Guest blog/Ruth Sidransky
If I had to say the Primer came out of a sudden urgent need to write a book exclusively about women and for women it would not be accurate. Avid journal keeper that I am, I do from time to time, pick up an odd journal and here and there, and in an unnoticed paragraph I find a philosophical nugget hidden in a recorded event or a comment about a person. Items to include in a book. Years passed and I wrote an occasional essay, but none that satisfied the writer, the “me” of the writer.
Although I realized I had the seed of yet another book to write I had problems of the page to solve. How then to go about structuring the fragmentation of most women’s lives, certainly of my generation? My working title then was BEGINNING AGAIN.
I struggled with this for a year, I struggled with whether or not I should interview other women: young, middle aged and old. When I approached friends they were eager to help, but in the end they were reluctant to divulge the details of their private lives for publication.
I lay the manuscript and my words in a desk drawer. I would come to it later.
Family matters, death and illness intervened.
I hit upon a structure. The alphabet would serve as the frame of the book. The ABC’S of a life. Each letter was to offer a positive attribute of a woman’s life. It would be my life, my experiences.
The first letter of the book is A, and A is for AWE. The awe of life itself in all it’s ramifications, awe of the dawning day, awe of a simple walk and encounter with a handsome dog, a moment of pure delight, for others it might be the awe of God.
And so I began an exciting book, excavating my life, through my years in Europe, giving birth to a daughter in Munich, Germany, a son in Barcelona, Spain. In each of these key cities I had experiences not given to many women of my generation.
As always, the essence of my work, my written words have to do with the clarity of language and the clarity of thought it engenders. One of the most important letters in the book is the letter “L”. Many would write of love or life. I chose the word “listen”. Listening for me is essential for human communication.
My mother and father were deaf, profoundly so. I learned as a very young child the importance of listening to the other. Listening implies kindness and respect. In this brief essay I write of an encounter with an attorney and his wife. His wife stared at my mother and me as we communicated by eye in Sign Language. Annoyed, I made a rude oral remark.
The wife turned to me in anguish and said, “ Sorry. My husband had a stroke and he can no longer speak. The therapist is trying to teach him to sign the alphabet. It is hard.”
My mother, not to be left out the conversation demanded to know what was said. I told her, in Sign.
She snickered, “So stupid! Teach him words Ruth. You know how.”
The teaching began, and the pleasure on this man’s face, now able to communicate some of his needs with a simple sign was thrilling. He kept nodding his head and he grinned with a crooked smile. Such joy.
My favorite letter is the letter “Y”. Yellow begins with the letter “Y”. Yellow is the color of the sun, the color of the daffodil that breaks through cracked spring soil every April, sometimes in May. Yellow is the color of life. I write a great deal about yellow. It is my favorite color.
The letter “Y’ leads into the letter “Z”. The zest for life.
I am grateful to find words that flow from one book to another. And there are others, even at 85; I continue to flirt with language. Above all I know that story is a connecting force, a sharing, explanatory force that binds human to human, whether told in fiction or in truth.
Cover model is Ruth Sidransky’s granddaughter Sarah.
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