Wednesday, June 13, 2012

“Sometimes you think a story is completed and all wrapped up. But then.…”

Recently I began compiling photos from my family’s three years in South America and inserting them among my written stories about those years. (If you missed my blog post, click on And then I remembered the weevils that lived in that flour.)

I’ve used one of my favorite snapshots in speaking engagements for decades, but …

Why did it never occur to me?

Why had I never noticed?

When I recognized it a few days ago, it jarred me.

I had always used the snapshot to tell about waves of culture shock that struck, tsunami-like, on my first day at that remote mission center.

The day I refused to unpack.

The day I plotted to run away from that place—the day I realized I could walk all the way home to Washington State—walk, mind you, through Central America, Mexico, California, and Oregon.

The day that, in the midst of my meltdown, I was standing like a statue in the kitchen, feet cemented to the floor for who knows how long, when—see that little rascal holding the snake? That’s Glenny Gardner. 

At the height of my insanity, Glenny darted into my kitchen, planted his two feet in front of mine, lifted his hands within inches of my nose, and with an enormous grin, hollered, “Ya wanna see a boa constrictor?!?!

In my fragile condition, I glared down into his freckled, sweaty, beaming little face and—when I could finally suck in some air—I bellowed, “No! Get out!” pointing toward the door.

I’ll never forget Glenny’s shock. His glowing face dropped, he caught his breath, turned, and sprinted in the direction I pointed.

Instantly I realized I’d made a big mistake. The kid just wanted to welcome me to my new home with the coolest thing he could imagine.

I felt horrible. To make amends, I grabbed my camera and dashed out the door behind him. “Wait, Glenny, let me take your picture!”

So there you have it, the story I tell about my first day on the mission field. It’s funny now, but on that day, it was not. (And just so you know, I did not run away. That, too, is a story for another day.)

And this is where Rabbi Lawrence Kushner’s quote comes in:

“Sometimes you think a story is completed
and all wrapped up.
But then, decades later, something happens
and you realize that it’s not done yet,
it’s still in process.”
(Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary)

I’d like to paraphrase his words for memoirists: Sometimes you think a memoir is completed and wrapped up. But then, decades later, something happens and you realize it’s not done yet.

Exactly. Decades later, something has happened and I realize my story is not done yet.

Here’s what occurred to me in recent days: That snapshot foreshadows stories that made ongoing international news—events that touched our family and friends. Events that changed many lives, forever.

That picture is begging me to tell additional stories, much bigger stories.

C’mon back on Saturday. I’ll tell you what caught my attention and what I’m doing about it.

Between now and then, look over your photos. Perhaps you, too, will find clues within them that shout, “Your story is not done yet.”

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  1. I can't wait to see what's caught your attention ;-)

    1. Hi, Penny. You'll have to come back Saturday! :) All I'll say right now is that what I discovered has created a whole lot of work for me, but it'll be worth the effort and time.

      How is your memoir coming, Penny?


    2. We've had a change in leadership of the writing group I've attended and haven't been able to attend since the change. I keep trying but the last few months have been busy. Hopefully I can pick up again soon.

  2. Great story, and great idea. I should go back through my pics and see what they prompt!

    1. Hi, Lia, did you discover anything new in your photos? I hope so!

      Thanks for stoppig by.


  3. Wonderful story,Linda! You've prompted me to dig around in my own photo box. So often, a vignette will be prompted by a photo in my mind of precious moments in time just waiting to be recaptured on the page. And now you have me curious about what caught your attention!

    1. Hi, Kathy, I've found that going through old photos--even those I think I knew best--stirs up all kinds of additional memories, and often some insights I didn't pick up at the time. It's fascinating. I hope you enjoy going through your photos from the past. It can become almost addicting, though!