Rambling autobiography

I was born in a state named for a queen, by a river named for a king, and in a hospital named for the river. I adore books, words, wind chimes, church bells, birdsong, the crying of gulls at the shore, ocean waves crashing, the utterance of my newest name, Franna, in my granddaughter’s voice, the aliveness in my son’s fingers dancing over the keys of my grandmother’s piano until the house and my soul burst with his music, and silences. I bought a white flannel nightgown and sheets with bright red cardinals on them at Christmastime because Grandma loved cardinals and Christmas, it is the season of her birth and her death, she is nearest then, so now I lay me down to sleep in heavenly peace. I have her wedding band; I wear it every day. I never dreamed of being a teacher. One of my sons became a teacher, too, then a preacher, like his father. When I was eight or nine, I had an imaginary black cat; one time after climbing from the backseat of Grannie’s car, I flung my hand out to keep the imaginary cat from escaping and Grannie slammed the door on my fingers (no one ever knew about the cat…sorry, Grannie, it wasn’t your fault). My favorite place is out in the middle of nowhere along an old dirt road where my grandmother then my father then I played as children, where cicadas in the woods sing as loud as Heaven’s choir about being born, living, dying, and the Resurrection. I can still smell Old Spice in the cool of those evenings when Granddaddy leaned down to offer me his clean-shaven cheek to kiss, Good night, I love you, see you in the morning. I dated the handsomest black-haired man I’ve ever seen for just three months when we decided to get married, thirty-seven years ago. I fainted at a funeral one summer afternoon but not from grief. I gave my real black cat to Daddy when I got married because I couldn’t take her to the tiny apartment that would be my new home. I once had a yellow parakeet; Daddy got it for my sixth birthday and it lived until I was twelve, dying one summer when I was at Grandma’s playing on the old dirt road — such a mysterious balance, the giving of things and the living of them. I am a grandmother now. I want to have a good dog as long as I am alive and to see my granddaughters grown into all their beautiful becomings before the cicadas sing me away to the riverside where I shall meet the King, at last.

If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:9-10

*******

with many thanks to Denise Krebs for the inspiration. Here are Denise’s starters (borrowed from Linda Rief) for a rambling autobiography:

I was born…
I adore…
I bought…
I have…
I never…
One of my…
When I was (age)…
My favorite place…
I can still (sense)…
I dated…
I fainted…
I gave…
I once had…
I am…
I want to…

and thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

30 thoughts on “Rambling autobiography

    • Thank you, Terje. My grandparents were among my life’s greatest gifts – so, now, are my grandchildren. Not a day passes without an underlying sense of celebrating them all.

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  1. Fran, you do it every time. You take us to your places, to your moments, to your people, to your heart! Having a dog as long as I live is a big part of who I am, too! Your memories are fully sensory – especially the Old Spice and the white flannel nightgown. Soft tenderness and the feeling of clean is right in those lines! The dirt roads of home pull me in!!

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  2. Fran, I was swept away into your rambling autobiography and felt a bit closer to you with your life details sprinkled throughout. Thank you for that sinking-into-silence place you can send us. Awe is working inside your heart and outside your being. Your one word has transformed your visual acuity into a sit by my side and listen wonder. I will bookmark this page to remember your words. Thanks also for the golden threads set aside for grandmother thoughts.

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    • Thank you for this beautiful response, Carol, and for mention of my word “awe”. It is absolutely woven through these moments of recalling the gifts I’ve been given, grandparents and grandchildren among the greatest of them. Your words mean much to me!

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  3. I adore this post. I love how it tells about who you are and where you are from. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words that let me peek into the corners of your life. I will be using some of these starters on my own blog post. Wonderful!!!!!

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  4. This ending is spectacular. I love the line about the fainting…but not from grief. It can be read several ways. This feels at once like both a ramble and a plotted course, which mirrors our lives, I suppose.

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    • Ah, the fainting…was wondering if someone would mention. I decided to leave it unexplained. Truth is: I got overheated at the funeral of a friend’s mother while standing in the merciless North Carolina sun and summer humidity in a black dress that didn’t “breathe”. Couldn’t fit all that detail in anyway, so…lovely words about the post and life being both a plotted course and a ramble. So true, Peter. Thank you.

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  5. I love this prompt, and you’re inspiring me to give it a try as well. Putting this in my back pocket to try another day. And yes, the single paragraph makes it feel like a ramble, but I’m catching more of a meander, like the country road you so often write of…

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    • Thank you, Lainie. It really is a meander, of memory and of mindfulness, making meaning of connective threads… I know your own will be amazing. This took me a while, but writing it felt so celebratory.

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  6. I love, love, love your final sentence most of all. Can’t wait for that moment either. I loved learning more about you and think this format is just perfect for catching glimpses into the world and lives of fellow slicers! I’ve read a few now. Will definitely have to give it a go. I hope your fingers were okay! (I used to have an imaginary horse who galloped alongside the car on road trips). Your interweaving of thoughts and images is so, so skilful. When are you writing a book?!

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    • It amazes me how writing has drawn many of us together from all over the world, and how we find ourselves reflected in one another’s experiences. I’ve said that story knits us together by our heartstrings; it DOES. I am grateful for you and your words! My fingers: they weren’t broken but Grannie had locked the door so it took a second of horrified scrambling to get it open, with me screaming. One finger was cut and I had to keep tissue wrapped around it while we continued our shopping trip. My Grannie was “mad as fire” that I threw my hand out – she couldn’t fathom why I’d done it and I didn’t dare tell her about the imaginary cat! Isn’t it funny how such a random memory returns and offers itself. I will think of your galloping horse from now on… see how our stories become part of one another? Which reminds me, I have horse stories connected to long road trips. As to writing a book – that was a childhood dream of mine. Wouldn’t it be fitting if I finally did and it was about my childhood memories. The thought does stir… and thank you ❤

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  7. Wow, just wow, Fran! This is so beautiful and rich. I love to read your writing, and I continue to look forward to your book. Perhaps it will be a book full of childhood memories.

    This is the very best description I’ve ever seen of cicadas:
    “…cicadas in the woods sing as loud as Heaven’s choir about being born, living, dying, and the Resurrection…”

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