Every day I pass my younger son’s wood shop project. It leans on a recliner in my basement and is nearly finished, sanded smooth and stained a rich, dark brown. It falls to me to help with the final precision work: laying green felt on the shelves, trimming and mounting white tees, installing hinges. When we finish, he’ll have a handcrafted case to display twenty valuable golf balls, tokens of his sport career.
He has a few already. I’ve saved two others, sealed in a Ziploc® bag. They’re embossed with an orange Callaway chevron, game-scarred and muddy. He played eighteen holes in the region meet two years ago, without losing a ball, and gave one of them to me as a souvenir, claiming I was his good luck charm.
I acquired the other, its unlikely twin, with much less fanfare.
He didn’t give it to me. If he even knows I have it, he’s not saying anything.
On a fateful hole in the state tournament that year, his drive off the tee sailed out of bounds. Then he knocked it past the trees straight into the creek. He pulled another from his bag and lashed out at it with his club; when he heard the ball crack against the wooden footbridge, he slumped, pulling his hat over his face to hide tears.
After pounding another ball toward the green, he stomped away, looking to the sky as if to curse the mythical gods of the game for abandoning him to flail on the fairway without hope. We followed behind and caught a glint of the Callaway with the orange chevron in the grass. It had bounced off the bridge and cleared the trees, playable but found too late.
I picked it up, feeling an ache for my son. At thirteen, he was among the youngest that day on a cruel, rigorous course. As the day wore on I reached often into my pocket, turning the ball and fingering its dirt-crusted dimples, wishing the gallery were permitted to even whisper a word of cheer.
We’ve never really talked about that hole. It’s a story he’s not wanted to tell.
In Rumors of Water, L. L. Barkat talks about allowing writing to come in its time, a “commitment to come to the edge of our memories and keep bringing them upward.” She goes on to say that
We might tell others these stories, each time adding a new detail, or we might scribble our memories into the small rooms of poems and private journals.
There is no hurry. The things we cannot write about today, we will surely find we can write about tomorrow. We should not worry about the process, but simply trust it and move on. After all, we contain fields upon fields of stories we’ve rehearsed over time. We must recognize that these are the ready ones, the now-stories. (pp. 152-153)
Last night I asked if I could write the story of my son’s devastating tenth hole. He twisted his cap self-consciously, then shrugged and returned a small smile.
One day soon, I imagine balancing two polished Callaways, each on a white tee on the top shelf. He’ll look surprised that I kept them safe. And maybe, then, he’ll be ready to tell me his side of the story, of what really happened that day.
Come on, son, pull your head
out of the bag. Keep moving. I know
it hardly seems fair, the way
she slices you. It’s rough
how she hooks you, drags you
screaming to the bunker.
She’s given you the shanks
laughing her mischievous laugh.
Still. Brush the sand from your eyes;
you know you’re not the first man
to kneel on her greens,
water her turf with his tears
while she swings
an iron through his heart,
not the first to want to drive
a wedge through hers.
We’ve been discussing L.L. Barkat’s Rumors of Water, chapters 27-32 on Glitches and Time. Have you sometimes had trouble coaxing out a story before its time? L.L. likens memories to white moths that sometimes rise as we gently stir the grass. How have you stirred your own memories and lifted them upward?
If you’ve posted on the book this week, please be sure to drop your link in the comments so we can share your thoughts.
We conclude our discussion of Rumors of Water with today’s post, but beginning May 23, I’ll be taking on Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. Please, order a copy, borrow it from your library or snatch it out of your little sister’s hands. I’m going to need a lot of help.
Photo by MeckiMack. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post and golf photo by Will Willingham.
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