Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Strategic Plotting

I’m fairly convinced that I’m bad at chess and war games for the same reason that I’m bad at plot development. I cannot think ahead in that way, considering different contingencies, adjusting my plans in advance. I’m bad at debates for the same reason, unless it’s a topic in which I am confident – like the best route to ride to school. Some people, like people who are wicked at puzzles and the like, can slap down a strategy like a $2 mortgage payment. Me, it’s like trying to fork over a lung while still breathing. Because of this ineptitude, I need your help to prevent anybody whispering checkmate in my unsuspecting ear.

At issue for me today is a different kind of plotting, thankfully not my garden or my grave (which reminds me, I wrote my epitaph when I was 13: Rose’s toes over there and her nose this way goes). I mentioned in my last post that I intend to work in some time over the holidays to interview my mom and aunt for a writing project. My priority would be to talk to my aunt and get as much of that done as possible – she has seniority since she’s 81.

My aunt, Tia I’ll call her since that’s what I call her, is awesome and energetic and some sort of biological enigma. She’s also got great stories that weave into other stories and include unnecessary details about temperature, carpet colour, time of day, sale price. I feel relatively well equipped to handle her meanderings. She deals well with interruption. I think questions and other prompts will help. What I’m not so sure about is getting her to sign onto the project in the first place.

Don’t go thinking I’m about to go manipulating a senior into some sketchy exposé about how much she pays for garbage pick up. I don’t plan on getting her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. I don’t think Tia would be against this idea at all in principle. In fact, I think she’d be interested and pleased, and also recognize that it gives me an opportunity to learn more about my dad, her brother, too. But she’s a bit funny. She’s anxious by nature and this hasn’t improved in recent years. Further, it’ll be the Christmas season and she’s likely to be in Tia mode, with family arriving unannounced for a week or whisking her away or expecting to be fed or building her a new wall unit. Also, my mom suspects that if I give her any notice, she’s likely to obsessively stress and get herself into quite a tizzy. On the other hand, without notice, it seems a little presumptuous to show up at her house with a sleeping bag and the modern day equivalent of a tape recorder, make a pot of tea and say, “OK, Tia. I’m writing a book about your life. Now, you were born March of 1930, right?”

You may be wondering why I don’t just go with the flow and see how she reacts. I’d love to be all, “Universe, show me the way” about this. But my panic is as follows: at the risk of being dramatic, it’s hard to foresee a time in the next few years where I will be able to dedicate another week to this sort of thing. Tia lives 9 hours away, so occasional mini-sessions are not really an option. The phone I think would be a little bit atrocious, under the circumstances. I don’t want to take it for granted that Tia will be around for another gazillion years.

My mom, being the devious little monkey that she is, is tasked with telling Tia I’m planning to interview my mom and seeing how she reacts. I’m eagerly awaiting the report. In the meantime, I’m still trying to strategize, which is a little like paddling a kayak with one arm.

So I’m asking you dear savvy and sensitive readers, how do I approach this? And, seriously what is the modern equivalent to a tape recorder? I actually need to know.


November 16, 2011 Posted by | Cycling, Portuguese-ness?, Writing | , , , | 13 Comments