Old Stories

Black BinderWednesday, September 17, 2014

Today I am grateful for old stories. I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to take today so I went poking around into my saved file and found this piece I had forgotten I wrote.  I’m happy to say that I am now the writer, who writes every single day, that I wanted to be back in 2008 and I am grateful.  What about you?  What passion have you tucked away until tomorrow?  Pull it out! Tomorrow is today!

Black Binder

By Mary Mooney

© 2008

Some days are stranger than others.  This one was a doozy!  Did something get bombed or destroyed or flooded?  Nope.  Did I win the lottery?  Yeah right.  Not a chance.  No one died or got sick or disappeared.  So what made this dim spring day in Pennsylvania strange?  Cleaning.

We’ve lived in our “down-sized” town house for almost four years.  Sold the big house, got rid of a bunch of crap and moved the rest of the crap to the brand new townhouse in a 55 plus community a mile away.

For four years my writing has been stuffed in sturdy Staples boxes and crammed on shelves in the upstairs storage room.  Waiting.  Once a writer, always a writer works about as well as once an artist, always an artist or once a singer, always a singer or once a jack-ass, always a jack-ass.  Things that are core rarely change.

But is a writer still a writer when he/she hasn’t put digits to keyboard creatively in years? Am I the fraud I’ve always felt like as a writer, or is this stuff worthy?  I find a box with a three inch black binder inside.  This is my early writing.  Poems, short pieces, plays that I haven’t seen in years.  Words I’ve boxed up and forgotten.  My heart in a three-ring-binder, bleeding on every page, with the other binders pressed into service as tourniquets.

I was poised over the folder, ready to open it, when the phone rang.

“Mom? Karen and I and the two kids are on our way to visit you.” My youngest son said.  He’s the one I don’t hear from often and rarely see.

Chaos erupted the minute they walked in the door. A five and one year old inhabit space like none other.  It was a good visit.  The mess upstairs of boxes and boxes strewn everywhere was out of my mind, but the black binder still beckoned softly, like the white sound of background music in a mysterious film.

As one kid and family were getting ready to leave, the other son called and he and his daughter stopped in. All visited for another hour and the background music of my black binder grew more intense, seductive, calling me as a lover who can’t reach you would.

The families left in a flourish of jumper cables and treats and snacks and drinks and extra stuff that I was getting rid of anyway. I hauled more boxes, moved more shelves, arranged more junk in different shaped piles of junk, and declared myself finished for the night.  As my husband headed towards the computer I intercepted him. I got there first, my eyes fixed on the black binder in front of the monitor.

“Are you going to be on the computer?” He was shocked.  For the most part in the last four years, the computer has been his.  Unless I was checking a few emails, getting directions, or researching a vacation, I didn’t spend much time there.  I was working my first full time job in many years because we needed the benefits.  My days were consumed with non-fun computer work and exhaustion.  The last thing I wanted to do on weekends was sit at a computer.  Today I needed it.

“Yes. I will need the computer for the rest of the day.”  Puzzled, he went downstairs to turn on sports.  I waited until he was completely gone, then I opened the black binder, like I used to open the Bible, quickly, without thinking, someplace in the middle where a sign would surely be waiting for me on the page.  A sign that would tell me which direction to take in my life.

My first stop in the black binder was a poem called “Time”. How appropriate.  There can’t be more than seven words to it until towards the end when “tick” pretty much takes over.  Time passing.  Time stopping.  I remember where I was when I wrote “Time”.  Now I never have time to write.  That’s just wrong!

Second stop? A poem written by a friend, then faxed to me in Jakarta, Indonesia, where I lived for three years.  The edges were crinkled and the words nearly faded into oblivion, but could still be read.  It was sent at 11:55 p.m., Pennsylvania time on Wednesday, April 2, 1999.  Nine years ago.  Almost to the day.  What made me find “Dearest Mary” today?

Another flip. Flipping to a random page is not without trauma.  “I Cry” the very first poem I’d ever written, the poem that started it all, the poem that I wrote only to heal and not to publish or pursue writing, stared me in the face. I Cry?  And how.  Boy did I cry.  I cried for four years as I tried to find an emotional equilibrium I never knew existed.  I wrote cry sitting in a comfortable chair in my family room four houses ago.  I cried through the whole thing, then took it to my group therapy session where someone else declared it a poem.

The visit to the black binder was more emotional than visiting old friends, old words, old dreams. I turned to a few more crumpled pages, thinking I could do this for hours. Then I looked through the papers in the front pocket. There it was!  The sketch I had done of myself in the dress I would wear when I collected my Academy Award.

Behind the sketch were the notes about a vision I had experienced as I was wearing the dress. It was dated, October 7, 1992, between 4 & 4:15 p.m.  Sixteen years ago!  Why had I been so specific with the time?  There’s that word again. “Time.” Enough. I have to work in the morning. I need to stop this mad trek down the memory lane of words.

I put the binder away on a shelf, easier to get at, with a new promise.

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