The next step

It’s been just over three weeks since my last post, but I’m back! As usual life keeps getting in the way, but I’ve made the commitment to myself to continue this blog, if for nothing else than to push myself to write something…anything…on a somewhat regular basis.

My last post was step back into my first return to writing after focusing on raising my kids. I was taking part in a two session memoir writing class and had had extremely positive response to a piece I wrote during the first session. Not only was there a positive response to the piece, but I read my work to a group of strangers for the first time ever in my life.

I left the session on an emotional high, and with an assignment. We were to write three pieces in the course of the next six days, and email them to our instructor. Each piece was to be an unedited 30 minute write, just the first thing that popped into our heads. We were to email them to Sue and she would give us hard-copies at the next session, with her critique of our work.

Hmmm…three pieces, thirty minutes of writing for each. Could I fit it into my work and family schedule? Yes, I’d find the time!I craved this creative release and knew I’d make it work somehow.

The thirty minutes flew by as the events of the day I was to recount came alive to me once again. I could feel the emotions of my younger self: excitement, bewilderment, fear. The sights and sounds being reborn as though it were yesterday. I completed the other two pieces and emailed them off with more than a bit of nerves and anxiety building within me.

When we arrived at the session the following Saturday, Sue handed our work back to each of us. She then explained how the type of critique she did worked. Using a green pen, red implies editing and she did not edit any of our work, she would hold the pen at the left side of the page as she started to read and she felt like we “connected” with out reader. Running a line down the page as the connection continued, she would add a second line running parallel to the first when we really grabbed the reader’s attention. I’m pleased to say that all of my pieces had at least one line down the left side of the page, and two lines in a couple of sections of two of them. I was shocked to see the third piece, the one I actually wrote first, with two solid lines from the first word of the piece, to the very last.

Sue wrote a couple of lines of encouragement at the end of one piece, nothing at the end of the second, but at the end of the third…this is what I found, “Wow! You say in the beginning ”I keep coming back to the damn rabbit!” But obviously, from the level of connection in this story, this was a major event. A flawless piece. You hit a nerve & let it rip. Bravo!!”

A few months later the writing group received funding to publish an anthology of original works. I submitted a few pieces, ‘The Rabbit’ being one, and the editor contacted me to say she would be pleased to include this “piece of fiction” in the book. I responded and said I would love for it to be a part of the publication, but I couldn’t allow it to be published under the belief it was a work of fiction. This was a memoir piece and I wanted to ensure it was accepted as that. The immediate response back from the editor was that, now knowing it was memoir, it had to be in the book.

I spent the next month cleaning up and editing the piece before it was ready for final submission. With the final edit, I also changed the name of the piece. ‘Dreams: A Memoir’ was published in the anthology, Signatures in 2002. I hope you enjoy the read.

*Author’s note: Mom, as referenced in this piece is not my birth mother, nor my stepmother, but a woman who was in my life at a young age, and who was my mother figure at that time.

‘Dreams: A Memoir’

That damn rabbit. I keep coming back to that damn rabbit! We won it at the Saturday matinee right before Easter, my sisters, Brenda and Laurie, and me, the youngest. Actually, Brenda won it. It was her stub that was drawn, but she knew it would be a lot of work so she said it was “our” rabbit.

We had been told the draw was that weekend and with a child’s innocence, were sure we would win. Encased behind her shield of glass, the young girl took our quarters and with a smile, handed us our tickets. She knew she had just handed us the winning ticket.

Walking through the heavy glass and metal doors, we approached the last barrier between us and our dreams. Our rabbit and the kingdom of make believe lay just ahead. With some hesitation, we handed the usher our tickets. He stood tall and regal in his bright red jacket, his gold buttons gleaming, black pants pressed to perfection. I don’t think he was much older then Brenda, yet he seemed to self-assured in that uniform. Tearing our tickets in half, he handed us back the key to our happiness.

Having passed this last blockade to this kingdom of make believe, we shuffled forward to collect our first reward. We joined the line snaking up to the counter, clutching our money in sweaty palms mouths watering with the smell of popcorn and butter. Lots of butter! Snacks in hand, we turned to the stairs and the balcony.

Brenda always wanted to sit on the balcony: the big kids section. She must have felt burdened having to drag Laurie and me with her everywhere. I guess five years’ age difference means a lot when you’re 12. What most kids started to enjoy at that age – a feeling of maturity and independence – was not a luxury extended to Brenda. But to her credit, she never complained and Laurie and I didn’t feel like we were a burden. We were just glad to get out of the house for a few hours.

The lights dimmed, voices hushed and the screen lit up. Cartoons, intermission and then the feature. Same as every other week. But this time the manager came on stage during the break. He was pushing a huge mesh drum; our dream was rolling across the stage. The drum held the other halves of our tickets and our prize. And there were three of us! We had to win! We would deal with the consequences later.

Click, click, click. The drum rolled ’round, mixing little slips of paper. Small stubs holding so much hope. But there were three of us! We had to win! Slowly it came to a stop, the door dropped open and he reached inside. We held our breath. Everyone mouthed the numbers on their ticket stubs as he read out the winning ticket. They all thought they had won…we all had the same first few numbers…then the moment of truth. Suddenly, Brenda was jumping up and down!

“I won! I won!” she yelled. Running down the stairs, she disappeared from view for a moment, only to reappear in the middle aisle below heading for the stage. And there it was. She climbed the stairs to the stage, reaching out to grasp ‘our’ prize. A beautiful, soft, white rabbit. An Easter Bunny just for us! I don’t remember how we managed to keep that thing once we got it home.

“More trouble than it’s worth.”

But keep it we did. We took turns caring for our rabbit, keeping it out in the old chicken coop in the back. ‘Til that night.

It’s my turn to feed and water the rabbit. But it’s cold, and I’m only six. Surely it can wait until morning. Climbing into bed, I fall asleep, never giving a second thought to him out in the shed.

Soundly sleeping – suddenly awake. The lights on. Yelling. I’m being pulled from my bed. My hair! My hair! Owww! My God Mom, what’s wrong? I’m sorry! What did I do? I’m pushed through the kitchen, down the back stairs and through the mudroom. Without stopping, I stumble into the snow. A tiny flashlight is thrust in my hands to mark the way. No slippers to keep my feed warm and dry, my thin flannel nightgown blowing in the wind, I struggle through the darkness. Snow melting underfoot – I fight to stay upright.

The rabbit. Have to feed the rabbit. That’s it! That must be what’s wrong! I chip away the ice in the water dish, and scoop out some food pellets. Ok, It’s done. I can go back to bed now. Everything’s fine. I fixed it. I fixed it!

I’m scared! It’s dark out here! Hurrying back into the house I just want to crawl back in my warm bed. But I can’t. She’s waiting for me. She grabs my hair and pulls me up the stairs to the kitchen. Blinking, trying to adjust to the bright light, I’m pushed ’round the corner and into the pantry. The trap door is open., and the black mouth leading to the cellar greets me. I don’t understand. Why do I have to go down there? The rabbit’s been fed! Everything’s fine! It’s fine!

I’m pushed down the stairs. Hard and wooden, they seem to echo with my tiny footsteps. The trap door slammed shut and locked behind me. I want out! Let me out! I’m cold! It’s dark! I’m scared! Let me out! But I don’t get out. I can only listen to her through the door.

“Maybe next time you’ll remember to feed the damn rabbit! See how it feels!” And then she’s gone. Back to her bed and a good night’s sleep.

I sit on the stairs. Crying, I don’t know for how long. Scared, I’m scared. It’s dark down here. Spiders in the corner. Strange sounds from the outer rooms. Please God, make them stay there.

What that? Noises from the drain, wind whistling through the crack in the window.

Slowly and quietly, I slip down the rest of the stairs, guiding myself mainly by touch and memory, and my little flashlight. No blankets down here. I curl up under the stairs on the concrete floor, back to the wall. I’ll be safe here. I hug my light, trying to keep it from shaking. The shadows, I don’t like the shadows. My shaking only causes the beam to create more shaped of unknowns. Are they getting closer? Shapes I would recognize in daylight now become monsters waiting for my light to go out.

I want out! I promise to be good! I won’t forget! I promise! I promise!

I awaken from this nightmare shaking and sweaty and I remember. She’s gone. She can’t hurt me anymore.

I won’t let her.

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