Write. Write often. Write about what you remember. Write about what you see and hear and feel. Write when you’re inspired and when you’re bored. But just keep writing.
This is what I have learned from Anne Lamott in her introduction from “Bird by Bird”.
Although I think I need a laptop and a quiet place and long days with no interruptions, it would appear that these are excuses, and there are 2 types of writers out there – those who write and those who make excuses. Bam.
So where to begin? Write about what you remember. Start at the beginning.
First memories – I remember living in Scotty Creek – 3511 Esquire Road. This sounds like a very fine street name in a very fine neighborhood, but in fact it was an outlying community filled with small and inexpensive starter homes. It had a sloped rock retaining wall to the left of the driveway, if you were facing the house, with wood trim on a stucco-finished exterior. My Dad tells me he has very (not)fond memories of digging these stones from the yard one by one and building the wall with them. I recall a carport at the end of an inclined driveway and a sandbox under the back deck where Angela and I played. I remember when you walked in the front door there was a landing with stairs up to the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms, and stairs down to the basement. I remember a table in the kitchen, where I once sat teary-eyed trying to force down a bowl of cottage cheese. I remember the black and gold-coloured chesterfield in the living room. I feel like it would have been in good company with a velvet Elvis painting. From old letters I know there was a stereo in the living room, likely a turntable, with silver buttons and dials and box-speakers. I don’t remember my bedroom, or even if I shared it with Angela. The home was kept clean and tidy and was sparsely furnished. We had no neighbours behind us – just a sloping hill – and there are no houses there today, some 40 years later.
We moved to 1799 Glenella Place when I was 3. The new house, like the old one, had a carport, and would likely be called a raised bungalow. It was on a corner lot, so there were cement steps up to the front door (which entered into the living room), facing one street and steps which led to the kitchen-entry door facing another street. The steps to the kitchen entrance were mirrored down to a basement entry, with a little tool closet under the stairs for rakes and brooms. The house was stuccoed and accented with a band of horizontal wood siding, maybe 4 or 5 boards thick. I think they were dark brown, or maybe dark green – or perhaps painted from brown to green at some point during our time there. The property had a perimeter hedge around the street sides, which was always neatly trimmed.
I loved the trees in the yard, stationed like sentinels watching over our home. The hazelnut tree grew around the side of the house, between the neighbour’s house and ours, in the shady part where critters that loved the damp earth would hide. In the south yard, the part with the swing set and the garden, I remember one of the trees had a knot in the trunk that looked like a shoe print – almost as if someone had placed a foot there before the trunk was dry, in the manner of freshly poured cement. I used to see if I could lift my foot up high enough to stick it in the impression. These trees abandoned oversized leaves in the fall and I can recall jumping in huge piles on crisp autumn days. My favourite tree, though, was the smoke tree in front of the dining room window. A smoke tree in bloom is a glorious sight to behold. Plumes of pink flowers cover the branches, but not like a cherry or an apple tree. The tiny flowers blossom out like puffs of rosy vapour, almost like a little bomb has exploded but the ensuing smoke lingers for weeks.
I imagine we must have played outside often. I can remember hauling all of our books out onto the front steps and setting up a library, and then manipulating my sister to clean it all up when we were finished. I remember corn growing tall in the garden, a lesson about not throwing garden trowels lest they hit someone in the head, a little vine with green grapes, and birthday games with Grandpa. One year, Angela and I got home perms and played Barbies on the grass with our Bob Ross hairdos.