Elvis said his first two-syllable word today – tractor. He is possibly the cutest thing on the planet, even cuter than labrador puppies. My mom took a short video clip of him, Lydia, my dad, and me sitting on the couch looking through a tractor book. It will go on Facebook sometime soon… if Facebook decides to upload the video for me. Harrumph.
I am still at my parents’ house, which has been a great time. Today, I had the pleasure of dining with some good friends from high school. It is always fun to get together with high school friends. You can fool your college friends, you can fool your colleagues at work, you can even fool your husband, but your high school friends really know the depth and breadth of your dorkiness. There’s no need to disguise it. I can just let it all hang out there.
The last few days I’ve had a lot of ideas bumbling about in my head for essays and books and poems, but I’m trying to work through this ridiculously lengthy collection of essays for River Teeth. It is over 500 pages of excellent writing, which I’ve been nibbling on for the last two weeks trying to finish proofing before Monday. Now, my Monday plans have changed and it looks as if I am going to need to take the day off in order to pick up the husband from the airport and watch my children. Brandon’s mom needs to get an emergency dentist appointment on Monday morning, which changes those plans. But anyway, the RT deadline is Monday… a small problem because I have at least four pages of corrections I wanted to have approved by the editors before sending in to be changed. I may have to ask UNP for a one day extension in light of the timing.
Only two more essays to go, though. That’s a relief.
Back to the ideas for books and essays. I had this one today, about my Grandpa Fugman. Besides going to Japan after they dropped the bomb as a radio man, grandpa was a talented musician who had been invited to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He was in Nashville at the time and called home to ask his dad if he could stick around a few more days for the performance, but his dad said no, the hay needs to be baled and you need to get home. So he came home. This has always been one of those great family stories. My grandpa wasn’t a person I knew well; from a granddaughter’s perspective, he was a strange, reserved, white-haired man who drove around in his car all day, slept on an army cot in the yard in the afternoons, and lived in the hay barn on the farm my grandparents own. He’s a great character to write about and has a good deal of indirect influence in my life, but besides all of that, I was thinking today about how opportunities like the Grand Ole Opry and opportunities like the one I’ve had this past few months to publish a chapbook happen rarely, suddenly, and sometimes quietly. It occurred to me that many of us have opportunities to take a risk, to make the leap into something we have always dreamed of, but our duties to family or other sources keep us from following those dreams.
Grandpa obeyed his father and came home, never to perform on the Grand Ole Opry. He baled a lot of hay. The musical tradition in my family is a vein gradually filling with the cholesterol of busyness, but still they sing. Still they play. Some of us play our songs with different instruments, but we are still playing. Duty vs. dreams — when is the risk worth taking, and when is it more honorable, wiser, or better to acknowledge responsibility and obligations for the good of more than me?
So that’s one essay I’d like to persue. I’m also beginning to feel the urgency to write the book we’ve joked about for a while, whose veins run deeper than the original idea, but whose title would be – “Grandma and the son of a b**ch who… a Granddaughter looks at the last of the Greatest Generation.” We have some great stories to stack in here, but I think what I want to explore in this book is the lives of my immediate grandparents and the lives of my husband’s grandparents – the quirks that set them apart from my parents’ and my generations, the oddities that make them unique, the resolve and strength that cause us to revere their ways, and the shortcomings that reveal their fallibility. How are we different from this great generation? How did the greatest generation live? How does the greatest generation die?
Another world of research I’d like to indulge in are my own personal roots. Much of the research has been done by my grandma Fugman on her side of the family. I have deep roots in American soil, reaching all the way back to the Revolutionary War, and this clawed grip to earth is something I’d like to pursue. On my mom’s side of the family, my great-grandmother was born on the boat coming from Czechoslovakia. These two heritages – they are rich and diverse, something to be celebrated and something unusual.
In general, I’d like to write more. I was surprised at the amount of poems I was able to generate in 2008. My chapbook has mostly poems from 2008 in it. If I have any resolutions for 2009, one of them would be to write more essays, more memoir, and begin the work that is necessary to write these stories. Our lives are all rich with stories – we just have to find the time to write them down.