All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, September 1, 2023

It's That Time of Year...

With such an ominous title, a lot of people would be quick to fill in their own answers: It's meteorological autumn, it's football season (college or pro), it's time to go back to school... the list goes on. For me, however, it is story season. Or, as it is more formally known, our annual family reunion. On this weekend, all of the descendants of my grandfather who are still alive and were able to get paroled gather together for some good old-fashioned quality extended family time. And oh what a time it is.

What makes it such a memorable time of year? Well, it could be the pounds and pounds of Midwestern comfort food (basically any recipe with at least two of the following: potatoes, noodles/macaroni, cheese, heavy cream, eggs). It also could be all of us grown-ups regressing along with our cousins to the chaotic troublemakers we were (this is why I once had to drive the 100 miles home with "Just Marry'd" (sic) soaped across my car). And it could have something to do with seeing those family members who I otherwise only get to spy on through social media. But to be totally honest, I go there for the stories.

This particular branch of my family has lived in the same area for over a century, and most of the landmarks of that life are still in place. You can visit the house where my great-grandfather lived and died, where my grandfather was born, the places where he and his siblings got into trouble, and so on. (Yes, there's an old court ledger in the Albion courthouse that displays my great-uncle's name, what he was charged with, and the $7 fine he had to pay). Their lives are still very much a part of the landscape, and yes, their headstones adorn more than a few cemeteries out that way.

In this regard, our reunion is a chance to mill through these stories, adding a few new ones, sorting out the details of our own stories, and trying to cobble together the pieces of those stories fading into the distant past. My creative mind loves this part, because like any good storyteller, I want to tease out as many details as possible to have a whole story to work with. I want to gather the lore and the documentation about my uncle who lied about his age and joined the service in 1942 at the age of 13, got kicked out, then joined a different branch at 15. I want to hear about my grandfather (who I never met) and discover all the different sides of him from his nieces and nephews. And speaking of nephews, I also want to hear why my father often referred to my cousins as those "sticky nephews" of his. Sticky? There has to be a story there.

Often, when we live in the moment, we forget to collect this information and build together a good framework for the people around us. We forget that those people are compilations of their own stories, each of which makes up an important piece of their life. We enjoy our family's company when we are sharing some cheesy potato and pasta casserole, but we lose track of those times when our cousin stole a car on a dare, or first learned to make a smoking pipe out of an apple. And then one day, those stories are gone, and it's a hard fight to get them back. 

So this weekend, I will be collecting stories, sharing my stories, filling in a few historical blanks, and eating my body weight in starch and dairy fat. I hope you find a good way to celebrate Labor Day weekend as well, but more importantly, I hope you claim some stories from the experience.

Also, in light of Monday being a national holiday and all, I will not be posting that day. My next post will be Friday, September 8th. Happy Labor Day.           

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