Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Jo Lauer
Do you remember when you first heard those words slip out of your mouth? You know, the ones you swore you'd never say, the ones that would define you as "just like your mother." Or gestures, manners of speech, inflections of voice, stride—-anything that would cause you to say, "Oh my God, I'm channeling my mother."
As a child, it was funny, endearing. As a teenager, nothing could be worse. As a young adult, it was cause for mirth and the raise of an eyebrow. As an oldster, missing my mother who died almost three years ago now, it brings nostalgia and a wish that I could share these musings with her.
After her death, my siblings and I had the task of going through her personal items, sorting, keeping, tossing, donating. If you've lost a parent, you know just what this is like. Mom collected things—Hummel statues, plastic containers, cards and letters (according to the boxes, I don't think she ever threw any of them away). And she made notes in journals—-cryptic entries that left us scratching our heads, furrowing our eyebrows, casting furtive looks at one another as we would read from the pages. Long lists of names, not people she knew, just names. The temperature on different days. Words and phrases that caught her fancy. Numbers. Medical terms, without definition.
I was in my office the other day, between clients—-someone had cancelled with short notice, leaving me time to file a nail that had chipped earlier when I banged it on the bathroom counter—rifling through my bag to find an nail file, when I dislodged a miniature journal made of rice paper, bound with raffia, that has been a constant companion in my bag for however long I've had that bag. I keep the journal handy to jot down ideas for writing, capture snippets of conversations that amuse me, and to my astonishment, lists of words or phrases that I didn't want to forget. Here's a sampling:
"There's acute depression, and then not so cute depression;" "death, as a period to your life sentence;" "there's no bottom to dumb;" "just a raggedy-ass guess;" "the smell of extinguished Jack-o-lanterns;" "she sat still as a slab of alabaster;" and from a Facebook entry, "You used to be muchier. You've lost much of your muchiness."
And lists of words:
Enwombed, oblique, lugubrious, transubstantiation, sartorial, oubliette, malodiferous, overmuch, pugugly.
And on one page, just sitting there all by itself:
"Cucumber and ginger facial peal."
These are the sort of things I can "write off" as practical tools of a writer's life, right? Defensible, right? You never know when one of those words or phrases will wind up in a story.
Or perhaps it's genetic. I am, after all, my mother's daughter.
Jo Lauer is a psychotherapist in Santa Rosa, CA. In between clients, she's finishing her novel, Best Laid Plans.
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