Legends of the Edisto: What I Remember

The woods around Mizpah Methodist Church in Bamberg, South Carolina.

My father’s parents accomplished more than I ever dreamed in a lifetime.

People who knew them still talk about their legacies. My oldest cousin posts documents showing my grandfather’s many accomplishments as a student and as a chemist. He worked for a company called Sonoco, and my grandmother was a school teacher. She obtained glasses for children who could not read well during a time when that was almost unheard of.

When people talk about my grandfather, they tell stories of man of Science and faith. At a young age, he drank coffee. In his silent resolute way, he opposed racism during a time when most people let those hatreds burn.  In a backyard, he burned a robe and documents symbolizing hate of an era.

My grandparents inspired many emotions in the lives they touched.

I knew I would never compare to them. My older cousins have interpreted his legacy, and succeeded in their careers. Sometimes I think I failed, because he always believed I was bound for greatness. Every grandparents believes that about their grandchildren.

I thought I needed to find a mainstream version of success in a way others of the family have done.

But, that was not my path. My talents were not meant for business or Science, but art and work with children.

After my grandfather’s death, I wanted to write an opus or some great work to honor him and my grandmother so they would never be forgotten.

Soon I realized it was unfair to write about my grandparents exactly as I viewed them. In my eyes, they emulated a kind of perfection.

In 2006, I began writing Sons of the Edisto. The only connection between the main character Owen and my grandfather is that some events and characteristics in his life  loosely inspired the book. For example, Owen’s interest in Science shows throughout the book. He lives in the 1920s during a time when new ideas question old concepts.


Scanning the dusty wooden floorboards, Owen spots a worm inching its way under the pew. The thing’s pink head resembles its tail. Owen wonders how many circles are on its body. The circles are easier to count if he picks up the worm. He lifts it to eyelevel. It moves across his palm. The worm’s squirming body feels like moss on an underwater rock. It falls out of his hand, over the board and into Eliza’s lap.

Sons of the Edisto, Chapter 4, p. 44

 

At the end of August, I began a rest period for Sons of the Edisto. I have worked on it for seven years, and that includes the editing. If you’ve read previous blogs, you know I am sending query letters as time allows. What makes it difficult to let go is I feel I’m saying goodbye to my grandparents again.

I did what I set out to do. I wrote something in honor of my grandparents.

© 2006-2013 by R.T. Dickinson. All rights reserved. No part of this  blog, Sons of the Edisto, Red Loam, manuscripts or related material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of R.T. Dickinson.


What the Real World Gives Mommy Writers

I remember girls in college bragging about completing their homework, participating in activities, and how they were successful in everything.

That was my perception. I could not see inside their lives.

Although my time as a creative author is now limited, I know a good writer observes people.

You are like an investigator who knows how to read people and spot little details.

Maybe you do not spot the little details in your everyday life. Laundry piles up. Your children’s rooms are never really picked up. You tell yourself they’re clean; just not picked up and they have a train to make for Monday. If you’re working, you’re wondering where is the break over the weekend only to realize the week is your break from home.

When do you write?

Anytime you can.

What do you write?

What inspires you.

Some mom writers escape into the jungles of their imaginations where they are still children. Those are the women I relate to most; the women who know they cannot complete everything perfectly. The women who know being a mommy is good, but it is a lot of work. They’re not afraid to admit it.

But they also have something to talk about, and the conversation is produced from their fingers and keyboard.

The last time I worked on my work was two weekends ago. I prepared an Elliot McSwean story for submission. The 10-year-old boy in my story has a mother who is a preschool teacher. She relates to her three daughters, but cannot grasp why her only son refuses to stay out of other people’s business.

That is a different perspective for me. During childhood little boys, sling shots and water guns filled my neighborhood. For two streets I was the only girl. I grew up to favor boys because I did not like or understand girls my age. (That has changed.) When I worked as an after school assistant teacher, several of my boys wanted someone to throw a football with them. In college I found out I had a decent arm and could catch. I also played a lot of Frisbee.

To have a curious boy of my own is no big surprise.

As a writer I tend to choose very real subjects. I cannot tell you why. In Elliot McSwean and my other stories I compose different relationships between parents, children, and siblings. One story I am write about a mother who tries everything she can to make it to her son’s soccer game on time after being delayed by an ignorant hostess and other challenges on her drive. Will she make it to the game on time after missing his last three games?

Even though I have not written creatively for two weeks, I watch people and think of new situations and new stories. I am always thinking of what a little boy might do next to embarrass his mother like opening the bathroom stall before she is finished and because he is ready to leave. (That has not happened to me just yet.)

A lot of other parent writers walk in similar shoes. They must work, go to school, and take their children to school. What gets us through the days and nights is a child’s imagination.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Truths about Time

College football is not everything.

It is not worth your full attention on Saturday afternoons when your time is a pot of boiling water about to spill.

After fifteen years, time shows me I still don’t like Emerson and Thoreau. Yet, Mark Twain – for me – still cuts the BS and gets to the story.

Time takes little pieces and parts I want to spend with my son. That time is spent at work, at work again, school and studying.

I don’t let time win. I steal time during which I should be eating to pick my son up from his half-day program. I race home from Winthrop on the nights I arrive earlier to take him to parks with water so he can enjoy what is still left of summer. After all, summer does not leave South Carolina so soon.

College football still catches the eye as I try to make it through Emerson. Your team does not show up, and then they explode. Next the Gamecocks are stood up at the one yard line and they lose to Georgia. A heart breaking loss. For a writer who loves college football, emotion fills the senses.

You know time is right. Football should not be as important. Your son asks, “Where are the race cars?” not “Where is South Carolina’s defense?”

Time reminds you just as Clemson University was a constant part of childhood, the University of South Carolina was a part of youth. What has time really left of your connection to them when you must dedicate your time and talent to a university that has laid a platter of opportunity in front of you? A university where professors understand the heart of your time is not watching a game on Saturday, but a little boy who grows too fast.

So, my boy drags a wagon after splashing in the Catawba River.

College football is just noise in the background adults in his household make a fuss over, and all he wants to know is, “Where are the race cars?”

Emerson and Thoreau wrote of how time could become nonexistent in man’s relationship with nature.

They did not see the nature of a boy growing up; how it happens too fast. How many hours does your conscience count when you are not with him?

Time also teaches you’re the student who does not have parties or football at the center of your life.

On Wednesday, a woman said to me, “You said, ‘You’re a mom, right?'” We show pictures of our kids, and discuss the challenges of studying with a toddler around. The guilt. The anger. The frustration. Not enough time. For the first time in graduate school, I thought, Someone gets it.

“Why are you in this class?” someone might ask.

For my son’s future.

“It is required.”

Time takes many things I love. Since completion of Sons of the Edisto, I understand time for writing comes in small amounts. When it does, I dedicate it to Elliot McSwean and my other stories. Again, time shows my short story writing has improved. This is the period in life for stories; not novels.

Time in all its wisdom knows it never provides enough for one person.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson