I’m happy to introduce Kathryn Magendie to you this morning. I have long appreciated Kat’s sense of humor and have been delighted with her books Tender Graces and Secret Graces. Sit back, grab a glass of cold sweet tea (or whatever your favorite summertime beverage is) and enjoy Kat’s very own sweet summer memory surge.
Memory Surges: What Words May Come
The summer we installed screen doors on the front and back of our little log home, I said to GMR, “I need to check them out.”
“They work,” he said. “I already tried them.”
“No, what I mean is: I need to check them for slammability. What’s the use of a screen door if it doesn’t slam properly?” I opened the door. The spring made that scraaang sound. So far, so good. I stepped out and away from the door and let it fly shut: SLAMMERSMACK!—
— I am running on summer-heated grass. A just-mown yard leaves my feet green-tinged. Sweat and dirt hides in the creases of my neck. Youngest brother shouts, “No fair!” Impish brother answers, “Haha! Is, too! Nya Nya.” I say, “I’m a winged horse flying up to the skyyyyy. No one can catch me!” Oldest brother runs to catch me, trips me into the grass, teases, “Haw haw! I caught you!” Daredevil brother swings from a tree limb, calling out, “Look at me! Look! LOOOOK!,” and he flips up and over and lands on his backside—we kids all laugh, mouths open wide, fingers pointing. Wait, what’s that?—Pop Goes the Weasel from two streets away. We rush inside through the screen door—SLAMMERSMACK! SLAMMERSMACK! SLAMMERSMACK!—to shake out nickels and dimes from our ceramic piggy banks. We hurry back out—(SLAMMERSMACK! “You kids stop slamming that door!”)—holding the coins in our sweaty palms. Mr. Ice-Cream Man turns the corner and is here. We crowd around his truck. He opens the freezer and cold air whooshes out. I ask for a Flintstone’s Push Up, and after he hands it to me, I let loose of my sticky coins. Trade. Even Steven. Off I go, push up dripping down my arm, and nothing else is as sweet—
—“It works,” I said to GMR. And it worked in ways I’d never imagined, for a memory-surge came calling from a simple echoed sound.
Those memory-surges can be translated into our writing, even when we are not aware of it. Imagine that into your opened window comes a familiar scent or sound (barbeque charcoals, lawnmower revving, sweet olive, ka-shi-shi-shi ka-shi-shi-shi of a lawn sprinkler, bumblebee buzzzz, peaches), and as you are writing your brain receives, and from its storage banks stirs Memory. Your writing takes a turn, even if you are not noting it consciously. And then, your words or scene or character will have a wonderful Truth to it, tangible evidence of something real.
I once said to an English instructor, “I didn’t know I’d done that. It was accidental.”
She answered, “There are no accidents in writing. Everything comes from that brain of yours.”
If we relax into our writing and allow our subconscious some freedom, who knows what magic may come? Who knows what sensory happenstance will provide a hidden memory, and then, as we type away, particles of that memory are placed into our stories, even if ethereally, even if obliquely, even if only by the placement of one tiny phrase, or image, sight, or sound. It’s all a part of the process.
Sit back. Relax. Fingers to keys. Trust the process. The words will come.
And I’d like to know: What are some of your favorite summer memories?
Kathryn Magendie is Co-editor/publisher of the Rose & Thorn (http://www.roseandthornjournal.com/), and author of the Graces Series: Tender Graces & Secret Graces (the third Graces book will be released in 2011). Kathryn’s novel Sweetie will be released fall 2010. Her short stories, essays, poetry, and nature-inspired photography have been published in online and print publications. Kathryn lives tucked in a cove at Killian Knob in the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. You can follow her on twitter (http://twitter.com/katmagendie) or Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.magendie), her blog (http://www.tendergraces.blogspot.com/), or her website (kathrynmagendie.com).
Thank-you Linda for hosting such a great guest! And thank-you Kathryn for such an enlightening post!
Thank you, Nita for reading and leaving a kind comment!
Fan-flippin'-tastic. Kat, I just love where your writing takes us. Remarkable.
Linda, thanks for having Kat here, and for all the others, too. 😉 It's a great idea!
Ah, yes, from Proust needing the smell of madeleines to stir the words onward.
Growing up in the city during the summers meant roller skating, jumping rope and – the best thing ever – splashing through the gushing water of the fire hydrants when the firemen opened them on really hot days to let us cool off. Everyone danced around the water, even those kids who normally wouldn't talk to the kids they considered unpopular. Yep. I was in the latter group. 🙂
Thanks for this wonderful post of memories.
Yes ma'am! Sense memories. You are a master(ess) of this — making the memories come alive for your readers.
Slammersmack! We musta had the same ice cream man. Ours played Pop Goes the Weasel too! 🙂
Great stuff here. Thanks to both ladies.
Thank y'all for the kind words.
I love summer memories!
Here's one where I'm surprised my brothers and I don't have three heads and six fingers:
WHen we lived in Shreveport many moons ago, we used to ride our bikes behind the Skeeter truck – in the clouds of poison! We thought it Great Fun to ride in the thick white "smoke" that came out of the truck – the guys never tried to stop us *laughing*
I don't know how we never were sick! Back then, in the early or mid-60's, they probably used horrid poisons! Lawd!
Lots of my writing comes from memory jogs and the screendoor would wake up sleepy hollow.
Our rescue dog knows how to slam the screen door quite well *laugh* she runs outside and SLAMMERSMACK! – especially if the coon climbs the tree to get to the squirrel feeder!
Another summer memory: Playing in a rainstorm, as long as it wasn't lightning. . . we'd slap each other with wet towels! 😀
I love Kathryn, and she is such a stitch! Summers, smell of cut grass, juicy peaches, snow cones, and fireflies.
We used to 'rescue' winged ants and japanese beetles with their beautiful green and red iridescent shells from our pool. They left our fingers with that beetle smell, we'd have a hundred of them crawling and flipping all over each other in a shoebox. I love seeing my kids that excited over the little creatures, toads and whatnot. Thanks for stirring up the memories!
We have so many fireflies/lightening bugs here in the cove – they always mean summer to me!
Karen – did you know I can't stand to touch a peach skin? *laughing* Someone has to peel them for me! haw!
I love the way those memories work, and the way you wrote it. Thanks.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by and leave a nice comment — all of you thank you! 😀
One day, when I get to heaven, I wanna write words as well as Kathryn. I can dream can't I?
I remember hot summer days, running barefoot through the streets of New Orleans making my way to the library. Oh how I loved the library!
GMR is a New Orleans native 🙂
I loved (and still do) the library, too -as a child, that was my sancutary and second home! And I was always barefoot . . .
Thank you Linda, for allowing me to be a guest on your beautiful blog!
I love this. Memories are what I strive for to get in print. I'm not good at it but I think they are so very important. Thank you for this both Kate.
Kat, it's an added bonus to come back and read your additional memories. It's such a layered picture you paint. Love it.
Thank y'all 🙂 — Janna, getting ready to go read yours!
Jill – i bet you are better at it than you think!
What a treat to read this story, Kat. Screen doors do the exact same thing for me, as well as the scent of lilacs, thunder storms, and hay.
An added bonus to find this amazing blog. I'll be back for more.
Thank you to you both.
Hi Deb! Hay! yes, my summer trips to Arkansas where my (adoptive)mom's family lives on a farm 🙂