When you love someone, you want to know everything about them. That someone, in this case, was my maternal grandmother. We shared a close bond, but there was a wrinkle on the face-map of her life that I could not trace. I wish I had asked her my questions while she was still with me.
Interviewing relatives would, I hoped, complete my connection to this woman I dearly loved, and terribly missed. But to find the remaining pieces, I did what writers do best—research in order to build a world.
So like the hummingbird that can fly backward, I went back in time to Grandma’s world.
Historical records, genealogies, news media archives, the library, and the internet supplied a wealth of factual information. But it was the literature of my grandmother’s generation that proved invaluable. These books transformed into photo albums before my eyes, showing me beginnings, goals accomplished and milestones reached: footprints on the path of life. Preserved intact on the pages of novels and poems were the tears, sorrows, dreams, humiliations, and losses of real people; experiences true to their time and place.
Stories, I realized, are essential to our lives. They preserve the knowledge of who we are. They alone have the power to travel unfettered bridging cultural gaps, producing empathy, and transforming strangers into friends. Stories too serve as mirrors. By them, we view and measure our growth and change, or lack thereof.
I started out seeking missing facts about my grandmother’s life. I found so much more: a living reminder of the hopes and sacrifices of my ancestors that paved the way for me to be born happy, healthy and free. Lives and experiences that I want to always remember and never forget.
May these novels and poems never pass away for my Granny lives enshrined therein forever.
See you next time on August 22nd.
My father always said, “Know who you are. In whatever you do, do your best.” By his hard work and example, he instilled in me the importance of integrity and quality. This makes me scrutinize everything I say and write (sometimes to excess). But also causes me to dig a little deeper and write from the heart which makes for a satisfying journey.
When I showed interest in wearing makeup, he made me feel beautiful and confident without it. In his own special way, he taught me that natural and simple is best. So writing, I find, is like learning how to dress and color coordinate. You develop your own style. Mix and match colors to accentuate. Create different looks depending on the season and occasion. Dress to impress or just to chill out. And when you meet a special someone…dress to be “effective.” You want your writing to stand out, but not overwhelm. That would be like wearing too much makeup. Picture the character, Mimi, on the Drew Carey show, or the sea witch, Ursula, in Disney’s, The Little Mermaid.
“Be original. Be creative,” said dad. “And above all, when you speak, don’t ramble.” By which he meant that if someone asks the time, don’t explain how a clock is made. (That’s when I edit, edit, edit).
Many writers speak of having a muse, but I find that although my father is long gone from this world, the words and teachings which he wove into my being continue to guide and inspire me. This leads me to conclude that my dad had a super power: Words.
I hope I have inherited it.
See you next time on July 22nd.
For all you’ve taught me, dad, this one’s for you.
Veronica Jorge – Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are historical fiction where she always makes new discoveries, and children’s picture books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.
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
Every story has them.
Understudies equipped to step in, extras cheering from the sidelines, others who provide comic relief, or distill information. They stand on call ready to support the main character. Humbly, they recede into the background making room for the protagonist to shine in the spotlight. These hidden characters move the story forward helping to carry it to a successful conclusion. Yet, after the applause or the publication award, we may not even remember their names.
If art, be it written or visual, mirrors real life, I cannot help but consider the everyday, seemingly ordinary people in this story called Life.
I hope this post endures as a testament to all of those hidden characters who are comforting, serving, and giving their all to help others during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Behind the scenes and on the frontlines, they nurse and comfort the sick. Fighting through tears and exhaustion, they carry the healed into the spotlight of wholeness, and then recede into the shadows to continue the fight.
The “extras” keep our streets clean and safe. They brave the roads to ensure that our old and our young can give thanks for the food we are about to receive.
To all of the hidden, invisible and unseen characters, I see you bright and clear.
More importantly, there is one who sits in heaven above who sees and knows all of your works. Your labor of service, dedication and love resonate throughout the land, an anthem, a hymn to life.
God sees you.
I see you.
See you next time on May 22nd.
Smelling something unpleasant? Not really. It’s more an expression of disagreement or disappointment about a particular place or event, which demonstrates how often we use the sense of smell to reveal emotion and understand our world.
We ‘smell a rat’ when we suspect something is wrong.
We ‘sniff out a traitor’ and follow the clues that uncovers an enemy.
We wake up and ‘smell the coffee’ to become more alert and aware.
And perhaps the most famous example would be that of Marcellus, an officer in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, who states, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” to express that things are unsatisfactory.
Scientists tell us that fear emits its own scent which explains why people who are afraid of bees, cats, or dogs seem to attract them the most.
On the positive side, ‘stopping to smell the roses’ encourages us to take time to appreciate life. The arrival of a pleasant person, or relief from a difficult situation can be like smelling a ‘breath of fresh air.’
And men and women alike know the attractive power of colognes and perfumes. (But that’s the subject for a different type of post.)
So, what does all of this have to do with writing? Much! Like ‘Show Don’t Tell’, using the sense of smell can be a useful tool to create more emotional and dynamic scenes that engage the reader.
In Disney’s animated film, Tarzan, (1999), the gorilla Kala is led by her senses to a treehouse. There she smells danger. Her vision takes in the overturned furniture and destruction that denotes a fight took place. Following her senses, she discovers the baby Tarzan. Her heart goes out to the baby and she adopts him as her own. Sigh. Ain’t love grand?
Not one word of dialogue. But a masterful use of the senses to evoke emotion and create a powerful scene.
If my writing could draw someone in like the welcoming scent of a delicious pie, envelop them in a hypnotic aroma of coffee or tea, and keep them reaching for more, I will be in scentsational writer heaven!
See you next time on April 22nd.
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