Meet the Family

About once a year I take a writing course in some genre completely different from the ones in which I work. This year I’m taking a class in writing for Comics (the graphic novel types not the stand-up types).

The most recent assignment I did had us start with a silent image from the old “Nancy” comic strip and let it job a childhood memory.

I paused when I came to a drawing of Sluggo looking over a wall having just spotted something that captured his interest.

I don’t know why but it took me back to a memory of when I was four years old. It’s something I haven’t thought about in many years but there it was graphic and real.

My sister Jill and I were born in Boston – and no, I don’t remember either of those births. Just after my sister was born, my parents moved the family to Oberlin so dad could start a new job as a professor at the college. I don’t remember that either.

I do, however, have a strong memory from when my brother was born.

In those days, young kids weren’t welcome into hospitals as visitors.

Fortunately, Oberlin was a very small town and the hospital only had one floor. Perhaps it had more than one floor but I think my mother was in the old part of the hospital that only had one floor – or at least she was on the ground floor.

I remember that, because my father took my sister and me to see my new brother.

We drove up and didn’t park in the hospital lot. We parked in the adjoining lot that was mainly used for the Tennis Courts and college swimming pool before the new gym was built.

We walked across the parking lot, over the grass, up to a window.

My father picked us up – me and my sister (not at the same time) to see our mother and Ethan, our new baby brother.

That was the first moment that all five of us were together – my parents, my brother, my sister, and me.

I don’t know why that’s the memory that leaped out, but I have a theory.

About a year after Elena died I took a workshop in writing features for radio in LA.

The teacher was amazing. He helped us craft stories, find audio, but most importantly, find the emotional core of the story.

As a warm-up exercise we had to think of a trip that we remembered.

I told the story of our family’s trip to Portland.

The instructor pushed and pushed at why that trip was important to me. Why, he wanted to know, with all the trips I’d taken in my life, why was this one special.

As he pushed – I didn’t know.

He pushed more – I didn’t know.

And then I knew. It was the last trip we would ever take as a family. With Elena dead, Kim and I or Kim and Maggie and I would take trips together but that was the last one with Elena.

Firsts and lasts.

And so to this assignment.

Why?

Elena’s been dead eleven years.

Kim’s been dead eleven months.

All that’s left is Maggie and me.

As I learn to live with this smaller version of my family, the sense memory I have from my childhood is when my first immediate family became complete.

My parents, my brother, and my sister are, thankfully, still alive and part of my life. That was the moment it all began.

Twenty-five years ago today was the day before Kim and I decided we’d date exclusively. It was the day before the family we would build would begin.

There are these moments.

These moments that stick.

These moments where you meet the family.

Published in: on July 24, 2017 at 5:47 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. My heart is beating and aching at the same time. Thank you for linking to this, Daniel.


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