A two-year-old helped me list what Olyvianna’s “ink” could represent; cry, laughter, anger, sadness, silliness… Later, as her mother disciplined her for not eating her lunch, this two-year-old leaned over to me and whispered, “Mommy’s inking“. She got it!
An 87-year-old woman insisted the coat rack could not just walk out and be anything other than a coat rack, concluding that hard work or a fairy godmother was required… yet this same woman giggled after she read the final version, adding suggestions to the collection of possibilities at the end, and remembering the things she always wanted to be.
Another two-year-old begged me to read Wally three times, until he jumped up, hands on hips, and declared, “NO!” On inquiry, all he could repeat was, “Wally needs to be with his family!” A week later, the same two-year-old rushed to me, ignoring toys and treats, sat on my lap, and proceeded to tell me the entire story of Wally, in his own words. When he ended with, “Wally made himself happy”, I knew the story had written itself on his heart.
These characters write themselves. Born of puzzling human tendencies I have faced, sustained by repeating patterns and predictability, these characters crawl out of the recesses of my own encounters and transform into personifications of those that I strive to understand. Some of the characters are me, or facets of myself. As Olyvianna, I, too, know well the mortification of metaphorically “inking” out of place. I am also familiar with the bullying Hurtsy was faced with, and am equally filled with her sadness and remorse toward those suffering consequences for their own actions. I have, as well, met others of these characters over and over again… with different names and different faces, but hauntingly with the same patterns… such as Fluke, who suffered the unthinkable, only to thrive from it, or Fretty, forever steeped in self-absorption, forever externalizing all blame.
These stories and characters may write themselves, however, their endings do not. I have struggled with each one of the problems presented, personally, in my own life, in one way or another. Some take years of searching for an answer, while others, yet unwritten, I am still searching for. Hurtsy took a year to figure out the solution to… oh, she needs boundaries, what an engaging foreign idea… then just half an hour to complete in rhyme and rhythm, yet I suspect it will take a lifetime to practice. Rudy, also, took years of research. I asked many people of all ages how to take the gang mentality out of the gang member. Most told me to have Rudy become the pack leader and force the pack to be nice, but no… that couldn’t be the answer. It was my son, in all his wisdom, who gave me the perfect answer: redefine the pack into a collection of individuals. Of course!
Some stories have taken much less time to find the right solution for, such as Miney, who fell into place during breakfast with my daughters. Wally, too, was conceived, written, and completed in one night, words tumbling out in a rush, creating the loneliest and most desolate solution of all… existentialism for children: When circumstances don’t meet expectations, only an internal change in perspective can make the difference.
These stories write themselves on the hearts of those who listen, striking chords within all who share the human condition. The characters are already well-known to those who listen, having been introduced to each countless times through experiencing the human condition. The solutions, however, are fresh and meticulously thought out ways of dealing with the human condition. They break through the barriers of old rhetoric and dissolve constraints built upon centuries of platitudes and coercion. They form new patterns of thoughts and shed the light of emotional maturity on how to experience being human. These solutions are preparing the next generation while healing the generations of the past. We are all humans. We are all together. We are all ‘one’ in this race of individuals.
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Cindy Graves was raised by her children in Utah, after having narrowly missed several unsuccessful attempts by her loving parents and older siblings in Connecticut. There is some debate over whether the last attempt was, indeed, successful, or whether it was yet another failed attempt. When asked why she is the way she is, Cindy smiles sweetly and says, in her most childlike voice, “My children raised me this way…” We can only assume that the final attempt was successful. As a single mother of four, Cindy studied Applied Mathematics and received her Bachelor of Science degree from Weber State University in 1994. She then went on to complete a 23-year career as an SQA Programmer and Analyst. She is currently retired from the technical world, writing poetry and children’s stories, and living in Utah with her mother, six dogs, and three cats.
More writings from Cindy Graves can be found at www.echoesoms.com