03 August 2011

Yellow Hair, Yellowed Paper

My mother's house is finally on the market, and my siblings and I have been slowly trying to make some headway with the contents. There is an enormous amount of stuff: furniture, tchotckes, toys, pots, buttons, towels, and endless stacks of paper.

Moky kept files on all manner of things - local history, friends, nuts and cranks. The files are full of letters, ephemera, gritty xeroxes, clippings, and photos.

Later today, I'm having lunch with an old friend of my mother's, the kind of friend who had her own folder. They'd actually gone to college together, but hadn't really known one another until years later when, by coincidence, they ended up living in the same town, and my mother's friend's daughter was my elementary school (and junior high and high school) classmate. After a time, the friend moved away, to California, and they kept up by writing letters back and forth, often with clippings involved.

When I see her, I'm handing over her folder, but I skimmed through it first, I had to. It's full of letters and birthday cards and newspaper clippings about the friend's husband, but it's the letters that fascinate me - for how they reflect upon events in my mother's life, and necessarily mine. In one letter, there's a whole Yeats poem about blonde women typed out, with this comment:

I always think of that poem in pondering Pinky and Magpie and their beautiful flaxen hair, and of course yours too-- when I first knew you, yours was just like theirs.

There's some delicious semi-catty chatter about the guests at my wedding in another letter, but my favorite bit might be this tantalizing post script:

P S 2 A___ tells me that M___ T___ has broken up with the fabled panty-hose woman. She wanted to have a baby so he decided enough was enough. We had a mimeographed account from him of the fabled lawsuit, but no personal word in a long time.

Is that not the makings of a short story?

9 comments:

Harriet said...

Maybe, but I think Moky herself is the makings of a novel. Or perhaps a series.

slouchy said...

Definitely so.

Though I like what Harriet said, too.

liz said...

Oh! That's delightful!

Anjali said...

Lovely. Why don't you write the rest?

Rima said...

I am enthralled whenever you write about your mother, her belongings, habits and quirks. She sounds to me like the one who could be a character in a book.

Carol Bodensteiner said...

Letters are a great source of writing inspiration. I have a handful of letters my great grandmother wrote to my grandfather when he homesteaded in Canada in 1909. They're fueling historical fiction I'm writing now.

kathy a. said...

it's too late now, but maybe i take after moki -- this sounds so fascinating that it would be great to scan the folder for future pondering.

kathy a. said...

on the other hand, there is so much stuff. at least this folder went to the right home.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It is.