You can’t stay married to the same person for almost twenty years without amassing a goldmine of writing material. In some form or other, I’ve used a lot of events from our “real life” in my fiction, good and bad. The bad ones somehow end up funnier. Heck, if life gives you citrus fruit, why not squeeze them into tasty adult beverages for other people’s entertainment?
This past weekend, we were with family, and one story led to another. It never takes much prompting for my husband to start telling the Tale of the Worst Day of his Life. Although the years have magnified each horrible turn by a factor of ten, it originally started like this: My boss at the time, a lovely woman, decided that when she turned fifty, she would throw herself a bat mitzvah. Great. I had no judgments about that. I even helped her type her script and do her invitations. But it happened to fall on the hottest day of the year, in a building without air conditioning, and went on for three hours while we sat on metal folding chairs sweating through our itchy grown-up clothing. This was in Woodstock, so nearly everyone else wore Birkenstocks and shorts, a fact that irked my spouse all the more, as did the fact that the rabbi performing the ceremony was the same one who’d refused to marry us because “it would be a hollow experience,” [his exact words] as we had both stepped away from our Jewish roots. But if we paid five hundred bucks to join the Congregation, he would be happy to oblige. Okay. Given all that, however, Husband is no stranger to religious ceremonies, so he expected that after being forced to sit through such a ceremony, with the Torah performed as interpretive dance, yet (I may be exaggerating), at least there would be food.
No food. Just tabouli, iced tea, and an awkward wait at the receiving line. He made me stop at McDonald’s on the way home.
We perform this story as a duet now, filling in the parts that the other didn’t remember or was laughing too hard to get through. As I chimed in with, “and in the first row they’d wheeled in ten people from her mother’s nursing home, and they were hooting and singing all the way through it,” my stepmother and my brother’s girlfriend just about lost it. At the same time, they said, “Use it! Why haven’t you used that somewhere?”
I was flummoxed. It’s great stuff. I don’t know why I never used it. Maybe I felt it would be disloyal? Or maybe I just never found a home for it yet. But it’s there, waiting for the right set of characters.
Is there a story from your life that you yearn to write about one day? What’s stopping you? Or do you have one that gets exaggerated every time you retell it?
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