Repost: My Imaginary Friend, Tommy Wizzims

I told this story to some of the volunteers at the St. Thomas the Apostle Breakfast Club where we were feeding the homeless yesterday morning. Someone was saying she fell in love with a teenage boy when she was three. I had to tell her about Tommy Wizzims.

Here is that story written a while back, but it’s just as meaningful to me today as the day I wrote it back in 2012.

***

Today I was cleaning out a closet and I found a big envelope of clippings and pictures from my mother’s house, which I received after she died. I unfolded a newspaper and saw that I was looking at the obituary page. At first, I wondered why Mom had saved this paper, then my eyes focused on the face of a man who looked familiar. I looked at the name and it read, Tom Williams.

Tom Williams! Oh, goodness.

When I was a little girl, no older than three, Tom Williams lived two blocks away from our house on 13th Street. I thought he was the handsomest boy I had ever seen – and I added an imaginary friend to my life (along with another named Heidi). That friend’s name was Tommy Wizzims.

Tom Williams was my older brother’s friend so he was around our house a lot. He must have been nice to me because even now thinking about him I feel a warm feeling in my heart. He must have also known that I had an imaginary friend with his very own name, pronounced only in the way a three-year-old can. I can’t help but think that must have brought a smile to his face.

I read in his obituary that he died in a car accident when he was 58. He had been married, had four kids, and at the time of his death had a woman in his life, who had been his “companion” for several years. He ran a nursing home, and the obituary said that the residents’ faces would “light up” when Tom came into the room.

My eyes filled with tears. That’s just how I felt when I saw him when I was a little girl. Happy. Pure and simple.

I didn’t know that Tom Williams had died. I felt sad that his life was prematurely cut short. I thought about my little imaginary playmates, Tommy and Heidi, and how my mother indulged me by setting places for them at the table. Mom told me once that I would pull on her sleeve and say, “But they’re hungry!”

The kindness of one person can have a wide impact. It sounds as if that was the case with my Tommy Wizzims.

What a strange item to find today in my clean-up efforts. But it reminded me of one teenage boy who took the time to be kind to a little girl. What a lovely person he must have been.

Clearly, he meant something to Mom as well.  Enough for her to save that obituary.

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Grilling Up Here in Ojai

Ray suggested last night that we break in our “new” charcoal grill that our friend had given back after using it once in fourteen years. Of course the grill had been outside all those years so it was rusted. Ray brought it up here to Ojai, scrubbed all the rust off and then painted it black.  He has been patiently waiting for a time we might use it. 

Today was the day. Never mind it was 100 degrees here. Ray poured in the charcoal and got the grill going while I headed to the store for chicken thighs. Luckily, the ocean breeze was cool and we didn’t start until the end of the afternoon.  The temperature started heading down as the sun began to set. 

The gist, we had quite a feast. The chicken was delicious and so were the grilled vegetables and corn on the cob.  I’m sure our neighbors were smelling that chicken grilling and wondering, “Who is grilling on a week day?”

That would be us. 

This is even more surprising  given that I was in my mid-fifties before I ever grilled anything, charcoal or otherwise. In my family, grilling was just too technical. My mother only cooked one dish, spaghetti with clam sauce, and my dad’s specialty was breakfast. All other food was either prepared by our housekeeper or came out of a can or box. No, I do not hail from a great culinary line. Alas, my Cousin Lee guided me through the rigors of grilling a few years back. If I say so myself, even Lee would have been proud of my chicken thighs tonight.

Ray was please to see that the grill worked so well. Much easier than grilling over the fire where we grilled our Thanksgiving  turkey, but not that super easy option of gas grilling. 

Yes, feeling proud. 

Here is a photo.  


The Benefits of a Good Sleep

I am writing tonight on my phone, which means one finger pecking, so this post will not be long. I was up at 6:30 this morning and have had an afternoon and evening full of students. I am more tired than I normally would be, but what the heck. I am going to embrace this fatigue and go crawl in bed.

I am a great believer that a good sleep improves all things. In fact, in my case, this tends to be especially true since I tend to get cranky when tired. Ask anyone who knows me well. When my eyes get squinty it is best to gently aim me in the direction of bed. Otherwise, Life might get messy.

Tonight I am just ready for a little peace and quiet. I love people, but lots of human interaction wears me out. Though I look like an extrovert, I truly am an introvert. This is evidenced by my need for solitude to recharge. 

Well, this post has expanded beyond my initial estimate. That’s okay since it will put me a little closer to my 20 minute a day goal.

I am happy to be settled in for the night. I look forward to a good long sleep. Like I said, I think sleep has benefits that go well beyond our understanding. Just as mothers can see when their children are beginning to unravel because they are too tired, we owe it to ourselves to note that same downward spiral in ourselves.

So on that note I bid you adieu.

Until tomorrow.

A Few Thoughts on Flash Fiction and Nonfiction

I teach a flash fiction and nonfiction class for Story Circle Network. Right now I am teaching flash nonfiction.  Flash is usually a piece that is limited to around 1200 words maximum.

Here are some thoughts on this type of writing.

Flash fiction and flash nonfiction differ clearly in content, but many of the needs are the same given the conciseness of the form.

In an excerpt from The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction, Nathan Leslie in his article, “The “V” Word,” states, “By focusing on language, scene, voice, and character, my students often find themselves writing compelling and effectively ambiguous stories rather than cloyingly serendipitous and artificial ones. By doing so they learn that in flash fiction:

• Accomplishing one clear goal is of utmost importance.

• Hemingway’s Iceberg Principle, and minimalist writing overall, can work wonders—understatement and purposeful ambiguity are vital.

• Every word bears weight.

• Imagery is of the utmost importance.

• Many works of flash fiction can employ a sudden twist, turn, or realization.

• Irony is helpful.

• Beginning in the middle saves precious time and space.

• Length restrictions can bring out great art.

For flash nonfiction, book author and editor of the journal Brevity Dinty W. Moore states in an interview at River Teeth Journal that “The imperatives are the same, but everything is dialed up in a shorter piece. You need to move in and out of scene quickly, you need to introduce language, diction, and rhythm immediately, and you need to establish place, character, and conflict right away – usually in the first sentence. The first paragraph of a brief essay has to do what the first chapter of a memoir does.”

Here’s Dinty’s full interview.

 

Dinty Moore’s full interview can be found at http://www.riverteethjournal.com/blog/2012/01/09/focusing-on-flash-nonfiction-an-interview-with-dinty-moore

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Pasadena Tonight with Our Family and Uncle Sam

Tonight our family gathered in Pasadena at the Levitt Pavilion to hear the Chambers Brothers and to have a visit with my brother Sam, who is visiting from Tennessee. This was a picnic in the park and Rachael and Ariel, Liz, Sarah, Gregorio, Luna and Nico joined Ray, Sam and me. (Ron had a prior commitment.)

Needless to say, I am happy to have my brother in town. It is quite a treat. Tomorrow, his girlfriend, Jaime, is coming so we’re planning a family dinner minus Sarah’s family. She has to begin two weeks of nights at the hospital beginning tomorrow nights.

Here are some photos of our evening:

Grandma and Nico

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Rachael, Ariel, Sam, Sarah and Nico

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Liz, Luna, Ray, Cordie, Frankie and Gregorio

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Sarah, Nico and Rachael in the background

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Ray’s Insides – Our Garage

Ray and I have been cleaning our garage today. This is not a small task since we physically handle so many antiques and collectibles when dealing with estates. Still, this space is so cool and unique I wanted to share some pictures of it. This is classic Ray Beaty with tons of stuff hung on the walls and a plethora (you’ll see) of tools and accompanying supplies to tackle pretty much any project. This space reminds me of the art installation at LACMA (LA County Museum of Art) of the old garage. I loved that place. Someone told me it is currently in storage, which is too bad since it speaks of a certain type of person with a clear sensibility. There is a smell that comes with this place too which is a mixture of paint thinner and oil. And the air is cool in there even on a hot day since the walls are so thick. I love this space.

Ray said to me, “Is this what you imagine my insides look like?”

“Yes,” I said.

His response, “Me too.”

Here are the pictures:

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My Day’s Work

Today was one of those days where I first met with my writing friend, Michael, and we worked for two hours on our individual works-in-progress, then I headed outside to organize junk for a few hours before returning inside to work with students on various important projects in their lives.  One was a Senior Class speech for a boy who attends Harvard Westlake, another a “Why Penn?” essay for a girl who wants only to go to Penn and another was another supplemental essay for a young man applying to medical school.  Two hours for each student = 6 hours of intensive and satisfying work.  It is now 10:11 – my last student ended at 9:30 – and I am, as usual, ready to head upstairs for a bath and bed.

I like that my life is varied.  I have work that requires lifting, moving and selling antiques and I have work that demands attention to all aspects of the written word from theme to voice to story to grammar. Both make me happy and use very different parts of my brain.  I truly need the physical work of my antique life since the writing life is not exactly filled with jumping jacks and push-ups, at least not the physical kind.

So, off I go upstairs.

I hope you’ve had your own satisfying day.

I will check in with you tomorrow to share how life is faring.

Until then…

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Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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