I seized an essay from my slush pile. I remember when I wrote the following; its history born from emotion. I was approaching the age of 40, not working full time and I was only a couple of drafts into my memoir when a critique of my manuscript told me fancy terms such as through-threads and theme, reflections and takeaways escaped my manuscript. I understood intellectually what I needed to do to turn it around, to make it the memoir I knew it could be, but I didn’t know how to do it. I had excused my rewrite procrastination for a need to read anything that had anything to do with the craft as if my lack of knowledge was the culprit to not flushing out a clear theme. Taking a closer look at my memoir and dissecting it with colored pens, outlines and index cards to flush out the fancy terms was to place my memoir parts, one by one, on small glass rectangles to be examined under a microscope. The task was overwhelming. Writers block followed. My sense of being lost and forlorn reflected from my words.
I read an article in one of those writer’s magazines about a woman’s new twist on the memoir. I was searching for a twist in my memoir that would set it apart from others. I read a newspaper column about another woman’s stay-at-home life. I, too, became a recent stay-at-home. I read a different magazine essay about two long-time friends who took different paths but ended up in the same place. My best friend Michele and I took different paths in life and ended up in similar places when we were in our mid-twenties. And there was a personal essay about the changing face of beauty, authored by a middle-aged housewife. I could attest to my own personal changing face of beauty but it wasn’t just my face that was changing. I confirmed I was the middle-aged housewife.
Though this was just the beginning of the essay, I recognized how themes were woven through the stories I read. My common thread was thick and stiff as I struggled to weave it through my words collecting a tidy patchwork along the way of experiences hoping for clarity to my story. These essays were technical references for me and I wondered how to apply the references to my memoir. I yearned for my theme to speak out, to show that home was not synonymous with the house I grew up in but in the connections I made with people and places and even with a tree.
I paused at my desk in silent meditation, allowing my eyes and mind to roam the canvas of my work room, glimpsing at family pictures on the wall facing me, pausing at framed posters from my twenties and reminiscing over abstract art bought when I was lost and confused. I perused in dim light, zigzagging from wall to wall, back to my computer atop my desk and then bowed my head in surrender to the inability to find answers to my writing difficulties in what surrounded me.
While sitting just off center, I concentrated on the braided rug that encircled my work space as if I was plopped on a small island. The floor covering reigned in my writing requirements of desk, file cabinet, printer stand and rows of reference books on shelving to fit within the rug’s fringe. I studied the tight cotton braiding of the rug’s bumps and bulges following its continuous pattern and soon believed the direction my words needed to travel were in place like the rug’s braid tracked continuously to form its shape. I needed to follow the tracks to form my memoir’s shape.
I was connected to all that surrounded me, tangible items of photos and artwork, the desk sitting in front of me and the computer keyboard at my wrists. I connected to the words strung purposely to make sentences which are gathered to make paragraphs that coalesce into theme.
Home was in the people in the photos I connected to and in the artwork I gathered. I found home in the tangible and the intangible, the physical and the feeling. I was connected to the words then to the sentences and paragraphs as they traveled through my fingertips on keyboard then on to white emptiness. I placed my memoir parts under the microscope to see the smaller elements that made up my whole, my home. I discovered my home wasn’t just where I grew up, but was made up of connections braided and intertwined, of memories and pictures, of comfort and the familiar, of my voice found in connected words.
I believed I was searching for a more complicated theme when the obvious was present while sitting on a rug isle in observation. My memoir didn’t need a new twist because its threads were there just as my feet felt the rug braids underneath them, weaving its tracks.