Dear Lily June,
We live in an era in which, pardon my French, sh*t keeps shrinking.
Computers which once spanned the length of entire nerds’ mothers’ basements now fit on a table; those that once fit on a table shrunk to fit a lap. When a lap seemed like an extraordinary acreage of prime real estate to auction off, laptops gave way to iPads, and when anything wider than a wrist wouldn’t do, iPads shrank to iPhones. Language has thus suffered the same fate, and correspondence that once spanned pages and pages–back when real writers kicked it with quills by candelight–has been whittled down to screen size: 140 characters or less. This, to me, has done to letters what “fun size” has done to candy bars, but who am I to stand in the way of progress?
Your mother has adapted to the new way as well as a cave woman might: By refusing to change until she dies and becomes extinct. To write this blog, for instance, I just pull the large bone out of my hair and bang it at the keyboard in front of me until whole words form. If I had any skill at all, I could replace the words with emojis, and then I’d really show Shakespeare, whose quotation is already legitimately short enough to tweet, that “BreviT is the soul of 😉 ”
Narrative magazine has, for a while, been running a submission request for six-word stories, and their examples are classics.
From Margaret Atwood:
“Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”
From Alistair Daniel:
“Without thinking, I made two cups.”
From Joyce Carol Oates:
“Revenge is living well, without you.”
And of course, the classic-est of them all, and the one that, as a new mother, guts me with grief…
“For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
We mostly, Lily, had a beautiful holiday, packing nine relatives–five adults and four children all five and under–into the sardine can of our one bedroom apartment’s living room. To say anything brief about it would be to do it an injustice, as there were moments of conflict, forgiveness, loss, love, and heartburn beyond measure. The sheer number of sticks of butter that gave the ultimate sacrifice alone for our Thanksgiving table defies conventional logic and would be AMA for 9 out of 10 doctors.
But I’m not above doing an injustice to a holiday that, as a Brontosaurus of writers, would take me a small novel to fully unravel anyway. So as a finale sendoff to the Great Thanksgiving of 2015, I offer you six six-word stories that pretty much encapsulate the whole she-bang:
Wife versus Mother-in-law. The Husband loses.
The stuffing got toasted. Lucky stuffing.
The pies got baked. Lucky pies.
Families are the loveliest of messes.
Gave the kids sugar. Big mistake.
Next year? Empty table. Sleeping Mother.
For what it’s worth, even at six months old, you were the most zen of us all. While the boys wailed to have to put their shoes back on and leave (the sure sign of any good family get-together), you smiled your gummy smile at everyone and did as the Hitchhiker’s Guide directed: You did NOT panic. You waited patiently until the merriment had died down, the revelers headed home, before you began teething. The very next day.
Well played, teething baby. Well played.
- “Classic baby shoes” by JD Hancock from Austin, TX, United States. Cropped and edited by Daniel Case prior to upload – 1970 Baby Shoes and Blanket. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Classic_baby_shoes.jpg#/media/File:Classic_baby_shoes.jpg