I’m not quite sure of the meaning in this story I’m about to tell you. But back in third grade or so, when I was the girl “least likely to comb her hair,” another classmate asked me to sign a petition to save a murderer from the death penalty.
The murderer was Gary Gilmore, and the petition said that he absolutely must not be killed, etc., etc. I’ve always been a skimmer. I signed immediately.
That I’d never heard of this guy didn’t matter. I liked the idea of standing up for something. All day, we chanted “Save Gary!” And we bullied people into signing the petition and downright hated them if they didn’t sign at all.
Between the chanting and the tattlers, we were called to the principal’s office, where we were told not to bully, etc., etc. (You can skim when you’re listening, too.) And there, we also found out that this guy, Gary, whose name we’d been chanting all day, had actually been executed weeks earlier.
I didn’t even know who he was or what he had done to get on Death Row.
Before I get to my Top 5 answer, I just want to acknowledge the roller coaster this week has been – going from your stories of murder to fond (and not so fond) memories of parents to feeling the impact of friends struggling with scary things. I didn’t intend to send everyone up and down, and I’m sorry about that. But if I’m going to ride a roller coaster with anyone, I’m glad it’s you.
On to the Top 5. First, I want to thank the oh-so-lovely Chuck Collins for being here to play with us. I have been rooting for Chuck for many years now, and I hope he gets the notice he deserves for his fine storytelling and huge heart.
So, Chuck asked everyone to name their 5 fondest memories with their folks. Here’s my answer:
Like many of you, I had trouble coming up with 5 distinct memories, but in my case, it wasn’t because there were not many to pick from. It’s just that, when I thought about growing up in my family, I realized something that has turned out to be very important to me. There were not “big moments” and “big memories,” so much as there were some key things I experienced consistently and in quiet ways. I think what my family did well, and what I try to remember not only with raising kids but also with being married and being a friend – is it’s not the stand-out moments that sustain a relationship but what you get on average days.
So instead of telling a story of me and my Dad earning a feather for singing together at an Indian Princess’s meeting, I’ll tell you that every single day he was dutiful and completely self-sufficient. What did this mean to me? It meant I knew that whenever I was with my father – whether we were camping in the rain or ice fishing or repelling or waiting out a power outage, I was always perfectly safe. He could handle any situation, and I could be the kid.
And my mother, instead of telling you about the matching bracelets we got after her best friend died, I’d like to say that the greatest gift she gave me was the feeling of being loved. Every stage I went through with hair styles and melodramatic writing and the grand and uniformed pronouncements I had about the world, she was just genuinely interested and encouraged me to express my style and my opinions. I never felt judged or small. I felt enjoyed and free.
This is probably my favorite photo ever. It’s my mom, last week, over Thanksgiving break, and Bach-Boy hiding his face in her arms because he doesn’t want his picture taken. And what’s so great about this picture is you can see my kids are getting that same thing from my mom that she gave to me.
Thanks to all of you for being here this week. I’d like to link two stories that got buried in the comments section: this story by Gail Siegel, and this one by Pia Ehrhardt (if the link doesn’t take you straight there, look up Pia in the contributors section and then click on October). Finally, thanks to everyone who linked to LitPark: The Publishing Spot, Wish It Were Fiction, and Aimeepalooza.