a personal narrative, reporting for duty

IMG_2945when last I wrote…

IMG_3463And today.  Where did the time go?  Where did the foliage season disappear to?

Sorry, gentle readers.  I’ve left you in the lurch.  And for what?  Well, let’s see…

There’s the old Time Flies When You’re Having Fun excuse.  And yes, having fun was some of what I did in the month of October, since I wrote that valentine to my sweetie back around Columbus Day.  I might also blame my missing blog posts on the boxes I’m still unpacking, the trips we took to Maine, the house guests I entertained (and who entertained me) and the general whirling dervish that is autumn spinning away from summer and diving headlong into the holidays.  But honestly, here’s the true culprit: I have a college reunion coming up.  And with every reunion comes a reunion committee appeal to write a personal narrative for the class report.

This should be easy.  The expository essay is what I do. Why the angst?  Because I needed to circle around this assignment a time or two or twelve, to figure out what I wanted to say.

So, yes, I’ve been busy burning brain cells–fussing and revising every time I flipped open my laptop, editing in my head every time I walked around the reservoir, thinking of a new angle, every time I found myself awake at 4AM.  I’ve started and deleted at least three drafts. Bottom line, it’s not helpful to be at a complete loss around how best to describe having been sideswiped by life, not once but twice since our last report, with a deadline looming.

IMG_3258At least once a month, we drive to Maine to check on my nephew.  It’s part of a commitment my husband and I have made to my sister’s memory, and to a boy who lost so much, so early in his young life.

Whatever we do for him, it never feels like enough.

* * * * *

Here’s the thing: If I were writing my reunion report the way I write my blog posts, it would have been a cinch. Just tell it like it is, no sugar-coating required. Shit happens.  If you’re lucky, you learn a thing or two in the cleaning up phase.  But reunion class reports are not, in general, a place to overshare on the negative side. Class reports are heavy on success stories.  Mine would be more a story of coping than victory.  Why bother with this at all?

Honestly, I can’t explain why I’ve felt this compulsion to not dodge the assignment, to not sweep the hard parts under the rug.  I have hundreds of college classmates whom I’ve never met, whose names ring no bells.  I owe them nothing.  I could just save up my memories for five years hence, and hope for some distance, editorial and otherwise, between me and my lousy mammogram and the sister tragically gone from this world.  That, and the ongoing concerns I have for her son, my nephew, who is the usual subject of my 4AM tossing and turning.  He’s a part of my life, in ways I’d never imagined a reunion ago.  Do I put that in my report?  Do I skirt around the facts?  Do I mention it obliquely?

Then I remembered my last reunion.

IMG_8604Here I sat with a dear friend, and here we chatted about the things we’d left out of our reunion reports, last time around.

Five autumns ago,  I joined a beloved classmate on the sunny side of this football stadium. Having skipped the class luncheon, we huddled together, pretending to watch the game as we discussed our not-for-publication reunion reports—about our worries for our kids and their futures, our parents in decline, the various things that keep us awake at night. I don’t suspect that our conversation was unique to us, because no matter how blessed any of us may be, no matter how lucky we are or how hard we’ve worked, and despite whatever intelligence we may bring to the table, there are always things that just…happen. Add to that the law of averages, which has a nasty habit of playing catch-up, and I suspect I’ve pinpointed a common mid-life bond. It’s a universal truth: no one gets through this life without some bumps and bruises, without some missteps and heartache and tribulations, without unforeseen events playing havoc with well-laid plans.  To pretend otherwise seems pointless.

Which is how I got stuck on Speak Up.  “Fine, thanks,” would not be my answer to the “How are you?” reunion report question. I would own my imperfect experiences.  I would share the joy and the sorrow, or at least, allow that they’re part of life.

IMG_3454My personal narrative, just before I sent it zooming out into cyberspace.

Which is what I did, in the end.  And with three whole days to spare, I sent my little Here’s What I Know So Far report to my classmates.












2 comments on “a personal narrative, reporting for duty

  1. Hey. That stadium view looks familiar. And I’m here with tears rolling, having been touched in different ways, but just as surely, by Jack Frost’s cold hand. I, too, agonized over what to say and what not to say, and wondered why about it all. Why did I care? Why not just skip it? Cut from the same nubbly cloth, we were, and I’m so thankful to have you in on it all. Love x a million. jz

  2. Katrina Kenison says:

    Oh Kristen, thank you so much for making sure I saw this! “Coping not victory.” Yes. And really, isn’t that what we need to talk about with each other? The sorrows as well as the joys? I am so very sorry about your sister, and so very glad you can be there for her boy in all the ways she would have wanted you to be. That, really, is more than coping. That is loving. And love is victory, or at least the best answer we have to offer. What a beautiful essay — hope your classmates all get to read it, too.

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