Saturday, February 12, 2011


I have written a new intro or prelude or beginning or whatever to my memoir called Up Home Again or I'm Still Here or Going Without, Going Within or maybe none of those. I was told in a workshop that no one would care that I couldn't find my fabrics, the storyline of the first chapter. Here's the backgound I'll be using to show why I cared, even if no one else might.


“Honey, Mommy’s gone. God wanted her.”

With those words from my sister to me, everything was changed. What I knew was no more. Not as I had known it.

“He wanted her?” I thought. “With all the dead people he already has, he gets my mother? I’m not done with her yet.”

On February 7, 1959, she was gone. She was fifty-six. I was ten. I became The Little Girl Who Didn’t Need a Mother Anyway.

I could sew my own clothes, bake my own bread, tie my own shoes. Well, I could actually tie my own shoes. Anything I couldn’t do for myself, I didn’t really need.

We’d been living in Freedom, Maine for only a few months when my mother died. My sisters stayed in Massachusetts, but I lived in Freedom Village with my father and brother.

Some girls were like a little princesss, others more like a tomboy. I was kind of a . . . well, I don’t know if there was a name for it. I was just plain lonely.

I grew up wanting to travel, to get an education and a family. At different times I fancied myself becoming a lead singer in a rock group, a powerhouse of a business woman, or a war correspondent. I didn’t want a war, so I changed that last one to travel journalist.

I would look at things, a rock, a car, a tree and wonder why they were still here and my mother was gone. My father let me get a cat and I would just look at it and wonder why it was alive. I didn’t like losing things, didn’t take disappointments well, and cried when criticized. I tried to train myself to think normal things, to see things as they really were, not as I feared.

I saw that other people’s parents went into the hospital and came home alive. It could happen if my father got sick. The first semester of my freshman year in college, my father was admitted to Togus Veteran’s Hospital. He died. He was sixty-three. I was eighteen.

Despite doing everything my own way, I did manage to graduate from college, travel, get married, and was raising a family when what I knew and how I knew it changed again.

Breast cancer came, then bankruptcy, then divorce, then breast cancer again. All I had left was gratitude for three healthy children who loved me and each other, for friends to help me, and for my own freelance style that was just going to have to get me through this episode of starting over.


Susan Cushman said...

Good job, Ellie. You took the criticism to heart and wrote the story in a way that makes me CARE about the character (you). A lesson all writers have to learn over and over again.

Ellie O'Leary said...

Thanks, Susan. I have just posted the intro to Part II and I am just about done with the story - although I also feel I have been done a few times before.

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