Tag Archive | stories

A foray into the confession genre

Years ago I took an adult ‘Writing for Publication’ class. Attending weekly required the

teacher

She taught us about all the genres

juggling of work, family, pets, etc. so it was sometimes difficult to complete assignments. Frances Rockwell, our delightfully wacky teacher, usually understood. She taught us about all the genres available to writers.

With little free time, my reading was selective. I enjoyed, as I still do, history, classics, biographies, and novels. I once tried reading six romances with the idea of writing some, but decided if you can’t read it, you can’t write it.

One assignment was to write a piece for the ‘Confession’ market. I didn’t bother. This time, for some reason, Rockwell chose to ask me, as I left with a whole group of women, why I hadn’t turned it in. Why did she pick on me???

embarrassed

I had to open my big mouth

Had I not been so young and stupid, I’d have apologized and said I hadn’t had time. She would have accepted that. That wasn’t what I did. Oh, no! I had to open my big mouth! (Maybe I needed a lesson I’d never forget.) Instead of being wise, I chose to be a smart-ass.

‘I’m not interested in writing that kind of crap.’ I announced. Oh, oh. That did it!

teacher scolds. jpg

You’re not interested?

‘You’re not interested? Indeed, if there is anyone in this class who could bend a little, it’s you. NICE ladies don’t write interesting stuff. It would do you in particular good to climb down from your pedestal. It would do you good to write a Confession piece.’

I goofed

embarrassed, humiliated

I deserved it, but why didn’t the floor open up and swallow me at that moment? I would have been happy to have breathed my last breath if only it would. I was embarrassed, humiliated — and humbled. Right there In front of everyone I had been properly cut down. Demolished.

I’m sure that wasn’t the last time I allowed a thoughtless, stupid comment to pass my lips, but I’ve never forgotten it. I sheepishly crawled back to class the next week and completed the course.

typewriter

It was long before computers

You know I’m too neurotic to forget something like that, so years later, when I finally had some time to write, what was the first thing I worked on? Right. I did that darned assignment and sent it off to ‘True Story’ in New York.

Lo and behold, our telephone rang while we were breakfasting weeks later. They wanted it! They paid me $250. (The most I’d ever been paid for anything at the time.)

Susan, a very clever teenager, looked up over her Cheerios. She had no idea what it was I’d sold. (I hadn’t told anyone about it.)

‘Can I read it?’ She asked. How could I say no? She’d think that strange so I got it for her and she read.

‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this,’ she almost stuttered, and again ‘I can’t believe my mother wrote this!’ Susan, usually so verbal, was almost speechless.

True Story

The actual issue I was published in

Afterwards, I sent a published copy to Mrs. Rockwell, with a note saying I’d finally done the assignment she had dressed me down for, and that I was sure she would find it satisfactory — since I’d sold it.

Her response was a total surprise. Not being as neurotic as I am, she didn’t recall the incident. However, she wrote if she had done so, it was because she felt I was someone especially talented enough to make it. Interesting, I hadn’t realized that.

Well, the ‘Confessions’ genre is long gone. Young people today have no need to read about it — they’re busy doing it themselves. And no. I didn’t choose to write another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Love through the ages

lovebirds

Lovebirds

It was Valentine’s Day this week. A time to think of romance and love and, for those of us ribbon-heartswho are older, to remember past loves. We all have a past.

If you think we’re boring and have nothing interesting to tell, you’re missing an opportunity to hear some fabulous love stories. Want to hear about long treasured memories of romantic love affairs? Forbidden loves? Lovers possibly lost, but recalled in old age with pleasure? Try asking.

A few days ago, my dear daughter-in-law Chandra did just that. I was caught off-guard, however, by asking me to tell her about a past love, she let me know she was interested in me. I liked that. I love her. Also, she had me think about someone I hadn’t thought of for many years.

Chandra and Remy, 2007

A weary but beautiful Chandra with little Remy in 2007

We were all young once, and most young humans search for love. Certainly the cave man grunted his admiration for the gal who lived in the next cave and tried to impress her with his prowess before he carried her off.

abelard-and-heloise

Abelard & Eloise together at last at Pere Lachaise cemetery

The tragic love story of Peter Abelard (1079-1142) and Eloise captured my interest and for  years I read all I could find about the famous scholastic philosopher and his beloved. Not able to be together in life, their bones are now joined forever at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

They say there is nothing new under the sun. People have always loved. I love this poem written by a woman who lived during Medieval times. A UBC history professor gave it to me years ago. I like it so much, I still have and treasure it. Here it is:

 

‘Marriage is a sweet thing
I can prove it by my own example.
God indeed gave to me
A good and sensible husband.
Thank God for being willing
To save him for me, for I have truly
Experienced his great goodness.
Indeed the sweet heart loves me well.two-hearts

And he said, with such tender words:
‘God made me live for you
Sweet friend, and I think that he had me raised
For your personal use.’
He did not stop raving like that
The whole night.
Without being any more immoderate
Indeed the sweet heart loves me well.

Prince, he makes me mad for love,
When he says that he is all mine.
He will make me die of sweetness,
Indeed the sweetheart loves me well.

“Cookoo and Dummie” A holiday treat….

The holiday season is a time of reflection for many of us. Memories from my childhood are knocking at the door of my brain these days. Here’s one I shall never forget.
Nor do I cease to wonder at the creativity of those of my generation, who grew up without television, computers, or fancy toys — and still had a wonderful childhood.

Me as an innocent four-year-old

Me as an innocent four-year-old

As the youngest of five, I was fair game for sibling pranks. My sister Shirley, two wise years older, and Pauline, yet a year older than Shirley, amused themselves by teasing and tantalizing me with a continuous tale based on a large rathole located behind the commode in our bathroom. It was a whopping lie of a story which only a gullible four-year-old could believe and swallow whole and unadulterated.
They didn’t always tell the story directly to me. They were cleverer than that! They often held lengthy conversations secretly, but within hearing range, knowing I was all ears, hanging on to every word. Their fantastic gift for on-the-spot ad-libbing would be the envy of any performer, for I truly doubt any of this was pre-arranged.
Bored with whatever mischief they were up to, and realizing their dumb kid-sister was nearby, they would fall into their routine. No practice necessary.
“Shirley, what are you going to wear to the ball tonight?” or “You really looked great in your gold gown last night, Pauline,” or “Wasn’t King George splendid in his navy outfit — so very handsome… Sigh…”
The other sister would immediately pick up the ball and fall in with whatever came to mind. They would discuss what they wore, where they went, with whom and how — all in lavish detail, romantic happenings and attentions given them by the most aristocratic gentlemen, or the vilest crimes they saw committed and participated in. Whatever their young minds could conjure up — and oh, they could!
The story was that each night (of course after I was asleep), these two went out “on the town”. The door to their glittering world of princes and balls and gowns (or murders) was through the rat-hole behind the commode in our bathroom.
Our dad was unsuccessful in blocking that rathole, obviously a mouse favorite

Our dad was unsuccessful in blocking that rathole, obviously a mouse favorite

Their huge wardrobes which I insisted they didn’t have, they claimed, were hidden behind the wall of the hallway closet where the family’s real hand-me-downs hung and only they had the ability to get to them. This was all accomplished with the use of magic words only they knew, and which they would never share with the likes of me. I was too undeserving….
Their escorts on these excursions, “Cookoo” and “Dummie”, (and I was too young and naive to find anything unusual about these names) possessed unlimited powers. It was possible for the four of them to attend functions at Buckingham Palace in London together and for the girls to be back in their beds by morning. The very next night they could attend a bull fight in Spain, join the matador at a gala victory party, then stash their fantastic clothing behind the closet wall in the hallway, and again be back by morning.
The poor things, they’d complain they were exhausted because they had romanced all night with their “boyfriends”. And their feet ached from continuously dancing in silver/gold slippers to every single dance. After all, they WERE the belles of the ball.
Cookoo and Dummie were at times, and all at once, ghosts, boyfriends, devils, princes and horrid murderers. The things these girls were able to do while I slept were as unlimited as their only too vivid imaginations. Not only did they visit balls at palaces in chauffeur-driven fancy carriages, they also witnessed and participated in ghastly, heinous crimes and deeds of terror. They described these in detail with relish while I cringed in horror.
When I was “discovered” listening, they threatened me with severe retribution should I divulge to a living soul the conversations I had “accidentally” overheard. I would try bluffing and insist they were lying, but they saw through my quivering show of bravery and I never did tell a soul — until I was safely grown up.
Despite the blood-curdling activities they participated in, I very much wanted to join their exciting adventures. My child’s world was totally hum-drum in comparison to their world of fantasy. I begged. I bribed. I nagged. I threatened to stay awake all night and follow them. How often I fought sleep, hoping to spy on them. Many the night I dallied, sitting bare-bottomed on the commode in the bathroom, determined to watch that rat-hole all night long.
The wooden water tank up above would drip cold water on my bare backside while I sat there as long as I could.

The wooden water tank up above would drip cold water on my bare backside while I sat there as long as I could.

It was cold in our old, drafty, unheated flat. The cold crawled through the holes everywhere as easily as the mice did. In the winter, icy water dripped from the water tank high above me onto my bare backside. I’d eventually get bored and tired and give in and go to bed. No matter how long I managed to keep myself awake, my sisters said they left just after I fell asleep.
Not ever did they agree to take me, though they often pretended to consider it IF I would behave better, be kinder to them, do everything they told me to, give them whatever they asked of me, get older, smarter, or improve in whatever way they decided I was deficient.
I continued to half-believe, incredibly, even after

Two terrifying creatures covered in white sheets entered my bedroom (drawing by daughter Susan)

Two terrifying creatures covered in white sheets entered my bedroom
(drawing by daughter Susan)

the morning two creatures, covered in white sheets, entered my bedroom as I was just about to climb out of bed. They seemed about the height of my sisters. One stood behind the other while they spoke in eerie, scary, ghost-like voices. They raised their arms under their sheets and declared “I’m Cooookkkkooooo!” and “I’m Duuuummmmiiiieeee!”
Yikes! My face turned the same color as the sheets. I froze with fear, unable to move a muscle. I could hear my heart pounding so loud, I thought my chest would burst. All of me wanted to crawl back under my blanket, but I couldn’t move. Perhaps they were my sisters, but how could I be sure? Very softly, because I couldn’t muster much of a voice, and hopefully, I ventured: “No, you’re not! You’re Pauline and Shirley! You don’t scare me….” My voice growing smaller and smaller…. After torturing me a little longer, they threw off their sheets, tremendously pleased with their successful performance and fell over each other in glee and gales of laughter.
I knew it was you all the time (drawing by daughter Susan)

I knew it was you all the time (drawing by daughter Susan)


“I knew it was you all the time,” I said, halfheartedly trying to join in — hoping they would not know how frightened I had been. The ball of fear residing in the pit of my stomach, however, refused to leave even after I did know. It was a fear so real I can still feel it even now.
These two resourceful little witches explained this prank by saying they just wanted to tease me, but as I already knew, Cookoo and Dummie really did exist. I couldn’t get to meet them because they would not be bothered with as unimportant and stupid a personage as myself.
I don’t know, because I can’t remember exactly when the game stopped. Maybe they tired of it. Perhaps it ended when they learned it would no longer work. Is it possible there came a time I convinced them I really no longer believed? I can’t say.
Cookoo and Dummie, however, shall be remembered by me always. I also remember the size and shape of that magic rat-hole behind the commode, which our dad tried again and again (unsuccessfully) to block, in that old flat on City Hall Avenue in Montreal.

Note: It is important for you to know, however, that while this story was taking place, my sister Shirley got into really big trouble for breaking our neighbors’ front door window by banging on it in a fury. Their daughter had hit me and made me cry. I was Shirley’s little sister and she would not allow that to go unpunished.
I also marvel at the on-the-spot creativity of both sisters. Television would be much more interesting if they had been hired to write some scripts.