If Ghosts Could Write
When I was little, my mom was editor of The View, a community newspaper in our California hometown. Today I came across a photo of us marching together in a parade in April 1982. I don’t remember the experience, but I know I must have felt pretty important to be helping represent my mom’s paper.
In the photo, I’m 3.5 years old, with long wavy hair only slightly tamed by barrettes. I have a goofy half-grin on my face as I clutch my stuffed animal, Toto — a nod to my childhood obsession with the The Wizard of Oz. My mom’s face is tipped toward me, and she’s smiling as she holds my wrist, a stack of newspapers in her other arm. Both of us are wearing T-shirts that read, “I Heart The View.”
Looking at this photo in the midst of a pandemic, I immediately think about how such a parade would not happen today because of social distancing. And I notice how much has changed since the photo was taken. The clothes, hairstyles, shoes, and even the car in the picture scream 1980s. I’m no longer a little kid, and while Toto is still around, I’ve transferred custody of him to my own daughters for safekeeping. Though The View does not exist anymore, my mother later co-founded the Mountain View Voice, which circulated in print for years but only recently shifted to 100% online content due to COVID-19.
What hasn’t changed, though, is how much I still admire my mother and look to her as a role model in writing.
I’ve often wondered what she would think about the present state of the world: the pandemic, the protests, the masks. The heartache, frustration, fear, and hope. I feel certain that if she were alive, she would be writing about what was happening, talking with as many people as possible, so she could share their stories. She was so skilled at shining a light on little-talked-about issues, making sure people who needed a voice got one.
In my mind, I can imagine my mother covering a protest, but 1980s-style. I see her chatting with people, scrawling notes on a pad of paper, pushing her sunglasses on top of her head so she could snap a few photos. Then she would return home, to the tiny loft that served as her office for years. I still recall the sounds of her writing, the jarring tap-tap-tap of the typewriter keys, the occasional “mmmph!” if her fingers slipped and misspelled a word.
Like magic, she would crank out a story that was insightful and unflinching, one that I would read with amazement. How did she choose just the right words every time? The world was so big and complicated. How did she know what to write?
I still wish I could ask her.
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