Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Sort of Miracle

I woke up yesterday to find a single daisy flowering in our yard. I decided it had to be a sign of from my mother. Daisies were her favorite flower and are not usually seen blooming at the end of November in New Jersey.

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner--again. The first time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, I was 19 and my mother was in the hospital with soaring high blood pressure. Up until that point, I had always been my mother’s apprentice. Mom was an exacting cook. Everything had to be done her way. The celery was chopped just so. Mom made stuffing from scratch. The pie crust had to be handled gently so it would be flaky and light. My siblings and I were relegated to certain specific tasks for the annual Thanksgiving feast, but that year, I did it all. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest meal but I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I found in my own ability to rise to the occasion.

As Mom aged, I took over the role of hosting Thanksgiving every year for the burgeoning clan. Mom always brought yams and pumpkin pies to the feast. With her gone, I made the pumpkin pies and one of my sisters made the yams. My other sister made apples pies and cranberry relish. My daughters are my assistants—though I am by no means as exacting as my mother was. Some things are not worth all the fuss because the fact is that Thanksgiving isn’t about the food. It’s about reconnecting and catching up--long conversations with the people I love. It’s about laughter and the treasured memories that we share—and passing those memories along to the next generation.

Mom isn’t with us anymore—except in spirit, and hers was an indomitable one. As I was whipping the potatoes a wave of sadness washed over me because Mom wasn’t there, but then I thought of the daisy outside. It is difficult to be down when you’ve got your own little miracle occurring right outside the back door.

I gave the daisy to my father at the end of the evening. I’m sure the daisy was meant as much for him as it was for me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Like the Real World

As a fiction writer, I deal in complete lies all wrapped up in one nice, neat package called a book. I make up stories about imaginary people trying to solve imaginary problems in imaginary settings. The trick is that in all my stories, the lies have to "ring true." I can do this because most people who pick up a book voluntarily suspend their disbelief while reading the story. Readers are quite willing to give an author the benefit of the doubt--most of the time, but writers are always warned against using contrived plots, boring dialogue, and flat characters.

Still, there are plenty of very odd coincidences that happen in real life. Remember that kid in school who seemed to be headed for a detention center, but who is now a lawyer with a Mercedes and a trophy wife? If it happens in a book, the author has a lot of explaining to do--and it all has to sound "real."

Though dialogue in a story must seem real, the everyday dialogue we use is hardly as succinct or witty as that in a novel.

The characters in a novel must appear to be flesh and blood. They cannot be flat or cardboard characters--one dimensional. But how many genuinely boring people do you know? The world is populated with millions of them!

In short, a novel is nothing like the ordinary world we live in. It is far, far better. It makes a lot more sense even though it is one big lie.

The real world is often much stranger than fiction.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Memorable Event in Brooklyn

Hubby and I went to Brooklyn yesterday for hubby's high school reunion. He graduated from St. Augustine's high school, but around 1970 St. Augustine's closed. Afterwards, students went to Bishop Loughlin high school. However, there is a wing of that school with memorabilia from St. Augustine's--statues, stained glass, athletic awards and even a glass case with clothing and the old-fashioned book covers.

Bishop Loughlin high school hosted the reunion and did a great job. Despite a flea market in progress on the school grounds, we were given a parking spot! (Big miracle in that section of Brooklyn.)

Hubby brought an old photo of the high school class trip to Washington, D.C. which he passed around.

There was a Mass--of course. Afterwards, awards were given out to several St. Augustine students who have made remarkable achievements. The reunion itself helps to fund a scholarship program and one young man from Bishop Loughlin high school is going to Annapolis next year.

I enjoyed meeting hubby's former classmates and their spouses. The Christian Brothers taught them well.