Last month I attended the Writers League of Texas annual writer’s retreat in
Alpine, Texas. This was the third year in a row I have participated, and it is
fast becoming a tradition both my husband and I look forward to.
I attended the memoir class taught by Donna Johnson and Christine Wicker. This
class dug up a lot of my past, some sweet, some not-so-much. If you want to get
in touch with yourself, try a memoir-writing clinic. Be prepared, though.
There’s no such thing as free therapy, as the old saying almost goes. Ours was
the only class that came with Kleenex.
I want to share a piece I wrote as one of the class writing exercises. It is one
of my fondest childhood memories, and I’m grateful for the chance to bring it
My older brother dug holes in our backyard. They were large and deep enough to
sit in undetected by casual passersby. I loved those magnificent holes Tom
shared with me.
Mama allowed him to have only one hole going at a time, lest the backyard become
an unusable No Man’s Land. He always filled one hole in before starting another
I watched for signs Tom was about to start another hole. I tagged along to watch
him choose a site. He was limited to a four-foot radius around the mulberry
tree. Grass wouldn’t grow there anyway, and Mama had given up trying. He walked
around and around, kicking a rock here, prodding a dirt clod there. Finally he
would sink his shovel into the ground, and I’d know he’d found his spot.
And Tom’s holes were always clean. I never got my play clothes dirty sitting in
them, and you could take books and magazines down there without fear of ruining
them. I would run my fingers across the hard-packed walls or floor without
soiling my hands. I always suspected Mama cleaned our holes when we weren’t
When the hole was finished, we observed a brief dedication ceremony, culminating
in both of us climbing in and sitting down. I was protected, circumscribed, and
unassailable, totally safe. Sitting in that hole with Tom felt like a hug.