I think the trick to fueling these snapshots, at least for me, is research. I wanted to revise my piece on the basement of my childhood home. Rumor had it that the basement had been a speakeasy. Using Ancestry, I delved into city directories to see who first owned the home when it was built in 1925 (in fact, the street was new, too–part of the development of a previous Schuyler estate, Fairlawn Manor). The man who owned it had been a pharmacist. Would a pharmacist be involved in perhaps distilling his own liquor? Maybe. He and his family lived in this house until about 1942, well after Prohibition was repealed. I posted a query to H-Net New Jersey to see if any scholars can lead me to other resources about speakeasies in private New Jersey homes during Prohibition.
Spurred by this research approach, I’m reconsidering the piece I started abut my mother and her cigarette smoking. The brand she smoked, at least in my lifetime, was Kent, which was introduced in 1952 (before I was born but probably years after she started smoking). I had to laugh when I researched the brand. A paraphrased tagline in a 1956 TV commercial: For people who smoke a lot, smoke one whole carton and Kent will help you moderate your smoking. Does that make sense to anyone?
This week I have far fewer Amherst Writers & Artists sessions and editorial comments have come in for the bio in verse. These demand my immediate attention. But, I may try to work on a piece about my step-grandmother, my paternal grandfather’s second wife. I’ve written about her in poetry but not prose. Living only a block away from us, she was so accessible for impromptu visits vs. my mother’s mother in Brooklyn and then Queens.
Other Work in Progress
I submitted one piece about my grandmother and her older sister. I revised a non-snapshot essay about a friend who died and it’s now in the hands of some writer pals for feedback.