfiction Class

I went to a free creative nonfiction class at my local library last night and it was a blast! It is so exciting to sit down and listen to an instructor who has been through the ups and downs of the writing and publishing process and who had lots of great tips on ways to practice the subtleties that make the difference between telling the facts and telling a story. Our instructor’s name was Kate Hopper and she has a memoir coming out this fall entitled Small Continents about having a premature baby, and how the experience transformed her life and family. Below please find something I wrote for a class exercise, and I just want to say that my mom isn’t going to be featured in every blog post I write, but I hope she likes this one better. Thanks for stopping in!

My mother brought the party with her wherever she went, but never more so than when she went to the nursing home, the Good Samaritan Center, the Good Sam. She’d get out of the car, dragging us reluctant girls along, smiling and bouncing up the sidewalk on her high heels, past the wizened old men on the bench who waved their fly swatters playfully at her backside as she went by. “It makes their day,” she shushed us when we complained.

Inside, she glowed in her bright dresses and shiny jewelry, catching the gazes of the shrunken people shuffling in the corridor or sagging against the fabric bands that held them upright in their wheelchairs. As we smothered in the heat and smell of extreme old age—scented powder, urine—she moved among the residents like a movie star or beauty queen. She took the quivering hands they held out to her and called them by name, smiling, always smiling, as she listened to their breathy mumbles. “Shirley, I can’t imagine what happened to your hairbrush, but we’ll ask the nurse about it,” she assured one. “Oh, Harold, what wonderful news! I am sure you will have a great visit when your daughter comes.” We all knew the score. The daughter wasn’t coming this week just like she hadn’t been there any of the other weeks. That was why we were there.

When we reached the piano in the rec room, my mom pulled the sheet music out of her bag and began the parade of hits from thirty, forty or fifty years before: loud, lively music evoking dances, parades, better days. Heads lifted, eyes gleamed; flowers turning toward the sun. 

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10 Comments

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  1. Kay Young / May 13 2011 11:53 am

    On Creative Nonfiction Class. Okay–you won’t write about me every time, and I won’t comment EVERY time. But regarding this one–I remember those days, too. I knew you didn’t really enjoy all the things I dragged you to, but you were almost always compliant. Thank you for that and thank you for refreshing my memory. I wept! I am so proud of you!

  2. Kate Hopper / May 13 2011 2:10 pm

    Lynnette, I love this, and Kay, I love the way you shine in her writing.

    So wonderful to meet you, Lynnette. Good luck with the book. Keep me posted. (Oh, and Small Continents is being shopped around right now. Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers will be out next spring.)

    Be in touch!

    Warmly,
    Kate

    • lynnettedobberpuhl / May 13 2011 2:55 pm

      Thanks for the corrections, and sorry I got the information wrong! I was a little rattled when I realized I was late last night, so I am going to blame that for my errors. Best of luck with the memoir, and I look forward to Use Your Words!

  3. Kelly Thompson / May 14 2011 12:05 am

    Dig the new theme on the blogsite – much better than the first one. And great job on the writing exercise. I can absolutely picture your mom and I know just how she was smiling, too! Can’t wait to read your next post.

  4. Mich / May 14 2011 8:50 am

    Yeah, I got teary too, reading that — the clincher was the very last, “flowers turning toward the sun.” It’s funny how you don’t realize things when you’re a kid, so much. And even as an adult it has to be pointed out. Thank you for bringing this all to light, Lynnette, and Mom, for being you!!! Love you both!

  5. Kerin Gleason / May 14 2011 5:43 pm

    Your words are absolutely visual – and visceral! Melancholy to those of us who are closer to the “shrunken shuffle” than the “bouncing beauty queen”. Nostalgic to those whom have shared in the experience one way or another. Beautiful to those who feel your words bathe us in the real love shown in the understanding of human nature (old and young) and making life better for someone – whether as the reader of your prose or the people who shared the music so long ago. The mix is overwhelming – you are AWESOME!

    • lynnettedobberpuhl / May 17 2011 8:05 am

      Thank you, you make me blush! And you have quite a way with words yourself! Thanks for all your support.

  6. Cheryl Mills / May 15 2011 5:50 pm

    Lynnette, Enjoyed this so much…your mom is such a special person. She still lights up the room and it’s such a privilege to know her. Blessings on your writing endeavors.

  7. Ruby Sharp (Your Mom's Friend in CO.) / May 15 2011 7:47 pm

    Lynette and Kay,
    Thanks for sharing. Your Mom is still as wonderful and loving. We are so blessed to have her here in CO. and so are the people at the Ass’t. Living here.

    Ruby Sharp

  8. Vikki Irvin / May 31 2011 11:05 pm

    You are right Lynnette, your mom does bring the party with her where ever she goes and we at Good Sam still miss her greatly! She brought so much life to the facility whenever she played the piano and shared a visit with people. Your writing is delightful and I greatly enjoyed your stories! Keep up the great work! Please stop up and visit us if you are ever back in town, just to refresh your memories, it does not smell of extreme old age or urine! 😉

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