My dear friend Nancy recently sent me a creative prompt to get our writing mojo going. It can work for any art form, so give it a whirl. Here ’tis:
A memory of yellow.
What will it inspire for you? Share your stuff at the Facebook page.
First memory of yellow
I’d lived half my life before yellow struck me as something worth memorizing. Or maybe it was more like I’d never noticed it before, or that it had never really been there enough for me to really see in the first place. Hard to see in the cool grey of the New England city I’d grown up in. Not New England with its ski-lodges, lakes & orchards bursting with future apple pies, pretty church steeples & trees bowing down to them, but a city that had onced deemed itself “Queen” but ended up mostly run down & uneventful, strip malls & brick mill yards edging against a dirty river we were warned not to swim in.
With a duffle bag, a ticket & the few hundred remaining dollars I’d saved in a quick summer stint at a pizza chain restaurant, I flew west to California, the lure of ease & freedom from everything I’d ever known so strong that my only plan was in the getting there & the few day stay with new relatives.
Not new as in my-cousin-married-your-sister sort of new. New as in my sudden uncle, given away at birth by my grandmother when she was 16, a secret she’d kept for more than 40 years. He’d been the one to find her. My grandmother was a wreck but also exhilarated- he was handsome, successful & a devout Christian, which somewhat made up for the fact that she couldn’t give her life to Jesus & become a nun. Not that she’d had much say in the matter, forced into it by her mother & the nuns who helped deliver him. Not long after that was shuffled back into the car she was brought in to return home with her stepfather, the man no one held responsible.
My Uncle was an insurance sales man, the best in the state with an award to prove it. His wife & daughter were lovely with solid white teeth. Looking back, this is where my memory of yellow could have began, but didn’t. It was, however, very much yellow, like the kind a child uses to fill in a mimeograph of a smiley face: bright, cheerful, polished. One-hued.
But they were kind to me, took a virtual stranger into their home & then along to their church where they sang with a band & a room filled with two hundred people, praising Jesus while holding hands. I’d only ever seen such things on tee vee.
Looking back, maybe I ought to have started that IRA account my uncle heavily suggested I get. The query about my position on Jesus, however, left me uneasy & irritable, exacerbated by their strong & clear convictions. How could someone so holy, someone who’d clearly suffered so much want me to spend eternity in hell for difference of opinion?
I was relieved when the stay was over & they dropped me at the Amtrak so I could ride up the coast of Highway One to San Luis Obispo, the town I decided I’d call home. I imagine they were praying for me & my lost soul as I waved out the window, snuggled myself into my duffle & let myself drift in & out of sleep.
Somewhere in Goleta I opened my eyes. I expected ocean & palm trees, but instead I saw hill after hill of rolling grass, golden swaying waves of it churned by the Santa Ana winds, & an occasional cow that would appear then diminish as the train sped by. It was astonishingly spacious, fluid, promising.
The sun beat in through the window onto my arm. It burned a little. I lifted my hand & mimicked the motion of what I saw outside. This is where the yellow dream begins, Jesus riding the next cow over those golden blades of grass, waving back at me, happy I am happy, wanting little else.