Tuesday, December 22, 2009

reflections on the gaudy Christmas lights...

So I'm obsessed with memories. Or with memory. Or both, really. In almost all of my writing--whether it be fiction or goofy blog entries--what I'm trying to do is capture moments so that they feel so real and true and whole and...well, like you're living them. And for most of that writing, I rely heavily on my memory. The way things looked, the way people speak, and most pressing to me, the way I felt in that moment.

I've noticed that a common feature in my novels (and hey, even in that old short story I was reading the other night from years ago...) is that something will happen--maybe a look, a smell, a kiss!--and it will trigger a memory in my character's mind. Sometimes (a lot of times), I write these memories without any real idea of where they will ultimately go in the final narrative, and maybe even less of an idea of how they fit into the theme and the pace of the story. They surprise me, almost every time. And they also, very often, become these tiny pieces of the story that make me fall in love with it.

In real life, the triggers of memory can be subtle or vivid, and I love exploring the path my brain takes when I can trace it. Driving home a couple nights ago, I went past this house all lit up for Christmas, a house I go past every single day on my way from work to home. The lights are a little gaudy for my taste, but the other night as I drove past, I was instantly reminded of another night that I passed that house lit up like that, a night the lights made me burst into tears of happiness and hopefulness and...well...hormones.

It was six years ago, when I was pregnant with Jabber, and I know it was close to his birth day because a) the house was decorated, and b) my belly was wedged in behind the steering wheel so tightly I couldn't breathe properly. It had been a long day, and I remember looking up at that house all lit with its gaudy green and red poinsettias hanging off all the trees and thinking, "Wow. I'm getting a baby for Christmas." And I cried. And I can remember the little flurry of squirming that went on at just that moment from within my giant abdomen, as though Jabber were jumping for joy within his cramped quarters.

So all it took to revisit that memory was a glimpse of some lights strung up on a couple of trees in a yard I drive past every single weekday. Instantly, my whole body was awash in the sensations of that moment from over six years ago.



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