The Sounds of Silence #SOL17

In this slice, I take pause to think about how my mother unknowlingly influenced my desire to write. That coupled with an innate desire to be heard is why I have kept journals my whole life.

“Long before I could really write, someone must have known that this was all I needed.”        (“Composition Notebook” by Jacqueline Woodson)

 It was my mother who knew that writing would be an outlet for me. Long before I filled diaries with adolescent angst, I had always been curious about the physical act of writing. After watching her sign my name on family Christmas cards – Dominick, Ann, Michael, Joseph and Laurie Ann – I was intent on imitating the swirling loops of the letter “L”, until print-vscriptI got it just right. In contrast to my mother’s free-spirited cursive, my father, a draftsman, wrote with sharp lines – precise, exact – the opposite of my mother’s, and in hindsight, a reflection of their personalities as well. One was able to “go with the flow,” while the
other required order and routine – both influenced me greatly.

Although I could write in both ways, in kindergarten I insisted on writing using only capital letters arguing, “What’s the difference? It’s still my name.” That’s the kind of lawyering I brought to every moment of injustice I faced. Every single paper that came home that year was corrected from LAURIE ANN to Laurie Ann. Was I too stubborn to change, or were those early indications a felt need to express myself, a desire to leave my mark on something?

Growing up in a home where praise was not regularly dispensed, somehow I sensed mytimex mother’s pride in my writing. One memory I can recall is when she shared my 5th grade writing with her friends from work. Our teacher, Sister Patricia Mary, a fan of creative writing, asked us to write the autobiography of an inanimate object. My character, a Swiss watch, aptly born in Switzerland, was put through grueling trials in order to prove her worth. One morning she woke up in the chilly air and was submerged into the icy waters of a pond, mirroring the famous 1970’s ad-line, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking?” It’s funny how the motto of my watch-friend is shared by writers… those who take pen to paper every day struggling for acceptance, facing criticism, all in the hope of getting published some day.

annfrankDespite the fact I only have that one public memory, I do know my mother revered words and language. She herself, an avid reader, was rarely seen without a book and cigarette in hand. She honored reading, respected libraries, and on the rare occasion we got something outside of a birthday or Christmas gift, she bought us books. Beyond the popular titles of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery series, two books she encouraged me togoaskalice read as an adolescent were Ann Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, the extraordinary life of a girl living in hiding, and Go Ask Alice, a lesson on the perils of drug abuse – memoirs of tragic lives which remain with me till today.

Pieces of their stories showed up once in a 7th grade paper I wrote reflecting on the Sounds of Silence, an assignment from Miss Joyce, who had finally had it with my incessant talking, calling out, and general rebellious behavior. As a punishment, she told me to go home and write about that topic  – a brilliant move on her part. Later, after my mother passed, it showed up in one of her drawers alongside another piece I wrote reflecting on the death of Aunt Ida, my mother’s best friend and neighbor, who died of cancer leaving three young daughters. The fact that she treasured those pieces speaks volumes of her approval.

How did those books influence me? Why am I remembering them now when I am “writing about writing?” It’s not that those books are the reason I write, because I was too young to notice, but reading about Ann and Alice helped me to discover that I prefer the raw truth that emerges from tracking a life.

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15 thoughts on “The Sounds of Silence #SOL17

  1. Brilliant. I’ve read many very poignant posts tonight. Yours touched me. I loved your last line: helped me to discover that I prefer the raw truth that emerges from tracking a life. I think that is why we write – to try to get to the raw truth where things that matter most can thrive.

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    • Thank you, Christie. I started this piece with our friend Amy a few summers ago. She always starts the day with poetry; that summer we were engaged in an inquiry on Jacqueline Woodson. I continued it later in the day with Katherine Bomer (lucky me!), but hadn’t visited it since. For this marathon SLOLC I am trying to write down family memories. While minting my notebooks, this idea emerged, reinforcing the importance of maintaining writing journals. Thanks again

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      • Lucky you to work with such wonderful folks, Laurie. Amy and Carol Varsalona have been amazing cheerleaders for me and my Kindergarten writers. Writing is new for me and I am finding it very rewarding. My guardian angel, a retired teacher who is gone now, always encouraged me to keep a journal and I never did. It’s time. Best wishes.

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  2. This is so lovely, Laurie. Your memories stirred up so many of my own and I loved the way it moved, seamlessly transitioning from idea to idea. It also made me want to write, which perhaps is the biggest gift of all! So thank you – and see you this summer!

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  3. Thank you, Vickie. Theses the first time I am taking on this thirty-one day challenge. I’ve been home on disability since January (yes, my feet again, but healing everyday), so I have no excuse not to write. I decided to peruse my memory bank to write down some of my family stories. My mother was a colorful character (if you read today’s post, which is in process, you’ll see why). Since she passed at age fifty-nine, my children, nieces and nephews have few memories of her, but get a kick out of hearing them. Thank you again for your beautiful feedback.

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  4. You are a wonderful writer, Laurie! I’m so happy that I have your words on my screen now, after that summer workshop. I LOVE the way you write about your little self, that little brave girl all in caps. And this is a great sentence that I admire: “That’s the kind of lawyering I brought to every moment of injustice I faced.”
    I also love the meaning you make of finding your pieces of writing in your mother’s drawer. I would cry my heart out if that happened to me. Perhaps you did?
    I think a full-fledged memoir is in order. See you this summer! XO

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  5. Oh my goodness, thank you, Katherine. You made my day. Your words on memoir are constantly in my ear as I work toward resurrecting the many stories in my family. My mother was not materialistic at all, so the few pieces she saved from our school folders mean that much more. My goal is to compile the stories along with photos as a gift to my family. It’s been fun revisiting those people, places and moments. I am humbled by your generous feedback.,, thank you!

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