Their name was appropriate: Vineyard. I would announce to Mom as I walked out the front door, “I’m going to work at the Vineyard’s!” But I wasn’t going to the French Riviera or an Italian hillside or Napa Valley; I was riding my bike half a mile to Ken and Margie Vineyard’s house, to work in their yard.
I was 14 the summer they hired me. They paid really well (compared to babysitting, lawn-mowing, or cutting cartoons out of The New Yorker for my Dad’s humor collection). I felt a little guilty for taking their cash. So I was meticulous with my hours and calculated the time I worked to the minute. I’d write my start time on a post-it note and jam it into my jeans pocket. By the time I pulled it out again to record quitting time for the day, the post-it wasn’t sticky anymore, and the adhesive had collected a bunch of dirt.
That first summer, I weeded the Vineyard’s vegetable garden. We had been the happy recipients of free produce from them for several years, since Mom had befriended them on her daily walks through our neighborhood. They hired me to help keep the garden maintained since they were my grandparents’ age, and couldn’t spend as much time stooped over their veggies as they wanted. So I did, crouched on my haunches or hands and knees, moving between the rows lined with grass-clipping mulch.
I pulled chickweed from between scratchy cucumber vines, uprooted dandelions without uprooting green beans, and removed thistles hidden under large pumpkin leaves. The soil was dry and sandy. I had the warm, dusty smell of earth in my nostrils and dirt under my fingernails.
This is one of the pieces I started this month. Keeping my 15 minute daily writing appointment has given me all kinds of literary momentum. I’ve been reading and writing way more than usual (I’m spending more time in my craft-room-turned-reading-nook with a glass of wine, Pandora radio, and a journal than I am sprawled on the couch in front of the TV).
Labeling each writing session is super helpful. Here are a few headings I’ve used so far:
- Whenever I Forget Something, I Panic
- Letter to my Nephew (11 days old)
- Letter to Lisa Genova (author of Still Alice)
- Letter to My Mom (I miss you)
- Remembering Uganda
- Stream of Consciousness Update
- Good Excuses for Not Writing
Broad range of topics, right? More writing to come.