The other day, a friend mentioned a piece I pressed here in September entitled Ode to Bucky Goad. He thought I wrote it and I believe was disappointed I hadn’t. I think what he saw in this piece is what makes for those remarkable stories, the ones we can not ever forget, their images etched into our cerebral pathways. The ones we try to write.
And I think the answer to good writing is to go to the edge of our pain, but not while were in it.
Then to show that pain, but not as its victim. We need time to understand it and to see the faults in the characters and natural forces that unwittingly lead us to our torn hearts. At the time of the infliction, we often, especially in our youth, think that pain is personal, that we are flawed, when in reality, it is the whole bloody system of humanity and life itself. I strongly recommend that you read the piece, http://thoughtcatalog.com/jim-goad/2013/08/ode-to-bucky-goad/
I think writers probably need alcohol so that they can go to the edge of pain. Emotional pain hurts too much and is too scary without a numbing agent of some sort. Perhaps that is why writers struggle so…not only is it hard to get words into a functional, inviting form, but writing is sometimes the art of taking the reader to a very sad place we may not want to go.
So here is a try, a short story of kindness at Christmas, long ago, that I wrote awhile back.
When I was alone one Christmas, when life as I knew it changed for good, my friend’s mother Carole invited me to dinner Christmas eve. In those days, Christmas hurt my heart. I found it gut wrenching to go into a store and be bombarded by Christmas carols. The Little Drummer Boys rump pa beat a knife into my heart every time I heard it, remembering what Christmas had meant to me.
Decorations, wrapping packages until midnight, the orange always in the bottom of our stockings, no matter what, had disappeared. I looked at the calendar to see how many days I would have off knowing that holidays spent alone stretch a day out…it is like being bound at the feet and hands on a rack, each hour stretching longer than the next. I was grateful for Carole’s Christmas invitation.
Carole took people in… she lived in a large house in a decaying part of town. She took in animals and I sat amazed at how many dogs and cats amicably coexisted. Carole also baked cheese cakes, the best I have ever had: pumpkin, chocolate, large, beautiful cheese cakes. She worked hard for her money, getting up early, driving 30 minutes to her son’s restaurant, baking and cooking all day. Married twice, she had four children and many grandchildren.
When I went to her house on Christmas eve, I felt the love. Packages galore in the bedroom with our coats, the soft lights of electric candles and the Christmas tree all around, “have a beer, a wine, a ginger ale” it did not matter. It was wonderful to be with people joking, sharing the news about town, and feeling the warmth. I thought how lucky everyone was to be getting a gift from Carole, her family clearly adored her.
When the gift giving started, I felt a little uncomfortable but there were other friends there so it wasn’t that bad. And that is when Carole gave me a gift, the most beautiful sweater. One that I saw in a nice department store but could not afford …a happy sweater with many colors: salmon and purple and happy images. I held my emotions back the rest of the evening but I cried all the way home at this woman’s generosity.
From that Christmas on, I have always received something magical, not always large and material, but something to bring back the rum pum a pum pum my heart.
PS It is a long way from Bucky Goad but I think you get the idea.