October 5, 2010

Birthday Scene from a Dairy Queen

I feel compelled to take you, dear reader, on my journey back to school.  The Art of Creative Non-fiction is the name of this UCLA online course. It's a two year writing program.  By the time I'm finished, I should be right smart good. 

Don't worry, it's won't be boring.  Although I'm taking the school work more serious than in the past, I'm taking myself less serious than ever before.  The Flying Pork Knuckle motto remains the same:  To keep readers from twiddling their thumbs. 

Homework is posted once a week.

Week 1 Exercise:
Write a "snapshot essay," a short piece built entirely on the information you can gather from a single photograph and the memories it evokes.

There is no frame on this one, no writing on the back.  My mother and Uncle Rick are standing side-by-side, their hands upon their brother’s right shoulder.  Pictures of ice cream hang on the wall behind them.  “Peanut Buster,” says the poster by Uncle Rick’s head.  Without a shred of doubt, these images are the work of a professional.  Maybe you never thought of ice cream as sexy before, so let me fill you in on a little secret:  In certain circles, the Peanut Buster is on par with pin-up girls.

Uncle Danny sits before a blue rectangular cake with white icing piped around the edges.  It’s his birthday, it seems – he’s smack dab in the middle of the picture, cheeks glistening like king baby.  The birthday boy wears an orange button-up shirt, a goatee, and the silver medallion swimming in his chest hair makes me think of Santorini.  

My father is seated to the right.  He is tanned by winter migrations to Puerto Rico, and his hair is lighter than I’ve ever seen it.  It looks fabulous.  My mother’s hair, draping down behind him, is of a similar shade, but it’s not from the sun.  Hers has been intentionally altered by something called a beauty technician.

To the left, Grandmother Mary has her arm around Uncle Danny.  She’s wearing a new shirt.  It’s lime green, and to tell you the truth, I don’t quite know what to think about it.  She never knew a camera that liked her; always closing her eyes at the last second.  They’re open here, but there’s a daffy little smile on her face.  She’s medicated.  
      “Happy pills,” my wife calls them.   
As I look at my grandmother in this picture, I am a little embarrassed to mention that she reminds me of the Great Florida manatee.  It’s not that she’s large – her BMI is within the healthy range for a woman her age – but darned if she doesn’t look content. 


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