After School, Before Dinner

Blog Post No. 451

giphy-3I have a familiar feeling that lives somewhere in my bones (or in quiet places of my brain) that hits me every once in a while. The feeling comes whenever something triggers it, but it represents the time of day between about 3 and 6 pm. It’s a time that doesn’t mean much to me now, but back when I was in school, it was the time between being let out of school and before evening (usually around dinner time). Sometimes the setting sun triggers it, sometimes it’s the smell of a wood fire on the crisp evening air. Sometimes it’s as silly as having Poptarts for the first time in a number of years.

My brother had some Poptarts a few weeks ago and seeing the box on the counter reminded me that they exist. They aren’t my favourite treat, but I remember enjoying them at my grandmothers when I would sleep over as a kid, or as an after school snack when I would stop by on my way home. I decided to pick up a box for myself on my next grocery trip. I happened to enjoy them (who doesn’t like sweet treats) but I think it will be a while before I remember to pick up a box again. I may forget about Poptarts, but the memory of my grandmother’s place has been hanging out in my consciousness for the past week.

originalIt’s a bit of a psychological liminal space, not just because it was a vague time in between two indistinct points, but because the time embodies so many contradictory elements like jumping in the pool, or playing hockey on a frozen pond. The memories have transformed into a feeling more than anything. A jumble of memory and nostalgia that represents that brief time of day. I still get those tangible snippets (like Poptarts at my grandma’s or balancing on parking curbs on a cold walk home) but they are all melded and blended into a slurry. Any one element can trigger a random scattershot of others. (Or an entirely different fuzzy feeling of some other half-remembered memory).

I chose to write about it mostly because it was something that has been hanging around, taking up mental space. Along with wanting to just share it, sometimes putting a thing out into the world excises it from your mind. Not that the feeling is unpleasant, but dwelling on anything can be counterproductive. The other reason I decided to use the sense memory as a topic was that, to a certain extent, writing is all about trying to capture a feeling in words. I suspect that many writers (certainly poets) spend a lot of time swimming in that pool of amalgamated memories.

giphy-4While I’ve been editing the Invasion Novel, I’ve been thinking about how I want certain chapters to feel as the reader experiences them. I choose my words carefully, trying to guide the reader’s emotions just enough to trigger their own memories. It’s easy to spend way too much time on descriptions, attempting to force the image from your imagination into the imaginations of the readers, but they have a totally different blend of memories with their own triggers. It’s better to try and find some universal feelings and leave literary landmines in your writing in an attempt to set off those emotions. Though, sometimes the protagonist has a really personal experience with Poptarts and while there is a subtext about sugary treats or childhood, the real reason is because I was thinking about my grandmother and wanted to share something a bit personal.

3 thoughts on “After School, Before Dinner

  1. Vanessa Shields

    i am still on ‘school schedule’ with my kids in the system. i find i need a boost (so i have a coffee) that i think is motivated from years of getting home and eating something sugary after school! then i want to rest and watch tv…also from the afterschool-special tv watching. remember those shows?! thanks for sharing!

  2. Pingback: Winter Evenings – Ben Van Dongen

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