Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Improper Poll: Father May I Have More Characters
The irony wasn’t lost on children, even.
I know about her reasoning because my mom was into taking “poor old souls” under her wing. Apparently there was a long list of things that “Father” found dangerous, but another memorable one was left-hand turns. My mother tried taking Miss Plimpton to the doctor, but driving trips had to be plotted at length and executed with enormous care in order to avoid the dreaded left-hand turns. It’s an understatement to say that when my mom returned from outings with Miss Plimpton, she looked rattled.
At times like that that, my dad brought on the Miss Plimpton impression. “Oh horrors, Father always said that toilets were dangerous because you might slip and fall in, so I use coffee cans, but only the slow roast, because Father didn’t like instant….” And my mom would do that thing where she couldn’t decide whether to laugh or scold, so she did both: “Oh hush!”
Miss Plimpton was far from the only unusual person in that neighborhood. Maybe it’s because I grew up with so many, but once I reached a certain age, I started attracting characters. And that’s okay with me.
If I got on a city bus and there were two seats left, one next to a businessman immersed in his laptop and one next to a woman wearing a garbage bag over her clothes and an aluminum foil hat, more often than not I would choose the foil-hat-lady as long as she looked harmless and I didn’t have anything pressing I needed to do during the ride. I told that to a friend once, and she clearly thought I was very strange. But what an opportunity!
Did you grow up with weird characters? And do you think they helped shape you as a writer? Which one would you sit next to on the bus?