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That time I wanted to pass myself off as Joyce Carol Oates #TBT

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I submitted my first piece of writing when I was seventeen, a story about my first job, working at the employee cafeteria at General Telephone where my mother was a dispatcher. Rolling the 20# white bond backed by a sheet of thin blue carbon paper into my Smith Corona, I typed it out slowly, carefully, on a piece of erasable paper—and mailed it off to Cosmopolitan along with a cover letter. Not just to any editor at Cosmo, by the way, I sent it directly to Helen Gurley Brown. 

The piece itself, meant to be comical, was full of clumsy attempts at self-effacing humor.  I strived for a similar tone in the cover letter I addressed to Brown, completely clueless that the high powered editor in chief wasn’t the one reading unsolicited manuscripts. After I signed off I added the following PS. I could have said I was Joyce Carol Oates. What I thought that would accomplish I can’t imagine. That an unsatisfactory submission would get published because of a lame joke? 

No surprise, in the SASE I’d …

Past Perfect Imperfect



The past is just another word for something Ive left behind, and while its filled with omissions—like the post I meant to write yesterday—mistakes and missed connections, its also filled with an ever expanding array of amazing memories. So many memories we file away in our personal storage systems. Memories that fill up your headspace until that warning beep, better dump that stuff in the trash or archive that old data, transfer it to the iCloud where it can float freely, the barest whisp of a thought, until you decide to access it again.
Thats how the days pass, we live in the now, or we try to, but the past is always there, getting larger and larger.
Its not all good. Some of that past should stay locked in that ancient old-timey journal you secretly keep hidden under last winters sweaters, to be taken out only on rare occasions, when the house is empty and no ones around to see you looking at it. Unless youre some weird inhuman humanoid youve probably been hurt and done your share of hurting. I dont know which is more painful. The sick feeling I got watching a guy I was dizzyingly crazy about, slow dancing with another girl, his eyes watching mine as I tried not to cry, his mouth finding hers on the dance floor, to make sure I got the message. Or sitting next to a man, parked by the side of the road in his car as he crumpled into wrenching sobs when I said it was over.
See? Those are two pieces from the past I could and should leave alone. Better to flip the pages further back to the first sweet thrill of of romance, or better yet, further forward to the crumpled up face of another guy, my own baby boy, a wrinkly little sweet pea, laid bare on my breast in the birthing room at Torrance Memorial Hospital. Or further still until today, as he sits sprawled, his long legs taking up the entire length of couch, like its his own personal possession, slurping his yogurt too loudly, clanging his spoon in the bowl, while he reads a Joyce Carol Oates story.
You ever read this? he wants to know about Joyce Carol Oate’s Madison and Guignol, and I look over at him, his clear blue eyes, the color at least, that he got from me, his unshaven face, chestnut bristles shading his angular jaw, (his fathers), his hair, shoved behind his ears, too long, the way he hates it, the way I love it.
I dont think so. I don't remember. So many things I don't remember.
So he tells me, not about the story, but about the meaning of the word guignol, and the bloodthirsty horror shows of the Grand Guignol theater in Paris.
And I cant help it. Im proud hes interested in this little factoid, that he has an intellectual curiosity and depth that exceeds mine or his fathers, brains and good looks that we marvel at. And I know this too shall pass. This present moment filled with the pleasure of my handsome young man-son reading a Joyce Carol Oates story and sharing a connection with his little old mom. It will pass but it won't be gone. Todays sweet moment will become tomorrows past; the tiniest of memories, a few golden minutes, that delineate this period of our lives.
The past, mine, yours, is filled with pain, but its also overflowing with pleasure. The choice is ours, which to plumb, which to leave behind.

Art: Mikhail Glinka by Ilyan Repin

Comments

  1. Wow, powerful descriptions and I choose to leave the painful memories behind and embrace the pleasurable and joyful times, learning from them!

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  2. Even if the past is painful, would you choose to forget your painful memories? And only remember the good ones? But then how would we ever learn, or appreciate what we have?

    You're doing great w/ the A to Z Challenge. By the way, if you blog hop, please include your link if you comment so that others can find you easily and reciprocate any comments. Also other people who read your comment can find you and visit you.

    Maui Jungalow

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