By Rosemary Lord
Many of us get very reflective around this time of year, as we look forward to spending Thanksgiving with friends and loved ones. I love this American tradition. As a transplanted, naturalized American, over the years, I have spent this annual celebration in so many different places, with many different people. I’ve listened to memories of childhood Thanksgivings, of different family traditions across the nation, handed downfrom great grandparents to sons and daughters and then to their offspring, in due course.
Frankly, I envy these traditions. And I just love the importance of all the special family dishes that are served. The recipes handed down through the generations have their ownstories. And the simple custom, at so many tables, of each person sharing what they are thankful for. It’s a wonderful time when everything else stops for a while, and people from different generations, different religions and all walks of life get together to simply say “Thank you.”
After such a strange couple of years, I think many of us realize we have a lot to be thankful for. Maybe for things that we previously had taken for granted. Such as walking out in public bare-faced and exchanging smiles with strangers… an impulsive stop by your favorite family-run café – that is still in business. Or simply – hugs with friends.
As writers, we are more easily able to notice these little things that have come to mean so much. And as writers, we are especially fortunate that, whatever external restrictions the dastardly Covid plague inflicted on so many people, for us scribes, we could just keep on writing.
However, so often we get our story ideas from a chance remark in a casual conversation overheard – or eavesdropping (‘ear-wigging’ is the more colorful informal English term.) I would often make up my own version of the end of some snippet I’d heard and that would sometimes turn into a whole story.
But during these cloistered times, we’ve missed out on overhearing strangers’ conversations.
The Covid situation affected people differently. All around us, some were having meltdowns, dramas, or ‘wobblies’ – as in “She/he’s having a wobblie” – a charming current English phrase. Others found a strength and a fortitude they hadn’t realized they possessed. They found a new purpose, as they stepped into the fray to help the home-bound, the elderly living alone, or the children without an open school to attend. They volunteered wherever they were needed. Many new friendships were created. Everyday heroes emerged, as people found innovative and creative ways to handle the situations we all found ourselves thrust into – and along the way, found ways to improve other people’s lives.
For writers, fascinating tales appeared for our writing brain to feed on. People stories.
These interminable lock-downs have given many people the chance to write that novel they always felt they had in them – but never had the time to pursue. For the uninitiated, they had their first crack at completing that novel. For us old-timers, it was the opportunity to maybe write outside our normal field. (Did I tell you I have a quarter of a noir, dark and creepy contemporary novel done? Who knew I could write that?) And for writers at every level, the burgeoning self-publishing market has been a boon and a blessing.
I have discovered so many new writers from all over the world – especially when I can get the bargain price of a used book, I don’t feel so guilty if I don’t like it. Plus, I have a whole slew of new books to read on my Kindle.
I must confess that my own, personal reading, at the end of a long day wrestling with Woman’s Club administrative ‘stuff’ is more and more escapist. Often tales of a newly widowed or newly divorced woman who decides to start a new life on the other side of the world and open a bakery or her own winery. I’m re-reading my Rosamunde Pilcher favorites and re-discovering what a good, simple, nuanced writer she was. Her books are inspiring – usually about starting again, uncovering deep family secrets that lead to wonderful, happy endings. I like a happy ending. Especially these days.
I think I have a life of unfinished things…. That’s what it seems like to me at the moment. Some painting and fixing things around my apartment. Some sewing bits and pieces. But mostly unfinished novels and stories, which is a good thing, because I have started some new writing projects and my busy mind keeps thinking of more. Not so good because I haven’t had time to complete them. And the characters in my stories are still whispering, nay yelling, in my head to share them with the world…
But I’m thankful for every moment when I am able to write – and plan that “next year it will be different. Promise!” Hmm, I think I’ve said that a time or two before. But I really, really mean it this time!
14 thoughts on “A Life of Unfinished things…”
Thank you, at this Thanksgiving time, for reminding us of the meaning of the holiday. We get so swept up in the shopping side, in the planning the meal, it is easy to forget the original reason for the grand American tradition. I imagine so many people will celebrate, too, a release from the lockdowns you so eloquently describe from a writer’s point of view. One year my mother was here from England and fell so much in love with Thanksgiving and its accoutrements she took back all the table decorations, including dozens of Pilgrim figurines, she could fit into her suitcase, and subsequently held a Thanksgiving dinner each year in the UK.
Good luck with finishing those unfinished things.
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What a lovely thing for your mum to carry on back in England. Hidden at the back of a cupboard, I found a paper Pilgrim from my first Thanksgiving in my apartment… And I do plan to get writing time in over this holiday… promise! Thanks, Jill.
A very touching reminder that we all are having those very human moments during a very trying time, but we can use the time to not only get things done, but maybe move in a new, undiscovered direction. Thanks, Rosie. Happy Thanksgiving.
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That sounds so positive, Gayle: move in a new, undiscovered direction. I like that. Especially my dearest friends now scattered across the country. Happy Thanksgiving in your new home, Gayle.
Thanks for writing this beautiful essay.
Why, thank you for dropping in. Our previous two fellow bloggers have moved to the East Coast – and we really miss them. So this Blog is a lovely way to connect with friends old and new. I hope you’ll come back and visit us again.
Your post touched my heart, and a nerve. For years I’d celebrated with my family what we called an “orphan” Thanksgiving, offering a place for those who had no family to celebrate with, until I became the orphan. Now I celebrate with family I married into. We’ve grown close over the years and I treasure our annual gathering, partaking in their long-held traditions. I am grateful even if I mourn my lost traditions as well as loved ones no longer at the table. The complexities of the holiday, of the emotions it evokes, would be better expressed in writing. Thank you for reminding me of that. And Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Miko – thank you for sharing such heartfelt memories of your family – then and now… and you were the first of our group to leave the ‘nest’ and head north for your new life. We really seeing your smile!! Happy Thanksgiving!
Thank you, Rosemary for your profound and touching words. They are a reminder that we all have lots to be thankful for, no matter what the dire situation of the world dictates.
Dear Alice – so good to hear from you again. I’m glad you visited us again. And it’s good to remember the seemingly small things that really fill our hearts… Happy Thanksgiving.
Loverly post, Rosemary. And Alice in her comment before me said it so well. Miss ya, and do well. Happy Thanksgiving.
Thank you, loverly Mad. It’s so great that we have this time, every November, to remember…. Happy Thanksgiving – I miss you!
Love your analysis of these difficult times and how they affect everyone, particularly writers, Rosie. And I particularly enjoy your using English terms here and there. I’ll have to do even more ear-wigging to get writing ideas! Thanks for an enjoyable post.
Thanks, Linda – ear-wigging sounds much more fun than eaves-dropping, doesn’t it!