Monday, February 1, 2010


It struck me about twenty minutes ago: I know where I was about this time twenty-five years ago on that last day of January.

It was a really cold night, and I was traveling home from Oxford, where I had been to dinner with a friend, who had also invited another couple to join us. The gentleman guest is quite an accomplished man of letters, quite a popular and well-known writer of Southern things, and unbeknownst to me, my friend had appropriated some of my little stories and vignettes from my someday-to-take-over-the-house boxes of paper. He'd given them to his friend to read, and had I known, I would truly have just died before I'd have let him do that.

And, as all conversations do when in such company, ours turned to writing and who was doing what and how was it coming along. I was just joining in admiringly for them both, and then was mortally embarrassed when the gentleman mentioned my stuff---my put-away-from-even-family writings, which my friend had "borrowed" or just plain snuck out of my boxes---in those days, everything was typewritten, so each and every word had been weighed after dashing down, with white-out and erasures and jottings on the first drafts, and probably the second and third.

I was also quite aware of the scores of wanna-bes who must have thrust their paper into the Writer's hands, heedless of his hurry, his privacy, his attention; I knew the reluctance and refusals which must accompany such imposures, and I would not in a million YEARS have ever made such a request---that's just TACKY.

But I remember the date so well, for it was the first time anyone actually known as a writer had read anything of mine, and I remember his words; I can see them float in the air as if in black-and-white. Sometimes they're sorta Verdana, sometimes calligraphy, but always, they give me a small bubble of joy and accomplishment.

He took the sheaf of papers out of his case and turned page after page, pointing out a phrase or a word which had caught his eye, and I could see markings on the pages. My heart sank and I could feel the flush creeping over my face, thinking "So long out of college, and I'm being GRADED again!"

Then he said, "Girl, you really know how to put the words DOWN!"

That was so SOUTHERN a sentence, so BUBBA a compliment, that we all laughed. And it meant wonders to me; I've always written down stuff for myself, mostly, with lots of things intended for family, for the children---little remembrances of their childhoods and infancies and the everyday things, the marvelous things, which are all part of raising a family. It was just so nice to hear such an unsolicited nicety from a stranger, and one I admire, at that.

We kept in touch over the years, the Writer and I; he'd send me an autographed copy of his latest book, and I'd send a letter of sincere praise and thanks and perhaps a tin of fudge for the holidays.

We'd talked late over coffee, dessert, more coffee, until the servers swept and the lights dimmed, and we all headed out into the dark. A few flakes of snow swirled past the windshield as we headed down the highway, and my escort looked over at me, at his watch, and back at me as the time passed midnight.

He grinned a big grin of satisfaction. "Happy February," he said.


Kim Shook said...

Girl, you are a born writer. So many have recognized that. The incomperable Fairy Tea, your eG postings, the kind, funny and memorable emails you've sent to me and now here. You've always been a writer - ain't no trying, only doing (to give a southern spin to Mr. Yoda).

Southern Lady said...

What a beautiful story of such a memorable occasion for you, Rachel. I love The Writer's simple way of expressing his delight and admiration for your talent. That said it all ... you evermore have a way of putting words together.

Keetha said...

This surprises me not a whit! I'm thrilled for this memory you have and think you should celebrate each January 31/February 1 embracing your talent and creativity. You're a wonderful writer.

racheld said...

Thank you all for the kind words---I put that down last night when I realized that we were teetering on the cusp of February, and I counted up the years on my fingers---to '95, '05, '10 and realized the roundness of the number.

Then I woke about five-thirty and rushed in and turned on the computer, knowing I had put down too much, too inflated a sense of myself, and vowing in a whisper, "If there have been no replies, I can "delete" and just leave the title greeting."

Alas---Kim had hopped right in about the time I went to bed. So there it is, and that's what it was.

I thank you all for saying those nice things; I'm still stashing-in-boxes and admiring others from afar.

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I know it's silly to say "I can't believe it's already February, but, I can't. The toilet paper must be getting near the end of the roll because it's going faster and faster and faster!
For me it's kind of scary. *smile*
My husband was a writer. You can always tell when someone has a love of words. thought is that I loved what you wrote. I have done what you did, exactly. Racheld, it's YOUR blog, write what you want. I know... I know, it's easy to say, but I think all of us worry.
Your blog is easy to read and you are interesting. :)
Ok? away!

Jeanne said...

Hello Rachel, it is obvious that you have a talent and the love of putting words together in a great story, It can be about any subject, but you put the incident on paper to make it the most interesting read. I love reading your blog. I am not at all surprised that you impressed some one who writes and recognizes your writing talent. How wonderful to become friends over the years.

Happy February.
Hugs, Jeanne

Anonymous said...

And I too belive that the compliments for your writing and wording are well deserved (wonder if "he"was anyone whose name we would know??-hint-hint..); being an avid reader of lots of different stuff, I love reading your blog more than most memorable books and I just trust you will be published-whether you "desire" it or not-someone has got to know of an agent to put in touch with you - there are way way too many junk books in the library and bookstores that you wonder who ever reads them --then your memories, day to day activities, and humor are so delightful, everyone needs to see them. I'm so glad I accidently found your site. I checked out a library book one time in the large print section out of desperation for nothing else interesting -that was essays of your type -and the name was something like "Grandfather's Finger in the Pickle Jar...??" anyway the cover had a picture of a finger "pickled" in a jar that the grandfather had accidently cut off and kept. And the grandmother "left" it to the guy who wrote the stories. And another book of stories or essays about the ancestor who kept a box of "pieces of string too good to throw away..." - wish I had a list of books like that I've read and enjoyed but are no longer on the shelves. I especially enjoy books with southern or down-home dialect and am amazed how you can spell words so that we can hear the person as they spoke them. Your pimento cheese spelling makes me think of my family calling bermuda grass, "permooda"...and so forth. Anyway, point is, you have talent and I wish you fame and fortune, and thank you for sharing it with us.

racheld said...

Oh, my Goodness!!!

Today is just too much sugar for a dime!! I don't know what to say---y'all are just so kind and complimentary (and forgiving, at times, of my rambling on so).

And Anonymous---I wish you'd uncloak---you've been so sweet to read and comment, and I feel that you are an ethereal friend, with no name, but a lovely spirit and kind words.

Today's post in Dyed in the Cotton is a little bit of "childhood South" which I was thinking of yesterday.