Tuesday, July 29, 2014
What makes a writer? There are said to be a lot of ways to get into this particular form of insanity, but I can only speak for myself. Personally, I believe writers are born, not made.
I’ve just returned from a small visit to an old friend. We reconnected through our 50th HS reunion, which is a little odd, as I didn’t graduate from that school, but from a grammar school in Barbados. My friend and I hadn’t spoken or written since the 9th grade. That summer, my mother fled an abusive marriage and went to see old friends in the UK. She thought she and Dad were taking a break; he knew that the marriage was over, although he didn't say so . When I left home that summer, I expected to return to the US by Christmas. My father, however, already had a woman waiting in the wings. Instead an eventual reunion, there was an ugly long distance divorce. My school friends soon stopped answering my sad letters. In the '50's, a divorce sent you into social exile.
Over time, I’d set the past aside. "Lost and gone forever" and "stiff upper lip" were the lessons. Imagine my surprise upon receiving an out-of-the-blue note last summer from this long-lost BFF! Apparently, one of our old classmates was with the FBI. For the fiftieth reunion, he’d pulled out all the stops, and located everybody even remotely associated with his graduating class.
So what made this old friend so special? Well, Gemma was a co-conspirator in the great game of acting out the stories that filled my head. Her Mom sent her to ballet class and they had a wonderful costume box, too, something that every well-equipped home possessed in those days. I wanted to retell the stories I'd read, and sometimes to rewrite them—what is now called “fan fic” -- but mostly, in those days, we shared a desire to act them out.
As we approached our teens, Gemma was among the few who would still engage in the make-believe which remained the center of my world. I was the story-teller, the director. Gemma intuitively understood the world of theater. She created dances and she had a fantastic sense of design, so she did costuming and make-up. Her house was large; her parents indulgent. We could stay up late, until our projects were complete. Favorites came from history and Greek myths--the gorier, the better. Cleopatra and the asp, Iphigenia on the altar, the Princes in the Tower, Aida and Radames buried alive! We always had musical accompaniment, too, so there was Beethoven, Schumann and Smetana’s The Moldau and all of Tchaikovsky's ballets. We had Grand Opera, too. Puccini and Verdi wrote music full of high drama, and their librettos reliably ended with someone tragically expiring.
In our late sixties now, we reminisce, discussing marriages and schools, children and grandchildren, parents and trips abroad. Gemma became a college professor. I became (finally) a writer. Her job was a wiser choice, but I still can’t quit those old habits of falling in love with passionate characters, the kind whose stories I've just got to tell.
~~ Juliet Waldron~~
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