Friday, February 5, 2010

Nature and Nurture and Gratitude


My mom recently came upon one of my first stories, written when I was about six or seven. I’ve copied it here, complete with grammatical errors and misspellings(indulge me – it’s short, I promise):

Minnegan and her brother and her cousin.
Once upon a time there was a little white seal named Minnegan. One day a soft gray seal came along with a white seal by its side. The gray one was Minny’s brother and white one was Minny’s cousin. The’re names were Finny (short for Finnegan) and cutey. They dived together and slid on the ice. The had lots of fun
The end

So, there’s not really a plot, and my description leaves something to be desired, and what’s with the name Cutey? I mean, Minnegan and Finnegan, those are interesting names. But . . .Cutey? And the title is basically a rehash of the story. Let’s face it, if you added the word “playing” to the end of the title, you don’t even really need the story. (Although I wonder if the reiteration of “her brother and her cousin” had something to do with me being an only child?) But, that’s not the point. The point is, I wrote the story when I was missing my front teeth and could barely tie my shoes and brought potato bugs home in the pockets of my corduroys, and yet my mom saved it. She always encouraged me to write, save maybe for that unfortunate phase in high school when I wrote a collection of depressing suicide poetry titled My Wishing Well of Clear Blue Thoughts (and if the title isn’t enough to make you gag, nibble on this little sample: But will you mend my life/Or offer a quick stab/Maybe you’ll respect my name/When written on a marble slab. Oh yea, that’s the stuff.) For the most part, my mom has been incredibly supportive of my creative endeavors and, thus, I’ve always associated my writing, somewhat, with my mother.

Little did I know that my dad is a writer, too. He visited over Christmas, and brought me a box of blessings. A treasure. My dad was in the Navy from 1966-1970. He spend 2 ½ years of that time in Vietnam. You know those riverboats from Apocalypse Now? My dad was on one of those . . . when he was but a child. Turns out my dad, this boy, this boy at war, wrote home. And wrote home often. And my grandmother saved every letter. And now the letters are mine. These letters – they are witty and descriptive and full of subtext and emotion and powerful observation. They put Minnegan (and her brother and her cousin) to shame. He even wrote a poem. And it’s raw and real and good. It’s too long and too personal to post in its entirety, but these two stanzas capture the feel of the piece:

Someday military power will be nil
An “all volunteer force?” I wonder still.

Will love of country be enough to make it survive?
I think NO, not as long as personal freedom is alive.

I never knew my dad was a writer. A voracious reader, yes, but not a writer. And now I wonder – did his gift shape me in any way? Did he have a “writer’s view” of the world that, unbeknownst to the two of us, informed my world view? I like to think so. In that same way, I like to think that my devotion to the craft, the way I approach life, maybe my very blood, influenced this gem from my seven year old son:

Once upon a time there was a penguin. His name was Frosty . He was not like the other penguins . He is smaller and he is more shy than the other penguins. He eats minnows instead of salmon. Instead of jumping in the water he does cannonballs. He makes lots of splashes.

It’s a work in progress – he hasn’t titled it yet. Me, I’d go with Frosty the Penguin Who Was Not Like The Others.

I love writing. And I love my family. And I am blessed beyond measure to have the two intersect.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You, your son and your father have a wonderful family gift

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GChen said...

I'm a mom, a blogger, and a Ph.D. student, and I need your help. I'm doing a study about why women blog, and you have been selected at random to participate in a short survey about what motivates you to blog and what you get out of blogging.

I hope you will take it by clicking this link. Please do not forward the link.

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/231228/women-bloggers

Thanks in advance for your help. Feel free to contact me at gmmasull@syr.edu if you have any questions.

Gina Chen
Ph.D. student
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University