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.