Monday, October 24, 2016

Memoir Seminar - Writing about a character.

At the memoir writing class on Saturday we were assigned the task of writing about a character, including setting a scene which we did last week. But we only have 250 words!! I can barely say hello with 250, but here's what I did with slightly under 300. One more edit and I should get it. 

Even with her little girl's clothing covered by an apron, Auntie Pearl's wrinkled face looked freakish in contrast to her child's body and Mary Jane shoes. That Sunday after mass, she was waiting for me at the door of my "nest of aunts.” Quickly, she led me up the stairs to her bedroom, which smelled faintly like Evening of Paris cologne and mothballs. Her head of bushy grey hair bobbed as she looked through her bed sheets in the large mahogony dresser drawer she’d taken to sleeping in. Auntie Pearl was always fun but today she was different. "There's faces on my knees," she said in her throaty voice, rubbing her skin vigorously with the face cloth she’d found. Standing up, she pulled a necklace out of her pocket and thrust it into my hands. Pearl was the only adult I could look directly in the eyes. I was 11 and Auntie Pearl was 50. I knew something was wrong.

Pearl was born with Turner's syndrome and despite my families fervent prayers, she didn't grow past the age of ten. Permanently trapped in a child's body, she was fiercely protected by our well-meaning family and kept safely at home. With no education, job or relationships, she had become our families "rememberer" keeping track of every event—year, date, time and even the weather. Other families kept a Bible for records; we had Auntie Pearl. 

Looking back, it's not surprising that she mentally abandoned that limited life and escaped to a different world—one in which she was a beauty Queen, with suitors and a very special talent on the piano. Like an unwanted family member, mental illness had moved into the “nest” and changed it for good. Sunday talk from then on was about lithium, thorazine and shock treatments.

Little Auntie Pearl had become my Crazy Little Aunt.

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