A writer needs three things: experience, observation, and imagination,
any two of which, at times, can supply the lack of the others. – William Faulker
As the book comes to a close, I realize that part of coming home to myself included finding my muse again. My genius, as the Romans called it, which had a pen-and-ink quality, died a long slow death, capped with the passing of Gran herself. The final nail in the coffin lid. Everything good ended then, or so it seemed at the time. It’s taken me a long time to find myself again. I didn’t even want to look for a long time. What was the point? Yet now, as each day dawns, I can relax into the joy of just being me.
Gran saw who I was, a long time ago. She saw deeply enough to know that I had a long road ahead. So she took it upon herself, in Gran fashion, to leave clues for me here and there. Like the manuscript. Or like this note I pull from a journal today, flipping it open to see a copy of my first paycheck. One hundred dollars, payable to Mikey, from the magazine Mother Earth News for her first published story, dated 1984. Gran had kept this, tucked away who knows where – and years later she’d mailed it to me in a card, words carefully scrawled inside: “Seems like you always were a step ahead of everyone else.” Did she have any idea how much that would mean to me? I think she did.
Gran and I used to talk about writing. Back then, I was sure that was my path in life, and I was well on my way. Fake fur stole around my neck and a big straw hat on my head, I was already long-term publisher of the Family Gazette, which specialized in dragging out the family mud much like I dragged around my oldest sister’s fancy high-heeled sandals, clunking awkwardly, unsure of the true power of the word (or those shoes, for that matter). The annals of that grandiose publication will go down in history with the stories of Princess the Cat’s latest litter, family skeletons that were supposed to still be in the closet, and a potential brother-in-law who was, and I quote, “handsome, handsome indeed.”
In the midst of all this, Gran would sometimes slow me down just enough to ask what I thought it meant to be a writer – and I couldn’t tell her. I played with words and ideas without thought, without care, without consciousness. I played with words in my sleep. They were my favorite toys. I fancied myself a reporter, some Big-Shot-Big-Wig-Lois-Lane Foreign Correspondent on a Top Notch Job, worshipped from afar by my adoring fans. (And rightly so – it was an amazing fake fur stole. I know it was, because I paid good money for it at that garage sale on Route 66. It must have been at least five bucks. What a steal! They didn’t know what they had… silly grownups.)
These days, I think of Gran whenever someone blinks at my name and say, “Hey, don’t I know that name? Are you a writer?” Each time, for a single heartbeat I slip back to Gran’s front porch. Am I a writer? Heck yeah, Gran, I am a writer. And finally I think I’m beginning to learn a little bit about what that really means, thank you for asking. No, really – thank you for asking!
(Excerpted from Going Home, Mary Batson)
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