One of the first entries I wrote when i started this blog in 2009 related to the title. This is what I said:
The big, old boxelder that grew in the side yard at my house when I was growing up became my sanctuary when I needed privacy or just someplace to get away from it all. It had a double trunk that split into two directions about three and a half feet off the ground. It was just perfect for climbing into and then climbing one trunk higher until I could be hidden in the foliage. I often took books along with me and spent hours hidden among the dappled shadows, pretending the characters in the books were my own friends or family, dreaming myself into other worlds.
Blackberry picking is one of my favorite memories of childhood. My brothers and sisters and I would come home with buckets of the sweet, dark berries, our faces smeared with purple juice, and our arms scored with red streaks of honor and bravery. Blackberry brambles are wickedly protective of their bounty!
When I think back to what I wrote then, I think it barely captures what that tree meant to me and doesn’t say enough about those blackberry brambles.
My life at home was not always a happy life. The memories are often told in the stories that populate this blog. “1945,” tells about a very young child’s introduction to racism; “Of Trees, Tubs, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Silence” describes the view from the boxelder tree; “Caught in the Wringer,” is about washing clothes with an old wringer washer and trying to escape the violence surrounding Maggie Jean; “Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary,” recounts my little contribution to history; and “Prelude to a Not-So-Ordinary Day” and “Horse Latitudes” tell about an extraordinary (and dangerous) experience I had with my horse. The tragedy of my sister’s life (and death) is told in “Why Didn’t You Catch Me?” There are others here that tell my story.
Some are told in the first person; others are told from the point of view of little Nellie Quinn, awkward Maggie Jean, thoughtful Sheila, or my own grown self. Whomever is the POV character, she is always me as I have tried to find my voice in the cacophony of a chaotic world. Nellie is my childhood self; Maggie Jean my adolescent self; Sheila my grown self; and in the other stories, I suppose, I don’t skirt my identity.
I realize now that there are no stories about the blackberry brambles (yet), but I am confident they will emerge.
What stories do you have? How do you tell them? Are you comfortable admitting they are your own stories, or do you hide behind a fictional persona?
I’ve never really seen Nellie or Maggie Jean or Sheila as personas to hide behind. In fact, I’ve never pretended that they are not me. When I’ve shared these stories with writing groups, they always understand I’m telling my own stories. Somehow, I think, writing in the third person is easier than first, especially when dealing with painful memories.
How do you deal with that? I’d love to hear your comments, thoughts, and practices.