30-Day Writing Challenge: Day TWO. Family Photographs.

Today it is overcast in Los Angeles, a much welcome relief from the searing heat of the past couple of days. If this is an augury of things to come (i.e., a ridiculously hot summer), then heaven help me. After living in San Francisco for nearly three years – where the sun seldom makes an appearance and where summer doesn’t really exist – I’m a little nervous as to how my body will feel in the heat. I’m also excited, though: beach, anyone?

One of the good things about a cool, cloudy day is that it makes writing a little easier. At least for me. There’s something inspiring about the streaks of white clouds obscuring the sun.

For today’s writing exercise, I took randomly chose five pictures from a family album and wrote about them. As I wrote, I found that memories, both personal and collective, bubbled up. The five pictures were as follows: a picture of me at a party, celebrating my second or third birthday; another picture of me, this time by myself, where I’m absentmindedly chewing on my fingers; a lovely picture of two of my cousins, both brothers, sitting in front of a stone fountain; a picture of my Tia Sandra and her ex-husband Alex, the Hungarian; and a picture of someone’s birthday party, with an unidentified man in the lower right hand corner who is staring at the camera. Quite an interesting array.

As I wrote and described each picture, I realized how much there was to say about each one! Maybe the old adage was true: a picture really was worth a thousand words. Moreover, I found what a useful exercise this was to dig up memories that I thought had long been lost. I’d “forgotten,” for example, about the circumstances surrounding my Tia and Uncle Alex’s divorce, among many other things. Focusing on the picture and putting the images into words was really a wonderful tool to force myself to think clearly and to try to articulate what I was seeing. Isn’t this what writers are about? Seeing, feeling, hearing, touching, tasting things, and then putting them onto the page?

For kicks, here’s my first description about the photograph I’ve posted below.

PHOTO #1 – Birthday Party
It’s my birthday party. I don’t know how old I’m turning – two, maybe three, judging from how big I am. There’s a stack of presents piled on the coffee table in front of me. My mother is in the picture as well, leaning forward expectantly, perhaps about to hand me a present so I can open it. I, however, seem uninterested. Instead, I’m staring at the camera. I’m sitting cross-legged, gripping my right shoe with my left hand, the beginning of a smile is beginning to appear on my face. Life, and the present, must be good.

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