Last March I was desperately attempting to finish up an essay for my last undergraduate non-fiction writing class when my blackberry started going nuts. I made eight sales in my etsy shop in under an hour. My first eight sales ever came in under an hour. A few more came later on that night and my ability to complete the essay, due the next day was completely shot. I had spent three lonely weeks promoting my shop with confidence with no luck, than suddenly, I was overwhelmed with my initial bout of success. I turned in an inadequate first draft for critique the next day.
I had ostensibly written about my paternal grandfather (most of my essays are actually about me.) I wrote about the Holt family and the tall tale exodus of the Bavarian Jews from Germany just in the nick of time, about their setting up shop as bootleggers in Kentucky, about my Grandfather’s miraculous and supernatural conversion to Christianity. How he became a preacher. How he sparked a trend in Holt men becoming preachers. How he set an example for my generation to do something legendary to keep up with our forebears. I revised the paper for my final at the behest of my professor, earning myself a big fat “A” for the first time in that class. (He was an old school tough grader. And I appreciated that.)
I am nearing the end of my tenure at Ice and Olives. If all goes well, I should be successfully unemployed within the next couple of weeks. (The exact date is still unknown.) I am leaving to pursue a writing (and knitting) career. One of the writerly endeavors I have lined up for this fall is to put together a book proposal based on the Tall-Tale Essay (as I refer to it in my head.) On Friday, I am loading up my siblings and my voice recorder and road-tripping it over to Jacksonville, IL where my grandparents currently live. Part of the motivation is to get interviews for my book. The main reason for the trip however, is that two months ago we found out my grandfather’s cancer was back, and apparently had been for some time now. We were going to say goodbye.
This afternoon, after a stressful day at work that leaves me doubting whether I really will be able to leave the day job in early November, I received a message from my dad warning that my grandfather might not make it through the weekend. I sat on the stoop to my apartment building to call my fatherback. The sun was shinning, but as I heard the real story of my grandfather’s rapidly declining condition for the first time, it started to rain on me as if I had summoned my own personal dark cloud.
I have been close to panic all night. I didn’t go to knitting. I didn’t take the nap I desperately needed. Athrun is with his dad. Brock is at work. I was alone and I buried myself in Tom Perotta’s The Leftovers instead of working on the finishing touches for my craft show in ten days. The book is difficult to put down, but not exactly cheery so I got up and made something that I suppose would qualify as dal since the main ingredients are lentils and curry, but it just has a little bit of everything from the CSA bag in it too.
I tend to think about writing when I cook.
As I chopped onions to the sound of popping mustard seeds, I realized the connection between my single rainy cloud and the supposed supernatural events that has punctuated my grandfather’s life. This weekend I am packing all the trappings of the writerly trade: voice recorder, notebook, pencil, camera, laptop. I plan to record this trip, however long it ends up being, so I have my facts straight, but I am not going to rule out the possibility of a little bit of magical realism either.
It’s just the way it goes with us.