Thursday, December 10, 2009
"Everything Must Go," Oasis Journal 2009 Contest Winner-Best Nonfiction
I wrote this essay never intending it to be a part of Someday I'm Going to Write a Book.
It's a very personal story about the divorce from my childhood sweetheart and the aftermath-which is a big deal in an Italian Catholic family whose elders stayed married,some for more than fifty years until death they did part.
So how did it wind up in Someday, subtitled Diary of an Urban Missionary? Well, during the writing process my readers kept telling me to include more about myself to give a better context to the patient related stories I was telling. Otherwise it made my prose feel like a case study rather than a heartfelt examination with a connection to universal experience.
In more simple words, I was above it all looking down instead of immersed and invested emotionally in my experiences. Professional distance is critical in clinical practice, but this memoir isn't a lecture.
When I looked back at the "Everything Must Go," I realized the inciting incident did not only end my marriage. It killed my innocence, my invincibility, my youthful bravado, the illusion that I was above all the misery I had borne witness to. It also coincided with very significant events in my career and propelled me in a new direction. But most of all, the depression and the process of recovery gave me critical insight into what it's like for people being tossed about in a storm they just happened into-and how to better help them pull out of it.
So, in "Everything Must Go" I acknowlege the enduring effect of families on everyone's life, pay tribute to the very special people who had a major impact on my life and career--my ex-husband, whose love, support and generosity made it possible for me to achieve what I have today, his mom and dad, his sisters and their husbands. Even though I am no longer a part of the family, they remain a part of me.
And special thanks to my current husband, who accepted me with all that baggage and continues to this day to be by my side as I struggle to carry it all.
Winning Oasis Journal's prize for best nonfiction for this excerpt has affirmed that it speaks to the universal experience and does indeed belong in Someday I'm Going to Write a Book: The Diary of an Urban Missionary.
I’d driven by the house on my way to work, almost everyday, for the last eighteen years. Until I saw the sign, it was easy to deny how much time had passed since the gate creaked open and I meandered past the immaculate garden, up the long driveway, through the back door, and into the cozy kitchen with pots simmering on the stove. I can still smell garlic in the meatballs, and the bittersweet tang of stuffed cabbage and sauerkraut balls. The cat would brush against my ankles while the dog's tail beat a welcome across my legs.
The dining room hosted Thanksgiving feasts of turkey, bread stuffing, candied sweet potatoes and peas—but only after the lasagna. On Christmas mornings, we crowded into the living room and plunked onto bulky chestnut colonial furniture upholstered in trendy orange and brown. A fire flickered, stockings hung from the mantelpiece. Pale winter sunlight filtered through ivory lace curtains, glinting off the dark wood paneling and polished hardwood floors.
The tree was surrounded by more presents than one could ever imagine for three teenage children and their assorted boyfriends and girlfriends. The cat and dog ran rampant through discarded wrapping paper. There was always My-T-Fine chocolate pudding for dessert, with Saran wrap on the top to prevent the skin from forming.
More love to go around than the average family, and you could feel it the minute you walked in the door to hugs, cries of welcome, and fights. Was it really over?
* * *
I married into the family in 1979, but was welcomed in many years before that. We met when Michael was a seventeen-year-old star shortstop, and I was a fourteen-year-old Little League groupie.
Like most love struck teenagers, we vowed to stay together forever and went steady for eight years before finally getting married. He encouraged me as I pursued the career I so desperately wanted, and had faith that I was going to be the best nurse ever. I knew he would succeed in business and finance. We stayed married long enough to graduate college, land good jobs and buy not just one house, but also a vacation getaway in Vermont.
©Carole Ann Moleti, 2009. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Oasis Journal 2009: