My mom had hoped that her three daughters would one day turn into a doctor to help take care of the family, a lawyer to protect the family, and a writer to tell the story of the family. My sister Estelle noted that if computers had existed when mom had made these plans, maybe a computer guru would have made the wish list. As consolation, I once offered to maybe marry a doctor or a lawyer, but we know now that I fell for an engineer. The writing gig, however, remained a possibility.
I enjoyed writing long before mom’s request for our family history to be preserved through words. When I was in middle school, my English teacher judged me advanced enough to perhaps appreciate a short book written entirely in English. The story was told in the form of a diary, which motivated me to start journaling shortly thereafter. Many times, caught in the whirlwinds of life, I had stopped writing but always picked it up again later. Actually, I didn’t enjoy writing as much as I wanted to record “what will soon be behind us.”
The original “Reflections”
Last year, I randomly came across a small stack of papers with a title page that read “Reflections.” It wasn’t the usual way I kept my diary / journal, so I was surprised to discover that this wasn’t a term paper. It started this way:
May 10, 2004 – 12:18 AM, in my room in Quincy
Current music: Soundtrack to “A Walk To Remember”
Others: Mom and Estelle are sleeping in the same room; Juju is sleeping near me.
As I was falling asleep yesterday I thought about maybe starting to write again. That’s quite interesting because when I first thought about starting a journal [sic] was right after I finished taking the “Brevet.” It’s like every time a new chapter of my life just ended and another one is starting, I suddenly realize the impact that each day has on my life.
One other interesting [sic] that I just noticed is that this time, I am writing in English and not in French. I did pause for a moment to debate whether or not I should try to write in French in order to keep practicing it and not lose it completely. However, I’m afraid that it’s much easier in English. I guess that this is a real new chapter.
I would go on to write about finals week and graduation, my dying laptop, car insurance stuff for mom, Estelle getting married, and Julienne catching the bouquet… I cringed at the typos (ex: “coach” instead of “couch”) and other mistakes, and I put the document away with the rest of my journals. Once again, I forgot about it.
The more I tried to understand “the family,” the more I got to know myself instead. The focus of this mom-inspired book was shifting over time, but the idea of a book remained. Below, I am describing a dream I had a few months before Mike suggested that I start a blog.
March 28, 2013
[…] This one guy who reminded me of Jamie (my new buddy who works at Bourbon Coffee) was excitedly preparing to have his writing published. He had written very different pieces that included a play, a research manuscript, and two other documents that I no longer remember. The last one he had was a prose piece called “Moving Lives.” I was greatly impressed with this title. “Moving lives” could be interpreted so many ways! It could be the act of moving lives; it could be lives in motion through time and space, maybe even in character development; it could be lives that make people feel moved or touched… “Gee,” I thought in my dream, “that’s just genius! I wish I had come up with that!” Then I woke up and realized that, well, I really did come up with that. Still waking up, I also decided that this was going to be the title of my book if I ever decided to write a memoir. Right now, though, I’m more inclined to think that “Moving Lives” makes absolutely no sense, but would constitute a nice intriguing piece for English majors to ponder over and keep busy.
I only remembered “Moving Lives” when it came time to find a title for my new site. Sadly, very few things are completely new anymore, at least when it comes to word pairings. A quick Google search yielded “Moving Lives” by Kathy Burrell, “Moving Lives” by Sidonie Smith, “Moving Lives” a photovoice project led by Liz Orton, “Moving Lives” a short video by Mairéad McClean…
Ah, man! What am I going to come up with now?
Back to “Reflections”
Reflection, n.: 1. The throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it; 2. Serious thought or consideration. (Oxford Dictionaries Online)
As my friend Matt so wisely pointed out, “A blog has to be about something!” So what could I offer? Some people saw me as a scientist (which I’m not really), some saw me as an artist (which I’m not really either), some saw me as a community leader (which I don’t think I am), and some saw me as an arrogant know-it-all (which I hope I’m not). Or perhaps I was a little bit of all that: a chemist, an artist, a community leader, an arrogant know-it-all, and also a teacher, an immigrant, a latte lover, a trilinguist, a wedding planner, a survivor, a hoarder of life stories…
So I went back to “Reflections.” We see an object because light bounces off it and reaches our eyes, and that visual information gets processed in our brains to generate a message. Depending on where we are in our lives and what we show or share (consciously or not), and depending on where people are in their lives, they might see something very different.
Case in point: I showed Mike the image I created for the header of my site of “serious thoughts.” I was pretty sure he would notice the various aspects of my life being “reflected” in several sections of the stained glass. Instead, he excitedly declared, “Oh, I get it!” and started counting axes of symmetry.
When you look around you, what do you see, and why?
“… to tell the story of the family”
I might never write that book, yet who knows? Maybe in some ways, I’m already “a writer to tell the story of the family,” even if the story is mostly made of the silly and mundane stuff that “will soon be behind us.” Life, past or present, is in the details… the way I see it.
I dedicate this post to “the family”: mom and my sisters Estelle and Julienne. For a long time, it was just us, and together we were the four wheels of a car… moving lives.
May 20, 2004 − 11:22 PM, at Juju’s desk in Quincy
[…] that morning, I’d thought I’d been woken up by an angel, because I opened my eyes to see Estelle standing by my bed, in her white dress and wearing her veil and some light makeup. She was so beautiful, especially when she stood next to me in front of the mirror; I mean, I just woke up so I had a T-shirt on and a pair of shorts, and my hair was all over the place, at least worse than Harry Potter’s (in the book, not the movies).
May 21, 2004 – 11:08 PM, on the coach [sic] in the living room, sitting right next to mom, watching TV. Current music: none… obviously!
Mom switched to another movie on TBS, with Mel Gibson holding up a gun to this woman, but since the woman is Julia Roberts, we know he won’t pull the trigger…