Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Lesson 42: The Key to all Things is 42

I wish I had a dime for every time someone said to me, "You should write a book."  

"Oh, pshaw!" I humbly say while batting my hand at them and glancing away.  I am not looking away because of my bashfulness.  I break eye contact because I am lying to you and my eyes are very telling, so I am told.  Yes, Eloise has been fooling you.  I have written a book already--two actually.  A pair of never been published works....and I am about to tell you about them.

My first "book" I titled The Chicago Chronicles.  It was a non fiction account of a weekend trip my family and I took to Chicago to visit our friend Stew many years ago.  There were several of us who went there and Stew showed us his pride and joy city and we had a great time.  My sister and her husband were living as newly weds overseas in Indonesia at the time and she missed the trip.  I felt bad she missed out on all of the fun, so I wrote about the trip, each chapter about one of the people I spent the weekend with and sent it to her.  Mom, Dad, Louie, etc. were the names of the chapters.  Karen and Steve loved it and shared with me that it brought them laughter and joy at a time when they both were very homesick.  They wanted someone else to share discussion of it with and asked if I had given the other people copies.  I hadn't considered that because if you know my sense of humor, I tend to slide in my fair share of snide remarks and I feared that someones feelings would get hurt.  After some more pushing from my sis, I finally obliged, but rewrote a "kinder and gentler" version of each chapter that went to the recipient.  Mom and Dad got a tamer version of their chapters and the full version of "Louie."  I made my husband look like a super hero in our copy, and gave him the full brunt version of his in-laws.  I am a bit scatter brained by nature so imagine me keeping all of those copies and making sure each was distributed to the right person.  Hence, there are no copies in existence today.  My computer had this nice function even back then called the "delete key."  Bye bye.

My second book was probably a best seller.  It was called Misunderstood and is the story of our journey with Autism.  Each chapter was named a "mis" word:  Mistaken, Misguided, Misinformed, Misfits, Misery, etc.  The last chapter I rewrote recently.  I titled it Miss Understood.  It was Natalie's story, Natalie's journey.  In the beginning she was Misunderstood and by the end she was Miss Understood.  It truly is a work of beauty just like she is.  So why haven't I pursued publishing, you ask?  Because as my mom's friend Pat always says, "It is lonely in the ivory tower."  Surely I'd be perched high up in it, reading my book all by myself because I wouldn't have a family member left speaking to me nor a friend left in the world.  It is a raw and true account of our journey and sometimes when you lay it on the table like that, it can be ugly.  I tried to even tame it down once and the watered down version paled in comparison to the original so I best left it alone.  Yes, I have it and yes, it is hidden in my super secret place.  Upon my untimely death my sister will be rushing over to dig through my stuff to publish it posthumously. 

But surprise!  All good things come in threes for me.  I have three children.  I was born on the third day of the third month of the year.  My favorite beer Rolling Rock has that mysterious "33" on the label.  And most of all, the third time is the charm.  I've been working on another book, my third attempt.  I think this one is pretty good.  I've been hacking away at it now for a couple of months. 

I am not going to give you much, but just enough to make you curious.  I'm releasing the first page of chapter 1 and looking for your feedback.  My readers would be my best editors anyway, right?  The story is called The Key.  It is written about my 10 year old daughter Ellen and her relationship with her mother and her grandmother as she tries to sort out the key to life on her journey through middle childhood.  Read it as though Ellen is speaking to you and it will make the most sense.  It is written below in blue: 


My mother has "things" for lots of things.  She likes numbers because she says they are all "significant" and that I will figure it out someday.  She also likes to say random things that really aren't random at all because I know she is doing it to make me think.  But mostly, she has a thing for keys.  It's kind of a love-hate relationship of sorts.  How my mother behaves at any given moment usually surrounds the knowledge of where her keys are.  She loses them daily.  I hear her tirade about to begin now:

"UUGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!!!  WHERE are they!  OK everybody!  HELP ME!  WHERE did I put them?  I just had them in my hand!  I was standing here with them IN MY HAND!  I didn't even move ten steps! The stupid cat distracted me and now I lost my keys!  Now I am going to be late for work!  All because of that cat!  Everything always falls apart for me on the last step!  Ellen, get your butt in here and help me look or I am going to unleash my full fury on every living thing in this house!!

Time for me to go, I guess.  Onward to the kitchen I trod only to find an all too familiar scene.  My mother, a classic beauty in her own right, is a flurry of motion, skirt swinging in her futile and frantic twirls, arms waving wildly, and her long, wavy hair flying every which way. 

"Mom," I say softly.  The tirade continues.

"Mom!" I say again with a bit more oomph.

She stops and looks at me and everything is silent, almost like entering the eye of a hurricane.  "They are around your neck."

My mother is a teacher, the Enrichment teacher for the program at my school nonetheless.  So she is both my mother AND my teacher; the one responsible for expanding my mind and broadening my horizons.  If the school only knew how absent minded my mother really was, they never would have hired her in a million years.  The principal actually bought her a lanyard to hang around her neck to attach her keys to, because she's lost the keys to the school so many times.

"Oh, for God's sake, Ellen!  What is my problem?  You think that after all of these years of teaching I'd finally be able to leave for work in the morning without all of the drama.  It's all your aunt's fault!  If she wouldn't have left me with that stupid cat that just won't die............."

Mom's voice drowned out as she left the kitchen, went into the garage, got into the car and drove away.  Looks like I'll be catching the bus again.  She forgot me.  I was supposed to ride to school with her.  I can always walk over to my grandparent's house, because they live next door to us.

I slung my new polka dotted book bag over one shoulder and decided to walk the fifty yards east to see what my grandparents were up to.  You don't even have to knock at their house.  You are allowed to just go right in.  It is not because they are cool though.  It is because my grandma is hard of hearing and she couldn't hear the knock anyway.  I always try to make big movements so she can see me, but I seem to startle her every time.

"Grandma!  Are you home?"  I make big swinging movements with my book bag to see if it catches her eye.  Nope.  She is standing in the middle of her kitchen smoking a cigarette, glued to the TV which is turned up so loud that it is vibrating.

"Oh, crap Ellen!  You made me jump!   Did your mother forget you again?"
The story is a work of fiction, but I am sure those of you who know my family can see some similarities in some of the characters to people you know. 

Are you curious as to why I titled the blog post ANOTHER Lesson 42:  The Key to All Things is 42 ?  Good.  Mission accomplished.  Eloise got you thinking.  This will be answered in the book somewhere, because just like in the second sentence, She likes numbers because she says they are all "significant" and that I will figure it out someday.  I am strikingly like the mother in the story, classic beauty and all.  And I too believe that you, like Ellen, will figure it out someday.  But you'll have to wait a little while.  It is still a work in progress.  But you know that famous saying, good things come to those who wait.  The Key will be worth waiting for.



stewbc said...

Looking forward to your new book, but you might like to know there is at least one copy of your original effort still in existence.

Bob Rihel said...

Eloise, Your keys are like your Dads Beer. Helen where is my beer, were did I leave this time.

Bob Rihel said...

I will buy your book when it,s out

Pat Rihel said...

Love this blog. Are you sure it is fiction? Boy one of the characters sounds like my friend!! Keep up the good work. You do make me think, and laugh.