The Presence of the Past


When she’s confused by the present, Pearl turns to the past: She struggles to the attic and fetches the box containing the remnants of her history.  She takes that box into the kitchen and sets it on the table, a table always covered by a vinyl cloth; bright yellow flowers on a white background.  In the fall of her life, it is perpetually spring on Pearl’s kitchen table.

The plastic flowers cheer her.

Pearl removes the lid from the box, takes up her lighted magnifying glass and settles comfortably into her past.  She feels her body relax and lighten as she reads the letters her parents wrote to one another when they were courting.  She laughs at the family photographs of her mother and her nine brothers.  She reads old letters from people whose names she no longer recognizes.

She frowns.  The past is dying.

No.  She corrects herself.  The past is vast, ever-expanding.  The past is growing thick with memories forgotten.

She tells herself that in the near future, she will belong to the past.  Even today, the majority of her life is past.  She wonders what will happen to her history after she is gone.  She picks up a photograph and flips it over.  Paul.  For years, she has wondered about Paul and his place in her history.

The past is too deep to comprehend.  There are too many characters, too many events, too many faces: How can anyone expect to understand it without a guide?

She will leave a roadmap; a compass; a light illuminating the way back, showing all the twists and turns and connections of her life.  She rises and crosses to her desk, tucked into a corner of the kitchen.  She rolls in a crisp sheet of paper and begins to type.

To Whom it May Concern…

No.  That won’t do at all.  She pulls the paper from the typewriter, balls it up and begins again.

My dears,

She smiles, hits the carriage return and continues.

This post was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  The word was deep, third definition.


Labels:

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: The Presence of the Past

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Presence of the Past


When she’s confused by the present, Pearl turns to the past: She struggles to the attic and fetches the box containing the remnants of her history.  She takes that box into the kitchen and sets it on the table, a table always covered by a vinyl cloth; bright yellow flowers on a white background.  In the fall of her life, it is perpetually spring on Pearl’s kitchen table.

The plastic flowers cheer her.

Pearl removes the lid from the box, takes up her lighted magnifying glass and settles comfortably into her past.  She feels her body relax and lighten as she reads the letters her parents wrote to one another when they were courting.  She laughs at the family photographs of her mother and her nine brothers.  She reads old letters from people whose names she no longer recognizes.

She frowns.  The past is dying.

No.  She corrects herself.  The past is vast, ever-expanding.  The past is growing thick with memories forgotten.

She tells herself that in the near future, she will belong to the past.  Even today, the majority of her life is past.  She wonders what will happen to her history after she is gone.  She picks up a photograph and flips it over.  Paul.  For years, she has wondered about Paul and his place in her history.

The past is too deep to comprehend.  There are too many characters, too many events, too many faces: How can anyone expect to understand it without a guide?

She will leave a roadmap; a compass; a light illuminating the way back, showing all the twists and turns and connections of her life.  She rises and crosses to her desk, tucked into a corner of the kitchen.  She rolls in a crisp sheet of paper and begins to type.

To Whom it May Concern…

No.  That won’t do at all.  She pulls the paper from the typewriter, balls it up and begins again.

My dears,

She smiles, hits the carriage return and continues.

This post was written for this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  The word was deep, third definition.


Labels:

26 Comments:

At February 7, 2012 at 7:57 AM , Anonymous Lisa W. Rosenberg said...

Love this: "The past is growing thick with memories forgotten." I get such a strong sense of what it is to be Pearl here. Beautiful!

 
At February 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM , Anonymous Jaum said...

As Lisa said, the words and phrasing are beautiful, as is the introspective tone. There is so much to like about this.... I think I'll just read it again.

 
At February 7, 2012 at 1:19 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

Thanks - This gave me an interesting idea...

 
At February 7, 2012 at 1:19 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Lisa!

 
At February 7, 2012 at 3:05 PM , Anonymous The Gal Herself said...

I love, LOVE that she used a typewriter! That's an important detail and says so much about our heroine. This is very well written and I enjoyed it so.

 
At February 7, 2012 at 3:18 PM , Anonymous Annabelle said...

I like the idea of her leaving a road map; it's a lovely image, and something I have wished my grandparents had done before they passed on. And I agree, the typewriter is just the right sort of detail for the piece.

 
At February 7, 2012 at 7:39 PM , Anonymous Tara R. said...

A saw a piece on Sunday Morning about a man who restores old typewriters, so when you included her character typing out a letter... carriage return... I was reminded of the report and my old manual I used in college.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 12:21 AM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

This post is pregnant with possibilities and future connections. Extremely well written, it leaves the reader waiting for so much more! Great hook!

 
At February 8, 2012 at 4:28 AM , Anonymous jesterqueen1 said...

I love her idea that the past is ever expanding and she will soon belong to it. This sentence " In the fall of her life, it is perpetually spring on Pearl’s kitchen table." captivated me

 
At February 8, 2012 at 5:41 AM , Anonymous The Mommy Patient said...

I love the little details that tell a story about this woman, like the vinyl cloth and the plastic flowers, and the desk tucked into her kitchen. I can visualize who she is. Also, I love how she starts over with "My dears,". This piece spoke to me.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 10:57 AM , Anonymous BrendaMoguez said...

Great opening line. I wasn't sure where we were going or if this was part of a bigger something until I got to the end. I slipped easily into the piece even without context. Nicely done.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:05 PM , Anonymous Ms. G said...

Very nice! I'm feeling rather fond of Pearl, which is what I like in a read.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:13 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I like Pearl, too. She's kind of a combination of grandmothers I've known.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:13 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Brenda. I wasn't sure where we were going either.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:14 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you! Pearl is a combination of grandmothers--my own and others--that I've known.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you! I always appreciate your comments.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Elizabeth!

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I'd like to see that piece. After the day I had (flat tire, getting lost driving in a new area, ipods and computers refusing to work properly), I'm ready to go back to typewriters. Much more reliable.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:17 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thank you, Annabelle. My grandmother kept her typewriter in the kitchen and my mother kept hers on a card table in the attic.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 2:17 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I love the typewriter, too. Thanks so much for reading.

 
At February 8, 2012 at 5:36 PM , Anonymous Carrie said...

Pearl has a good attitude.

I like the position you took on the past, that it was growing and changing instead of dying and withering away

 
At February 9, 2012 at 7:30 AM , Anonymous Latitudes of a Day said...

This so perfectly expresses "Who will remember___________when I'm gone." I've battered old photo album of faces I do not know. I look at these pictures and think there are life stories here. I like the way you effortlessly paced Pearl's thinking, the contrasting detail of the ever present spring of the table cloth with the stage of Pearl's life---A quick slice-of-life nicely done.

 
At February 9, 2012 at 8:17 AM , Anonymous Columbibueno said...

I like how you made the past expand for this character. This was a very relaxing piece...

 
At February 9, 2012 at 4:48 PM , Anonymous Rachel Teixeira said...

I love that you included the table cloth, the typewriter and the desk tucked in the corner in the kitchen all things that remind me of the past things that might belong to a grandmother.

 
At February 10, 2012 at 4:24 AM , Anonymous Trifectawritingchallenge said...

Thanks for linking up to this week's Trifecta. I loved this piece. You got me with the same details that everyone else seemed to love--the tablecloth, the typewriter. Gorgeous writing. I love the idea of leaving a roadmap. Maybe that's what we're all doing here. Hope you'll come back on Friday for the weekend challenge.

 
At February 12, 2012 at 6:27 AM , Anonymous idiosyncratic eye said...

This made me wonder so much and it truly was deep. Great writing. :)

 

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