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Trees, leaves and branches

A few years ago, I dragged my mother along to a psychic over in Harrisburg who is, sadly, no longer there. My reading was relatively uneventful and nothing I hadn't already heard a number of times from other readers (if you're reading this, Mr. Man, we will be incredibly happy together and I will be the envy of my friends for it). My mother had better luck, with the psychic imploring her to begin writing, as soon as possible. "Anything," she said, "anything you want to, but you have a story in you." My mother scoffed. "I'm no writer," she told me in the car on the way home. "I don't write. That's your job." I tried to encourage her, though my mother has a way of being stubborn without admitting to it. We let the subject drop for a while and that seemed to be the end of it.

Until November. November of last year, we flew to Georgia to spend Thanksgiving [read: American holiday where we eat far too much and watch American football for hours on end after] with my aunt and uncle. We were there for five wonderful days, days spent with the two sisters reminiscing, days spent touring the rural area where they live, days spent recounting family events that angered and elevated many. During one of these days, my aunt broke out her pictures, leading to more stories, more memories and more conversations. My mother asked for copies of them, and these copies turned out to be just the impetus she needed to make her fortune come true. She came home, purchased a few blank books--all the while, forgetting what she had been told to do--and began to jot down some of the things she'd remembered from speaking with my aunt.

After a few months of this, I decided to bring up the fact that she was making it happen, making that fortune a reality by just writing down all of her family history. She had an ironic look on her face. "I hadn't thought of that," she said, and bent back over the book to continue writing the most recent anecdote.

Today, as we were making lunch, she said that she found it ironic that the more she wrote, the more she remembered. I reminded her that this is a fundamental principle of teaching writing to students, particularly writing essays: the more you write, the more you know. We bantered about that for a while until the cheeseburgers were done.

I've been writing my own autobiography for years, off and on, so I'm familiar with the processes she's going through. The questioning of what exactly happened and in what order, of who was present during a critical time in a family's history and who was not, of who would argue that something didn't exactly happen the way that one remembers it did; I have always concluded that one's biography is one's perspective, and it will be debatable. But debate is healthy, as we know, and fundamental to continuing to learn. Learning about one's family is just another lesson that should be taught. So it all circles round in the end.

I note this today because, in seaching for a nail varnish, I remembered something from my own childhood that I haven't yet written about, but should do. I remembered when we sold the last house we would own for a while--we rented for nearly two decades after selling this house--and how distraught I was at the time. I was entering middle school; this was the only house I'd ever known; and I didn't want to leave it. I'd had so many wonderful--and even turbulent--experiences there that I thought, by losing the house, I'd also lose the memories. I couldn't bear to see us leave it. Days before we shut the door for the last time, in the days when neon nail varnish, fish nets and lace leggings were popular, I grabbed a bottle of bright metallic blue and another bottle of bright metallic yellow, and I painted my initials and the date on the wall of my neon pink bedroom. I remember capping them up, sitting on the floor and crying for at least an hour afterward. I've often wondered what happened when the new occupants moved in and saw that. Did they recognise a "tween"'s pain? Did they sense the feeling of being uprooted? Did the see that moving was one of the most traumatic things I'd ever been through then?

Or did they laugh?

Again, it's my perspective, my interpretation of events. But what I wouldn't give at times for the other side of the story.

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