Sunflowers I will plant sunflowers in the hollows we have dug with a rusty spade it is time to pull old roots rotten with dead habit in this neglected garden long-choked by winter’s breath it is time to till the soil let it soak in fresh April rain steam in this year’s sun and exhale pungent fumes until its pores are free to seed new grass and soft beds for my flowers. © Neetu Malik
This Mother’s day my brother and I traveled back, in our memory, to the first time our mother took us to her native island home of the Dominican Republic. My brother was 12 and I was 10. We spent the summer at a relative’s country home in Manzanillo, located in the province of Monte Cristi, in the northwest region of the tropical island. One day while exploring the grounds, my brother and I discovered a nesting chicken hidden in some shrubs. My brother peered closer for a better look. Bad move. But what did we know? We were city kids: Brooklyn, New York. The hen zoomed out after my brother. With the wing span of a Learjet and her neck stretched taut trying to peck him, she chased him around the yard. My brother ran, hands straight out in front of him, just like in the cartoons, frantically calling, “Mommeee!” Mom banged aside the screen door and flew out of the house, a straw broom in her hand, and shooed the mama bird back to her place.
My brother never went back to the Dominican Republic.
That event made me reflect on how much mothers do to protect their children. Whether human or animal, they are fierce defenders of their little ones. What’s more, human mothers ignore age. In her eyes, you’re always her baby . . . and she can still cut you down to size if need be.
I continued my thoughtful journey recalling some of my favorite books and films that celebrate mothers. As the character Sophia from the television sitcom The Golden Girls would say, “Picture it. Sicily. 1868.” But for this first title, it’s not Sicily. It’s America.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868. The star might be the character Jo, but Marmee is the real hero raising four daughters while her husband is away serving in the Civil War. And just as relevant today with spouses in military service.
I Remember Mama was a 1948 film about a Norwegian family, but the matriarch embodies mothers of all cultures: the tireless, resourceful heart of the family.
A widow and a mother with very little money during the Great Depression, actress Sally Field in the 1984 film, Places in the Heart, struggles to keep her children with her and the Ku Klux Klan at bay.
Then there are those brave enough to stand up against the status-quo. In The Blind Side, 2009, Sandra Bullock portrays the Caucasian mother who opens her heart and her home to a homeless black youth.
And who wouldn’t want a mom who takes on bullies, like Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1986 film, Aliens?!
Honor goes also to the many grandmothers, aunts, and sisters, who often champion the grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and siblings in their care.
Perhaps the most heart-rending examples of motherhood are those who, in order to save their child, must give them away.
The Broadway musical, Miss Saigon, was inspired by the decision a Vietnamese woman made during the fall of Saigon to send her child away for the chance at a better life. Reminiscent of that other self-less mother, Jochebed, who in order to save her son from the Pharaoh’s decree to kill all male newborns, set her infant adrift on the Nile entrusting her baby Moses into the hands of a greater King.
We have a sorrowful saying in Spanish, “Una madre puede criar doce hijos, pero doce hijos no pueden cuidar una madre,” which translated means that while one mother is able to raise and care for twelve children, those twelve children, when grown into adulthood, can’t find the time to care for their one mother.
May it never be!
See you next time on June 22nd.
I’ll Always Love My Mama
Kitty Bucholtz combined her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. She writes romantic comedy and superhero urban fantasy, often with an inspirational element woven in. She loves to teach and offer advice to writers through her WRITE NOW! Workshop courses and the WRITE NOW! Workshop Podcast.
Besides Kitty’s website and WRITE NOW! Workshop Podcast, you will find her here on the 9th of each month writing It’s Worth It.
During this whole quarantine thing, I’ve often found myself bored, impatient and maybe even not so nice to be around. I’ve never read so many books, watched so much TV, sent so many heartfelt cards and letters or written so many chapters for my latest book. That last part is actually a surprisingly good thing to come out of the virus.
Anyway, for the good of those around me, I decided I better get out of my own head and crawl inside someone else’s. Yes, reading is definitely a good way to do just that, but I somehow felt compelled to move my body off the couch, out of my writing chair and away from the kitchen table. I needed a new form of distraction that might also have the added side effect of expanding my mind.
While many of you are probably familiar with the eclectic world of podcasting, I was not until recently. I am proud to say that I am now. Almost every morning I have been getting up, lacing up my tennies and plugging into a different world; the podcasting world. I make it a point to choose topics I have no prior knowledge of and sometimes even no interest in. Why? To try to jar my brain back to life and it has turned out pretty well. So much so, that I’m now recommending it to the rest of the world or at least to my A Slice of Orange blog readers.
My morning walks or podwalks as I have taken to calling them, have turned out to be one of my favorite parts of my day. I’ve learned so many new and different things as I huff and puff through the hills where I live. I discovered the story of the paleontologist who actually coined the word “dinosaur. ” Now I’m not a real dinosaur fan, but this was one interesting and rather sad story of how ego can get in the way of success. I also enjoyed the tale about how the word “vaccine” was birthed. Both pieces were short, attention grabbing and informative stories from the FridayScience podcast; a site I highly recommend.
But wait, there’s more. I tuned through several other podcasts to learn about the fictional character, Dracula, how to make myself ten percent happier, the true meaning of the word imagination, how the brain adapts when learning a foreign language, techniques for taking a dress pattern from size ten to size fourteen, what happens when you have a heart attack and the value of including kale in your daily diet. I also listened to wonderful stories chronicling everything from mysteries to murders.
Not only did I learn a lot of new stuff, I also benefited in a couple of other ways. I found myself extending my walks for longer periods of time because I didn’t want to quit before the podcast was over. I was also introduced to new vocabulary and exciting strategies for expressing an idea—something every writer can benefit from. The word Crepuscular, a large or bulky body type, was just one of my discoveries and is sure to be a new character descriptor in my next book.
Okay, I admit there is a lot of weird stuff, out there . The number of programs about interestrial visitors is mind boggling. And some of the podcasts featuring famous murderers did nothing for my scaredy cat issues. The good thing is, with the touch of a finger, I can always flip to another topic. Oh, one more thing. I learned how to create my own podcast. Perhaps this could be my next endeavor?
Plug in and start your day with your own podwalk. I hope you find it as enjoyable as I have.
Happy May 20th!
I told myself I am not going to write about Corvid19, quarantining, masks, six feet of distance or the improbably exotic recipes popping up in my in-box (sheesh, they sound like neurosurgery). Do I have anything other than what’s top of all our minds to share? With relief, I realize I do.
My current project is editing a non-fiction manuscript written by a gentleman who has a national, well-respected reputation as a consultant and researcher to advertising agencies. He tests and provides direction for successful ads. He is doing a book on memory. Not his remembrances of things past, but how memory works with firing neurons and synapsis and all the physiological doo dads whirring around in our brains and how that leads to building different types of memories. (After all, the manufacturer does want her snack food/disposable razor/perfume/car to always be the strongest memory, always top of the consumer’s mind.)
My client bases his approach to successful ads on the structure of storytelling as that innate human characteristic is ultimately what drives communication—this is something the Slice of Orange community knows quite a bit about so it is fascinating to see the storyteller’s principles applied to something as work-a-day as marketing. He uses the work of neuroscientists, philosophers, script writers, cartoonists and psychiatrists to back up the idea that human speech developed from the need to communicate a story – gossip.
Okay. I don’t quibble because I know that storytelling is fundamental to every human I’ve ever met. It’s the good storytellers, the writers, who touch us the most deeply; those are the stories that are memorable. What the good storyteller knows—the arc of inciting incident to climax to resolution, and all the beats and color and emotion and drama that get the story to those points—is also fundamental to good advertising. And that is linked to how our brains make memories.
I consider the ads that stick in my memory. Some of these are really long-term memories, coming from childhood—does anyone ever forget Speedy Gonzales or Tony the Tiger? They’re complete, miniature stories and I’ve retained the high points. “Where’s the Beef” had all the emotional beats of a 350 page novel and whether or not I consciously made the connection, I had Wendy’s top of mind for my beef fix. It was impossible to see a giant choir of fresh-faced kids singing I’d Like To Teach the World to Sing without thinking of Coca Cola and hearing a million different emotion charged stories. All of those marketing moments—and more—hit an emotional note that became an indelible memory. Wow! Good story telling is magical.
This new perspective, with its emphasis on memory and the potency of storytelling, will be top of mind for me on my next fiction project. I don’t know that it will change how I look at the content of a story or the effectiveness of the structure and style. I’m not sure it will effect how I edit the manuscript but it’s refreshing to learn that the things good writer’s know instinctively can be measured and diagramed and graphed and applied to any creative endeavor.
There is one sticking point, however. I remain unconvinced that language developed from an irresistible urge to gossip. Putting myself in caveman days I prefer to think our species began talking because of an irresistible urge to warn me of the saber-tooth tiger leering at me from the cliff above. It’d clearly be time to run—and that’s a story.
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