I have a distinct memory of riding an elevator with my mother when I was very small. The elevator's door was shiny and chrome. It reflected my tiny, then perhaps three-and-a-half foot tall frame wearing white shorts and a pink shirt. The elevator was in a hotel in Florida, and we were there to visit my great grandmother like we did every year before her passing.
At an elevator stop before we reached the lobby, a woman entered the elevator and struck up conversation with my mother. I don't know what she said to my mom, but eventually, she bent to my level and asked me, "Is this your first time in Florida, sweetie?"
For some reason, my very young self decided to deceive the woman. I said, "Yes," at which point my mom interjected, "No. We come every year."
I've been asking myself lately about the purpose of this memory. Why is this snapshot taking up space in my brain? Is it because the elevator doors were particularly shiny, or that pink shirt I'd been wearing was comfortable? Perhaps it stands out as my first discernible lie and therefore deserves a spot in my messy collage of memories.
Lately, I've been realizing that memories are not linear. Things don't come back to me in order from birth to this morning. Often times, especially when I write, I cherry pick from moments that stand out. Some of them are large, memorable things, like the events of high school prom weekend that involved toasting marshmallows, sleeping on the beach, and watching Star Wars after eating pepperoni pizza, stone cold sober. Others are small and seemingly useless, like standing in line at Disney World while my friend's grandmother described her time share in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
I'm wondering if we should adopt the memory collage as a viable structure for storytelling. Provided that writers maintain a thread, a theme, a connection of some sort, there should be no reason that the nonlinear narrative can exist in more than just fiction. Faulkner did it in "A Rose for Emily." Why can't I give it a try?
I've taken a hiatus from posting on this blog for almost a full month.
There was no particular reason, either. I have multiple drafts of new posts waiting in the queue - half-finished, unpolished ramblings that may perhaps fit with the style of this blog after the addition of some words, the rearrangement of commas. I know that eventually, they will be up here, ready to read for whomever is looking, but lately, writing - a thing that has always given me solace and comfort - is becoming harder and harder to do.
Part of it is certainly the stress associated with it, that quote about Shakespeare writing King Lear during his quarantine adding pressure to already neurotic writers everywhere. I am not William Shakespeare, and while I don't know what else he did in quarantine, I can assume he didn't have to do much housework, maintain laundry, and cook the meals for the household. I also know that our dear friend William certainly didn't have Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, all screaming at him with their newest releases waving like the frantic inflatable men in front of car dealerships. I can safely deduce that he wasn't scouring job postings having been let go from the school where he loved to teach. I am doing all of this, and I'm supposed to write, too?
Even without the pressure to create something magnificent, the regular pressures are still there, and still just as demanding as usual. Chores, grocery shopping, staff meetings (albeit virtual), mandatory time with family, date night via video chat. All of these things often cut into writing time to begin with; now, they are more precious and attractive than they've ever been. Driving to Dunkin' Donuts for an iced coffee with the windows rolled down, a slight breeze, the sun forcing a squint as you turn the corner now feels like a magical journey back to normalcy.
I know the world is far from normal, and a return to it is still far away, but I am lucky that writing is like an old friend. I can return to it after a long break, and it is like nothing has changed, no time has passed at all. When I am ready, the words will welcome me back with open arms, taking me in their tight embrace, reminding me of their love, their kindness, their comfort. With them wrapped around me, I will be okay.