“Leaving Eden” – my first story for a Guided Autobiography webinar I started tonight. Joyce Krieg and I are taking it together. I need the class for a kick in the butt to meet my goal of finishing my memoir. We also are incorporating it into Park Place Publications services. It’s an amazing process where you write about your life in different themes. Tonight’s was “A Major Branching Point,” when life took a major turn that changed everything. I only needed two pages but couldn’t stop writing – still unfinished at five pages. Our Instructor, Cheryl Svensson, is a very good teacher and I’m looking forward to seven more classes with her.
Here’s an excerpt and I would greatly appreciate some feedback (professional writers attribute their success to their critique groups!):
Story 1—Branching Points that Changed my Life—Leaving Eden
California was an early Eden for me, an unending life of carefree exploration and discovery, idyllic in nature—I was always happy, always confident, never afraid—as long as I steered clear of discipline, which constricted my mind and spirit, and made me powerless in my physical being to do anything but run away.
A native Californian, I was born in Cedarville, Surprise Valley, and with my family (four brothers, two sisters) moved frequently—up and down the Central Valley, from Stockton to San Joaquin, with a couple of short stays in the Gold Country. My father worked for wages, mostly on dairy farms. At one time he supervised a crew of inmates to manage the vegetable farm at the California Mental Hospital in Stockton; another time he ran a crew that picked cotton on my Uncle Leo’s 1000-acre farm in Madera. His dream was to have a big family farm like Leo, his oldest brother, with lots of children to help him run it.
I had three little brothers to play with and lead around. When I was seven we moved to the Dixieland section of Madera. Edward was five, Michael was four, and Robert was three. My father didn’t like nicknames and always called us by our full name, so we did the same. When my older cousin David visited, he recalls “a bunch of wild kids running loose.” The four of us were on our own, barely clothed in the heat of the valley, playing in the dirt or splashing in an irrigation ditch. That’s how it was. Mama and my two older sisters, Shirley and Lorraine, were mostly in the house, preparing homegrown food from scratch, washing clothes in the wringer washer to hang outside, ironing and mending by hand, and cleaning up after a passel of children. My mother did have a vegetable garden and she had outdoor cages for her singing canaries and budgies. Daddy, a big man, was always working, sometimes around the farm where we lived, but mostly away, only at home for meals and to read the paper in his big stuffed chair.
It was truly the Garden of Eden for us younger ones. The little boys (that’s how Shirley and I referred to them) and I swung from long ropes tied to the rafters in the hay barns; rode bareback over plowed fields on our horses, Queenie, the small, brown bay, and Trigger, the tall, golden stallion. We played lookout running along the rickety, narrow catwalk high up on the wood slat pump house, and got into as much mischief daily as we could. Shirley joined us in the evenings outside when we would hide behind the car under the yard light in the driveway and sneak up on feral cats trying to catch the moths attracted by the light. If we got lucky we could grab a kitten by the nape of the neck and hold on for a little while until it squirmed loose and scratched the heck out of our arms before fleeing into the shadows. (to be continued)