I used to do these writing workshops where a bunch of intellectual types would slouch around a long table and dissect everyone elses psyches. Or rather, the creative manifestations of everyones psyches. It was all horribly interesting, except of course, usually the person who would talk the most was also the most annoying person in the class. Of course, perhaps thats why that person was the most annoying person in class.
At any rate, during one such workshop, a rather well known mystery writer gave us the sage advice that one should never divulge the family secrets in print ... until, of course, the untimely deaths of most of the family. After that, she said, have at it. Itll be your best writing yet.
I am going to throw that advice out the window. Not necessarily this second, but someday. Right now, though, Im not going to divulge any of the big family secrets -- there arent really all that many to begin with and Im certainly not going to waste them on this column (not if it could be my best writing yet) -- but I am going to talk about the fam.
About a month ago, I called my mom, randomly on a Tuesday night, because I was having some crisis or another (Im always having some crisis or another). We talked for a while, mostly me talking and her listening, and then before we hung up, I apologized for taking up so much of her free time babbling on about something so trivial. Because, although I dont remember exactly what we talked about, Im sure it was trivial and Im sure she had other, better, things to do.
Then she said, Dont worry about it ... Call me anytime. At first I thought she was just being maternal, but then she said, I was just sitting here doing nothing anyway.
I was struck by how lonely she sounded. My younger brother and sister -- both in high school -- were out doing whatever it is high schoolers do these days on a Tuesday night, and my dad was at a neighbors house playing bridge with the local geriatric crowd.
I realized that, in a way, my family is breaking up. All six of us lived in the same house for 10 years, sharing food, bathrooms, and inside jokes about church. Now my sister and I each live far enough away as to warrant a road trip if we want to visit. My brother is going to college next year, and my littlest sister wont be far behind.
Perhaps most importantly, each of us are old enough to have our own lives now. Once close-knit by necessity -- put six people in the same car all the time and see what happens -- my family has broken down into a cheerleader, a manufacturer, an office manager, a goofball, a journalist, and a college student, loosely. We each go along on our own path, only converging for the odd holiday.
Familial information comes down a phone tree; my sister will tell my mother wholl tell me. Or vice versa. I usually know when my brother has a new girlfriend or has dumped the old one, because I ask. My sister always knows the details of my dads golf games. My mother knows everything. My father ... well, lets just say, most of the times, hes in the dark.
But I have a feeling, more and more, Im going to be missing out on their stuff. And they on mine. We just dont have the time or energy to keep chasing each others lives at the same time were chasing our own.
When I was a kid, I wanted my parents to get divorced. They always agreed on everything, from punishments to curfew, and I thought Id get to stay out later if they were a divided front.
Luckily for me, they didnt. But I think now I have more of an understanding and an empathy with children of divorced parents. Its hard.
Of course, just wait til you hear about what I went through. I might have to make it all up, but its going to be the best thing Ive ever written.
( Mary Cashiola writes about life every Friday @ memphisflyer.com. Youre invited to come along.