I felt like history was repeating itself after I received my first rejection for the book that I’m writing about my grief journey. Was I inflicted with a curse or a defective family gene?
I was a girl when my mother received her first rejection letter from a publisher. Mine came via email, but back in 1982 the letters came through the U.S. Postal Service. Mom received 40-something rejection letters for a handful of magazine articles. Only about a dozen rejections letters survive. After she died, I found them in a cardboard box under the dining room buffet.
Writers often keep rejection letters like love notes from the boyfriend who told us goodbye. Why? Maybe we hope by reading the lines over and over again, we can figure out what went wrong. Was it the writing? The execution of the idea? Or just not a good fit for the publisher?
In trying to woo a lover, an editor or agent, it’s hard to put your heart together and put it out there again. My mother stopped soliciting publishers, but her articles served a purpose she never imagined.
I found the articles in the box with the rejection letters. Many people toss old papers out without investigation. I’m too curious. Maybe I’m even a snoop.
If you’ve been reading my blogs, you know I’ve been cleaning out my parents’ house. They’ve got a lot of stuff. My grief journey has been closely tied to going through their home and trying to decide what to do with their belongings. I sort of explore my grief there. I mourn. I cry. I laugh. What my parents wrote down mean more to me than any of their other possessions. I learn so much.
Mom wrote with candor about her husband’s suicide. He was the man she was married to before my father. She arrived home, fearing this man would be drunk and would hit her again, but instead she found “long spurts of blood on the wall.” These were details she’d never told me. Reading them made me realize the horror my mother experienced.
She also wrote with humor. At 22, she had to get a full set of dentures, but she had trouble adjusting and lived on liquids such as soups for 18 months. Fearing her upper plate would cave into her open mouth, she became a “grouch” by refusing to laugh.
“My deprived body became emaciated,” she wrote. “My love life ceased to exist. Most of my spare time was spent daydreaming about men who liked skinny, grumpy girls.”
A sense of humor amid a horrible story, a story I’d never heard. When I read these articles, my mother is with me again, telling me about her life. They bridge the gap between heaven and earth.
If she’d never written the articles, I would have lost the stories. I would have lost a piece of her.
I know many people face rejection in their efforts to get published. My own mother faced it, and yet the unpublished stories served a purpose. That makes me think something good will come from my rejection, too. It makes me remember that while I look at my own limited lifetime, God’s viewpoint spans generations. I’m shortsighted. He’s got a plan that I cannot even imagine.
What did your parents leave behind that you treasure most? What is something they wrote down which comforts, encourages or inspires you?
Copyright © 2017 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com
So much we never know about aunts and uncles. She lived with us for a while in Forest Park Georgia but never got to know her. Like your stories.
Bennie Mitchell son of Otis Mitchell, Marty’s brother. :}
Hey, Bennie, yes, I remember her saying she’d stayed with your dad and mom. My Mom kept away from the family a lot after we moved to Cayce. I think she was wanted to guard the house after having experienced the fire (1973) and tornado (the following year). She didn’t realize she was also inhibiting my getting to know the extended family. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It means a lot to me.