Today is February 29, 2016. Leap day. I would like to think today was full of activities making this an extra-special extra day in the year — more coffee, walks, decadent chocolate, perhaps a fresh sumo mandarin orange peeled wide — but the reality is I am presenting my book outline on Thursday. This will be a bonus day of work, moving post-its and staring out the window contemplating words until the letters twitch. And besides, the rain is pouring down.
Food keeps sneaking into my story, my narrator escaping into the kitchen and baking gingerbread and soft-curd scrambled eggs, furtively eating entire boxes of chocolate, skimming the crackling fat off roast beef. I feign and block this diversion and intrusion daily; this isn’t a food story, this is a coming-of-age during the worst of times story! Just eat and move on!
But for my writing group this week I gave in, set the scene where it belonged in the kitchen, where spices and thick batter filled the house with scented memories, where four generations of women kept me company in the kitchen while I baked from the recipe they passed down to me, written on a yellowed slip of stationary. Recognized that the square pan of moist crumb was essential for me on the last week of my mother’s illness as much as wine, friends or sleep.
The more we write the more this happens, the pull of the senses, the surprise at the end of the page. Just like I cannot leave out my brother in my story, I cannot leave out the intricate layers of pleasure that were necessary to survive the trauma of 1982-1986. As my mother slowly died, I lived by slipping into the kitchen and more. That is the complicated equation of survival.
Today I will peel a thick skinned orange while standing up over my writing table, look out the watery windows, and later, make cream scones for tea. And remember. There is no stopping these memories leaping from heart and pencil.