At Twenty-One #OpenBookBlogHop #MondayMusings #Inspiration

Welcome to another edition of Open Book Blog Hop. This week’s question is: Where were you at 21? How does that reflect in your writing today?

When I was twenty-one in 1982, I entered my junior year at Rocky Mountain College, located in Billings, Montana, about 150 miles north of Sheridan, Wyoming, where I’ve lived since 1973. After attending the local college and living at home for two years, going to school away from home was quite an adjustment. Fortunately, it wasn’t that far away, and I came home weekends when I could get transportation.

I never considered a career in writing at the time. This was probably because my mother, may she rest in peace, rewrote most of my school papers, even when I was a student at Sheridan College. She taught English there and apparently didn’t want her fellow faculty members, from whom I took English, to see my less than adequate writing style. Who knows why she rewrote my high school assignments?

Instead of writing, I pursued a career involving music. Long story short, I became a registered music therapist and worked in nursing homes and other senior facilities for years. I didn’t do any serious writing until my mother passed away in 1999.

How about you? What were you doing at twenty-one? If you’re an author, how has that affected your writing? You can click here to participate in this week’s hop and read other bloggers’ responses.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

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To Ana At Eighteen

Image contains: me, smiling.I wrote the following poem for my niece in Florida who is celebrating her eighteenth birthday this month. You can click below to hear me read it. The title poem in my collection, That’s Life, is also dedicated to her.

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Image contains: Ana, smiling, indoor graphic.

TO ANA AT EIGHTEEN

 

 

At thirteen, all you wanted to do

was go to the beach or mall with friends.

When your aunt from Wyoming visited at Christmas,

you reluctantly accompanied the family

to a performance of The Nutcracker.

 

Now you’re eighteen.

You still like to hang out with friends,

but you have more important things to think about:

high school graduation, college, a career.

Your whole life is ahead of you.

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My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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What If…

Thanks to Writing Life Stories for inspiring this. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you did something different in life, gone to a different college, married a different spouse? When I was a senior in high school in 1980, one of the many representatives from the various colleges who visited the counseling center was a nun from St. Mary’s College. My family wasn’t Catholic, but I knew people who were and found some of their religious practices fascinating so I took an interest in this particular institution of higher learning.

My parents teased me, saying I wanted to be a nun. Another relative told me that there was a federal penitentiary in Levenworth, and I could bake cookies for the inmates. I liked the idea that St. Mary’s College was only for girls because I didn’t have much luck with boys and figured I could do without them. For some reason however, I decided to stay here in Wyoming and go to Sheridan College for the first two years of my education after high school.

What if I had gone to St. Mary’s College in Levenworth, Kansas? After studying Greek, Latin, and other subjects they required, would I have decided to take up the monastic life after all? Instead of playing my guitar and singing for elderly nursing home residents as I did for fifteen years, would I be providing spiritual guidance to residents at the Levenworth prison? Like Sister Helen Prejean who wrote Dead Man Walking, would I be working with death row inmates, playing my guitar and singing as they breathed their last after being injected with lethal drugs? As a nun, I wouldn’t have met and married my late husband Bill, would I?

In 1984 while Bill was living in Glendale, California, I visited Los Angeles with my family in order to attend my uncle’s wedding. Bill later told me that I wasn’t too far from where he lived. What if our paths crossed then instead of twenty years later? With the nineteen-year age difference, would he have found me as attractive back then as he did in 2004? Would we have married after meeting in 1984 and had twenty good years before he suffered the strokes that paralyzed his left side?

At first, I didn’t consider a career in writing. My mother did most of my writing assignments for me when I was in high school and during the first two years of my college education. I could have easily typed my own papers, but when I did that, after proofreading them, she immediately rewrote them. When I asked why she didn’t like the way I wrote them, she said, “What if I have ideas.”

What if I had stood up to her, said, “Mother, this is my paper. What if I like the way I wrote it, and when I go to college, what if I major in English and get and MFA in creative writing.” If I actually followed through, would I now be a best-selling author? Would I have met and married Bill?

One thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a singer. What if instead of going to college and becoming a registered music therapist, I left home and somehow found my way to New York or Los Angeles? Would I now be a superstar with dozens of CDs on the best-seller list, traveling all over the country with a myriad of buses and trucks carrying people and equipment? Instead of playing the piano and singing for elderly nursing home residents, would I be singing with a band in crowded amphitheaters? Would I have met and married Bill or would he have been just another fan waiting in line for me to autograph his CDs?

It’s hard to say what the future would have held in store for us if we’d done things differently but fun to speculate, don’t you think?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver