Jumping Back on the Bike

A recent trip to Poland got me thinking about my her. At age 22 she emigrated from Poland–by herself. No family, no friend accompanied her. I wondered:

How would Grandma’s life have been different had she not left? How did Grandma find the money to leave? For that matter, how did Grandma find the courage to leave?

It feels good to be writing again. Hand surgery followed by two months in a cast curtailed my ability to use a keyboard, hence no blog entries since early April. I’m not fond of the hunt-and-peck system, and dictating into a computer gets in the way of my thought processes.

But while I’m eager to get back to writing, I feel an all-to-familiar sense of self-doubt; in a few hours I’ll begin an on-line course in creative nonfiction.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to produce anything for critique. Writing a blog is easy; the pieces are short and subject matter isn’t hard to come up with. But this project will be far more challenging. I intend to try for a book about my maternal grandmother.

A recent trip to Poland got me thinking about my her. At age 22 she emigrated from Poland–by herself. No family, no friend accompanied her.

I, on the other hand, traveled to Poland with my husband to join a well-organized, luxurious tour. The tour took us through Krakow, near if not through the farming country where Rose grew up. I looked out the window at unfinished wooden houses and abandoned farms. A dejected old man in a black suit and dirty white shirt guided a sway-backed horse that pulled a wagon load of cabbages.

And I wondered:

How would Grandma’s life have been different had she not left?

How did Grandma find the money to leave?

For that matter, how did Grandma find the courage to leave?

I put all these questions aside until recently when, on a whim, I joined the Minnesota History Center. After a few vague questions to one of their research librarians about Poles who settled in N.E. Minneapolis, I found myself eagerly pawing through an archival box of essays that my 10th grade English teacher had donated. Her semester-long assignment was to write about an ancestor.

There, at the bottom of the pile, was my essay. The abundance of facts told to me by my mother over the years, gave me the impetus to enroll in on-line class in writing historical nonfiction.

I’m excited and I’m scared. How do I create a personality for someone I knew only through my mother’s stories? How do I create a narrative that will tie vignettes together into an interesting story?

And most importantly, will I be able to avoid my usual avoidance techniques, namely computer Solitaire and Angry Birds?

If things go well, I’ll let you know. For now, I’m content to have discovered that my hand has finally healed enough to allow me to type.