Friday, December 14, 2007

Scenes From a Notebook

Michelle Seaton is a nonfiction writer who currently teaches the "6 Weeks, 6 Essays" workshop at Grub Street.

Here are few paragraphs from the notebook I carry around with me, pretty much unedited. (Hey, it’s a blog. The hallmark of a blog is this: no editor.) Be patient. At the end is a writing prompt.

So, the other night I was putting out toothbrushes for the kids and listening to them giggle in the next room. Then I heard one of them say to the other one, "OK, now you smell my butt." I rounded the corner to find pretty much what you'd expect: both of them naked and bent over, one presenting and the other inhaling.

This is how I found myself standing in my own home, shouting "No Butt Sniffing" with great vehemence. My two children cocked their heads at me, bemused. Smiles twitched at the corners of their mouths. Mommy is so funny when the veins stick out in her neck. They are three and five and already they have the upper hand. "No butt sniffing." I said it again, like it might be less absurd, more serious the second time. "It's a rule."

That really is the bottom of the barrel, in parenting terms. Announcing that something's a rule. That's what I do all day; I make up rules. Don't pee on your sister. No fingers in the butt. Don't break that, don't throw that, don't touch that, don't lick that. (An admonition that is always, invariably followed by: STOP licking that.) Sometimes I hear a commotion in the next room and I start shouting KNOCK IT OFF and waving my arms in the air, even though I can't see what's going on. I run toward them yelling, NO, NO, NO, and secretly I'm steeling myself. How grossed out am I prepared to be right now? How much wine is left in the fridge? And then when I find them spitting down the necks of the dolls they've beheaded, and I yank the toys away, the kids are truly mystified. Sammie, who is three, rolls her eyes at me and says, "Oh, all wite," just like Elmer Fudd.

Yep, that's my job around here, bringing the party down.

YOUR PROMPT: Describe the last time you were really angry. (Even if you think you never get angry. Even if you think you’re at one with the universe.) Better if it’s extreme anger or frustration over something petty. I always give this prompt at the start of a memoir classes as a warm-up. People hate it. They give me that look. Yeah. That look. And then they start, and then I pretty much have to take the pen away from them, I mean yank it away, after fifteen minutes so we can start class. Anger has energy, fuel for work. It’s good to describe the event as a straight scene, and dive into the details. Better if you can morph it into something else. Play it for laughs. Make it sad or wry. Fiction types can distort it, make it happen to someone else.

~Michelle Seaton