Something missing . . . Prompt #223

Susan.Jumpstart.Jan 25.2


I had the good fortune recently to “sit on the other side of the table.” I attended a Jumpstart Writing Workshop facilitated by Susan Bono.

Susan talked about how there is tension between what the reader knows and what the narrator/character doesn’t know.

Photo of Susan at Jumpstart Writing Workshop in Copperfield’s Bookstore, downtown Petaluma. Photo by Breana Marie.

Susan read Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Something Missing.”

I put on my socks,
I remember I put on my shoes.
I remember I put on my tie
That was painted
In beautiful purples and blues.
I remember I put on my coat,
To look perfectly grand at the dance,
Yet I feel there is something
I may have forgot—-
What is it? What is it?. . .

Do you know what the narrator forgot? If you don’t know, read the poem again.

It rhymes with “dance.”   . . . Pants!

Susan talked about how, in writing, there can be tension between what the reader knows and what the narrator/character doesn’t know. In the poem for example, the reader knows what the character doesn’t know . . . he forgot his pants.

Susan next talked about “yearning for an answer.” I think she’s on to something. . . readers yearn for answers as do writers. When writing, especially freewrites, we can learn about ourselves and as we write, truths can be revealed. Or, we might see an old situation in a new way. That’s what happened for me while writing on this prompt.

Writing Prompt: Write about the feeling of something missing.

Part 1 of 3. The next two prompts will continue with this subject of reader knowing, narrator not knowing and what’s missing. Stay tuned.

A reminder for making comments on The Write Spot Blog: There is no judging, no critiquing, no questions asked for clarification. With this type of freewriting, we are writing for ourselves, not for an audience nor for the entertainment of others. This type of writing can result in polished writing that is published, but that’s up to the writer to decide whether or not to share his/her writing. The first inklings of freewrites are kernels . . . ready to pop, or newly hatched, kind of like newborn babies seeing the world for the first time. Be kind with your comments.

And be gentle with yourself, dear writer, you are doing important work.

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  1. mcullen Post author

    I’m missing what I never had.

    I’ve often thought about the idea of “You can’t miss what you’ve never had.” Whenever I thought that, I always thought of my father, who was missing-in-action as a loving, caring father.

    But just now, sitting here in Jumpstart, I realize I miss my mother, even though she’s still alive and I love her dearly, I miss what could have been but never was.

    I miss the mother I had from birth to 12-years-old. She was too strict, demanded perfection and expected us to work as hard as she did. But I knew she cared about us, with a deep sense of responsibility and pride. She was curious and independent by necessity. She took us on Sunday excursions around San Francisco—the Cliff House where we rode the tram in 1959, Japanese Tea Garden, the zoo, the carousel in Golden Gate Park. We went to my grandmother’s cabin in Rio Nido and our aunt’s cabin in Guerneville along the Russian River, where we enjoyed the American vacation of leisure time away from our city life. We drove the distance to Hayward to visit our cousins.
    But like wind and water wearing away rocks; her spirit, her energy and her self-confidence eroded when a certain person entered our lives.

    It was as if she slowly stepped backwards to the edge of a precipice, where she teetered. The only lifeline, she thought, was Certain Person, who ended up harming her and many people who cared about her.

    She lost her vision and her sensibility. She unknowingly gave up the safety net of friends and family when Certain Person slowly brainwashed her, as abusers do.

    She lost her will, and even though she also lost all her family and friends and her daughters, she couldn’t have predicted that the price she paid would alter the lives of everyone she knew.

    That’s the hard part to understand and accept.

    Years later, with tears, she asked for forgiveness. I answered, “There’s nothing to forgive. You did the best you could.” I love her with a tinge of sadness and acceptance at the way our lives went.

    I’ll never know what could have been.

    I’ll never know if she missed what she never had.

    1. PamH

      I am deeply touched by the way you expressed the challenges faced in trying to understand being the child of a wounded parent. There is such truth in expressing the contradictions that a child doesn’t understand and an adult needs to make peace with.

      1. mcullen Post author

        Really well written, PamH. I especially love “being the child of a wounded parent.” That really says a lot. What you wrote here is so profound, I think it applies to many instances of events that happened. I’m going to apply it to other areas in an attempt to understand, or put into a different perspective, events that I haven’t settled with. Thank you very much for posting.

  2. Kathy Myers

    Marlene; Your narrator tells a poignant story of loss with an interesting twist; missing someone who is still there. I like that the possibility of a loving relationship is eroded away by “certain person”, just as the Pacifica cliffs are now falling into the sea. This is an honest look at the nature of an abusive relationship, and the healing aspects of forgiveness and distance— distance of time and objectivity. Well done young lady!

    1. mcullen Post author

      Thank you, Kathy. I love that you get it. Your comments mean a lot to me.

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