I Want My Mother

WHAT’S PLAYING: Alicia KeysDoesn’t Mean Anything

A couple of months ago, my mom died. She passed away the day before Mother’s Day and two days after my birthday. I’m not sure what I feel at this point. Shock? Yes. Grief? Sure. Along with a heaping measure of guilt for not being a better daughter.

angel-crying

And then there’s this weird mix of exasperated amusement. My mom was what most people would call “a character.” She was blind, deaf, old-fashioned, and at times, a huge pain in the ass. She was the kind of person who would pick the day before Mother’s Day to shuffle off this mortal coil, if only to get back at me for forgetting her birthday for the last twenty years.

Some days, she drove me crazy. I’m talking claw-your-eyes-out-hair-on-fire-bat shit-crazy.

Other days, she was kind, loving, and fiercely protective. She handled life’s disappointments with humor, grace, and a kind of get-‘er-done-and-fuck-the-rest attitude that I’ve tried so hard to emulate in my own life. Most importantly, she was mine. My mother. And I would give everything I have in this life and the next, to have her back for just one more day.

madre-consuela

Grief hits me at unexpected times, like when I’m driving or in the shower. One minute, I’m fine. The next, the pain is so great that it’s all I can do to keep breathing.

 I don’t have the best track record when it comes to dealing with grief. When my twin brother died, I handled it by quitting my job, running away from home, shaving my head, and joining a cult. I wound up in Arizona a month later, married to a man I barely knew. My dad had it annulled while I went away for a few weeks to “rest” in a glorified booby hatch.

(Don’t worry. As of today’s post, I am still unmarried and not bald, so I guess that’s a good sign.)  

I know the last thing my mom would want is for me to spend the rest of my life mourning her. If she were here, she’d smack me upside the head and tell me to get on with it. So, that’s what I’m doing.

I love you, Mom.

A Lesson in Perspective

WHAT’S PLAYING: Skylar Grey “Dance Without You”

I’m 6’2”, which is tall, especially for a woman. So, you can understand why most people are surprised when they learn that my family calls me “Stumpy.” That is, until they actually meet my family. My father is 6’6” and my older brother is 6’7”. Both my sisters and my mother are 6’4”. Hell, even my great-grandmother is 6’4”, and she shrank. I have a cousin who stands a full foot taller than me, and he’s only sixteen. So, as you can see, compared to rest of my family, I’m…well, stumpy.

 

But out here in the real world, I’m practically a giant. For some reason, many people take this to mean that I’m either stupid, athletic, or have nothing better to do than answer irritating questions.

“You’re tall! How tall are you? Do you play basketball? Do you have trouble finding clothes, shoes, men, etc.?”

To which I usually respond: I know. 6’2”. No. Sometimes, no, and seriously?

(Sheesh. And people wonder why I don’t like to leave my house.)

 

Annoying questions aside, I suppose I understand. I’m probably one of the tallest women they’ve ever seen; while back home, I’m the runt of the litter.

I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Which brings me – in a roundabout way – to perspective. Also known as point of view, perspective is how the narrator of a scene or story views what is happening. So much of who we are colors how we perceive the world: personal experience, relationships (past and present), state of mind, etc. The list goes on.

Not only does perspective affect how we see the world, but also the way in which we relate to others. We are all shaped to a certain extent, by our experiences. We all have baggage.

The same holds true in fiction. Or at least it should.

When choosing a perspective from which to write, an author has to consider all these things and more.

In reality, it’s much easier. All you have to remember is that while my family may get away with calling me Stumpy, I’m still a lot bigger than most of you.

And that I have a black belt in Taekwondo.

How Being a Bad Liar Made Me a Better Writer

WHAT’S PLAYING: Paramore “The Only Exception

I am a bad liar. Very bad. Horribly, comically, painfully bad. I sweat. I stammer. And my eyes dart around like neurotic chipmunks on meth. Forget about the rules of morality my parents tried to instill in me. I’m honest because I have no other choice.

But that kind of honesty comes with a hefty price tag. I don’t just suck at verbal untruths; I can’t even lie by omission. I can’t control my face. While the rest of my family has mastered the whole “stone-faced Indian” thing, I couldn’t hide my feelings to safe my life. Not only is my face an open book, it has pictures, diagrams, even Braille. And the worst part is that I can’t tell when I’m doing it. It’s as if someone else is controlling my expressions and I have absolutely no input.

I think it comes from spending so much time alone.

About ten years ago, my very pregnant sister-in-law was asked to act as matron of honor for her best friend’s wedding. And she, in turn, asked me to go with her to the fitting.

Even as a self-absorbed teenager, I was no fool. I knew what was coming. So, I spent some time practicing my expressions in the mirror. I posed, postured, and perfected my “stone” face.

When the day came and the inevitable question – “Do I look fat in this?” – came with it, I was ready.

“No-o.”

My sister-in-law took one look at my face, burst into tears, and then locked herself inside the fitting room. All of her friends took turns trying to coax her out. When they weren’t glaring daggers at me, that is.

All the time I kept saying, “But I practiced!”

Finally, after two hours, we had to call my brother to come and coax his wife out of the dressing room.

I wish I could go back to that day and answer the question my sister-in-law should have asked. The one, in fact, she had been asking all along, but I was too young and too stupid to know it. Truth is, she was lovely. Between the glow of pregnancy and the simple joy that radiated from her in waves, she was luminous. Yes. If I could go back in time, I would ignore the question she had asked and answer the one she’d meant to. (Of course, it’s a moot point now. Ten years and ten kids later, she’s still a size zero. Seriously, her ass looks better than my face.)

I learned a lesson that day that has served me well ever since, and had made me a much better writer.

That was the day I learned to look deeper. To answer only the questions that should be answered and ignore the rest. Readers (especially pregnant ones) don’t really need to know all the details, just the ones that matter. The ones that show more than just what’s on the surface.

What about you? How much detail is enough for you? Not just in writing, but in everything. Are you one of those people who ignore the surface to find what lies beneath? Or would you rather deal with each layer one at a time? How do you fashion your worlds, your lives? When you walk through your neighborhoods, what are the details that jump out at you? Follow you home and haunt your dreams? Is the laughter of the children in the park? Or the scent of your neighbor’s garden? Or is the sight of freshly manicured lawns? What are the details that move you?