Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reverb 10, the one in which I capture memories

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

(Author: Patti Digh)

I like this prompt. It's difficult and has been making me insane since I first read it last night. It reminds me of the kinds of prompts my favorite poetry teacher gives in her online, (advanced, but don't let that fool you. I am forever a beginner) poetry classes. I carried the prompt with me in my skin from the living room where I first read it on my laptop last night to bed to the kitchen in the morning when I set up my coffee maker and sliced cheese for my daughter's lunch.

I thought it and ate it. I felt like I was cheating except that I didn't think about the memories I would list when I finally sat down with the set timer. I thought about the prompt itself, how it would make a really cool premise for a piece of speculative fiction.

I thought about the prompt in connection with my father's brain metastases in January 1999 (lung cancer to bone to brain), how he said the cancer was eating little moth holes in his brain, how he was losing things he used to know, how that was the one thing he couldn't stand, losing his vital, brilliant mind, his memories.

Oh dear. Today seems to be all about revisiting my parents' deaths. Nothing I can do about it. I just am what I am today.

I am going to share my messy list (will cheat and edit it a bit for clarity). I'll revisit the list another day to see if I can find a poem in it.

Mostly, what I captured was my daughter.

Deep breath. Exhale. Ready. Set......


- The color green.
- Prom.
- My Girl and her Dawg in their finery at the high school promenade before the dance, Dawg in his "shades" looking like a tiny rock star
- laughter
- Bass drum strapped to my tiny child during the first week in August. Band camp.
- Image of my daughter in her purple Star Wars T-shirt and purple shorts, a bandana wrapped around her head for a sweat band. She stood in line "off the field" with the rest of the bass drums. Smallest of them all. At attention. God. The most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
- Scent of stale marching band uniforms.
- The gorgeous struggle of having only a week to write an ekphrastic poem for an exhibition.
- Reading that poem to a roomful of strangers.
- Impromptu parties in my basement rec room on Friday or Saturday nights.
- Screeching teens.
- Half full soda cans.
- Crushed cake.
- The cat kicking poop from his litter box onto the wall.
- The piano pieces my daughter taught herself. No time to list! (Coldplay. The Frey. Mad World. Beethoven's Pathetique)
- Conversations with her about how stupid she thinks it is when a sophomore girl lets herself get pregnant, how she plans to wait to have sex at least until she graduates from high school just to be sure it doesn't happen to her ("I don't understand why these girls are too stupid to use protection!").
- New Year's Eve with the Dawg.
- Diane's poetry workshop. (the beginnings of some difficult and important poems)
- All that writing I did through the year (fiction, poetry, online diary entries, blog posts, offline diary entries, emails, essays, lists).
- My siblings' voices.
- Watching my husband's kitty for him when he was away visiting his ancient mother for Thanksgiving.
- He took me to dinner to thank me. I remember the way his voice broke as he told me what my watching cat and house meant to him.
- Laughing at him for thinking my watching the cat was a big deal when it wasn't.
- Laughing at myself when I teared up as we talked about how amazing our girl is despite her parents' inability to remain a couple.


That is all I could get down. I wrote by hand in a big, fat, spiral bound notebook where I keep secret bits of myself.

I don't know. I wanted to think I rocked this bitch, but it looks like I might have failed to get to the point.

(quick notes:
1. my husband and I are "undivorced." We have lived separately for more than seven years. the bit about the cat might be too confusing if you don't know that.
2. the Dawg is my daughter's "ex"-boyfriend. They "broke up" over the summer because he was going off to college and they didn't want to tie each other down. He drives her crazy, but she can't make herself date anyone else, she says because she doesn't want that kind of commitment again (I say it's because there's no one else like him). Tomorrow, he'll be back in town for the holidays. Friday, he, my Girl and some other friends will be going on "adventures" in our little town (reminder to self - pick up the basement. another impromptu party might land there Friday night).)


  1. it rings clear in your post that your daughter is the sunshine in your life. i'm considering hand-scrawling my year with the timer, too. you sound like an incredibly awesome mother.

  2. This is lovely, and it doesn't suck, at all. I think it gets to the heart of the prompt. And your intro, talking about carrying it around with you? Took my breath away.

    Thank you for this,

  3. Oh! Thank you both! Lovely things to say.

  4. Personally I think you did rock this bitch. Such wonderful writing, I'm going to read it again, but more slowly this time.

    You almost make me want to go back to doing reverb10!!

    Also, thank you for your comments on my blog. I just wanted to say that if you think you love me, you'll love Dame Judi Dench for sure: