December 13, 2006
I never planned for my Holidailies posts to almost exclusively holiday-themed. But the energy of the community, the nature of the prompts and Miss Meliss’s questions of the day (which I always spend time considering if not formally writing about), plus my party preparations, have consistently pulled me in that direction. But I took a brief step back into my other life today.
A local magazine sponsors an annual writing contest. In September I began preparing a manuscript for it with the intention of using the experience as a way to actually finish something and to force myself to write very tight. The piece must be no more than 1500 words. I need more than that to tell you what color the sky was this morning.
The piece I’ve been shaping is about an incident that happened when I was ten. I was sent to the grocery store for a jar of mayonnaise. My sister was with me, probably on the orders of my mother. Whoever was carrying the jar (probably me) dropped it on the way to the checkout. It broke, and the manager let me get another without having to pay for the first one. Forty years later I had a call from a market research pollster who wanted to talk to me about why I choose a particular brand of mayonnaise. I put the two incidents together and seemed to have a connected narrative.
I worked several hours on it today. (It’s due on Friday.) It’s 96 words over the maximum. (Two of last year’s winners were over that by several hundred words.) I had to drop several pages of reminiscing about the meals of my childhood. The result seems to lack a clear transition from the childhood memory part to the present day experience.
But the question that has arisen is this: what on earth was so urgent about the need for a jar of mayonnaise that my mother would send a ten-year-old and a seven-year-old out on foot three blocks to the grocery store, the same mother who didn’t let us go to the playground at the end of our block alone and didn’t like us to cross streets unsupervised? What was it she was cooking?
After fifty years, I’m thinking, maybe she just wanted to be alone in the house for an hour or so.
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