Thursday, February 3, 2011

It looked like a thing-a-ma-jig

On Friday, January 21, we arrived home from work to find a basement full of water, and it wasn't from melting snow.

The washing machine's water sensor valve had malfunctioned, turning our washer into a ever-flowing Maytag fountain, spilling over its sides from morning til evening.

As you can imagine, TGIF quickly turned into OMG. We spent Friday night and the entire weekend wet-vacuuming the basement and clearing furniture. My aching back!

When moving the washer and dryer for the first time in 10 years, I discovered it had a life of its own underneath.

I will admit I do shove couches and chairs around now and then to clean under them, but never the washer and dryer, and it shows.

Down below the many years of swishing and tumbling, under spin and rinse, resided a dusty field of lint and stuff from pockets.

Among the lost was a plastic what-cha-ma-call-it that neither my husband or I could identify. It looked like a thing-a-ma-jig from a...whatever.

A balled up foil wrapper from a Hershey's kiss, bobby pins and buttons, twist-ties and toy parts. Hand-written notes whited out from a good washing. Shiny silver coins. Junk jewelry. Even jelly beans.

As I swept the collection into a sizable pile, I surveyed what had become a shriveled ecosystem of the forgotten, lost in the throes of laundering. Items that once thrived somewhere, spent years in absentia, now found.

It's been said that home is where our stories begin, and as I swept the pile into the dustpan, I felt as though I was sending any number of stories to their sure and certain deaths, closing their files forever.

This is one of the many challenges writers face. While navigating from day-to-day, making our way from here to there, we never stop writing. We do it on I-pads and scratch pad, on envelopes and napkins, on our palms and on our hearts.

Like a lovingly nagging mother, whose pursuant reminders to wash our hands, brush our teeth, eat our vegetables never end, the stories never cease.

Even as we lie down, we are pestered by thoughts and ideas for stories and then more stories.

We face the daunting responsibility of determining if they have teeth, are substantial, capable of being told? Some are, some not.

It's a circular process always leading us to the place where our memories and dreams dwell. The sight of a stranger on the corner, the smell of her perfume, his silly laugh, muffled voices in the hallway. All begging to be told, leading us to the blank page.

It's a peculiar predicament we face. Pestered by what to write, we arm-wrestle topics paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, word by word, until a neatly constructed narrative rises sweaty and triumphant.

Albeit short-lived until a new story taps us on the shoulder and the next deadline looms.

2011 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took five first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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