Posted in Contemplations

Why I Write by Ginger Keller Gannaway

In 1968 I got a 3×5 inch red five-year diary with a tiny lock and key to protect all the wisdom and intrigue I would pour onto its pages. Each day of the year was allowed four lines, and profundity like “Today I quit playing paper dolls forever” (first entry) or “Kelly made her confirmation. It lasted 2 and a half hours. But it was comfortable with the new cushioned pews” (last entry) filled its pages.

I was a faithful writer for four years, never neglecting to document a day’s monumental trivia. I hid these pencil-written treasures in the bottom drawer of the heavy blonde oak night table next to my bed. Two years ago I reread my 12-year-old regimented thoughts and found at least three interesting entries over that four year span.

A year before I received my diary, I had tried to write a children’s book. I made up a tale about a rabbit and a crawfish and mailed off this masterpiece to the “Be a Writer!” course advertised in the back of an Archie comic book. The writing professionals sent me a typed letter that proclaimed I had “potential”! They promised me fame and publishing creds if I sent them $50. My dad exposed the company for the scam it was, and in 1967 I decided I should settle for being a world class actress instead of a writer.

 Still I kept writing, and in 1971 I traded my red diary for a blue 8×13 ledger that expanded my writing experience. I no longer wrote every day, and a day’s entry could take up four full pages. I obsessed over fights with my sisters and crushes on boys I was terrified to talk to. My ideas danced around philosophical questions like why cousin Gina liked my sister Gayle more than me or who Bobby G. was taking to the homecoming dance. Also, my Barbra Streisand fanaticism screamed from these pages because I always wrote her name in all caps and underlined it.

Intro page of my ledger journal

Despite the banality of what I wrote, I still felt compelled to fill the ledger’s pages and apologized for sometimes letting weeks go by between entries. After the blow of the children’s book writing course, I no longer believed I was a writer; however, I needed to write for my own sanity. When I read To Kill a Mockingbird in ninth grade I loved Scout’s thoughts on being a reader before she went to school: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

         When I move my pen across blank pages, ideas often come faster than I can write. Even if I later loathe what I’ve written, I feel stronger and saner. Now that I have the time to write every day, a day is not pointless if I have made time to write something down. Life is somehow easier if I write. It’s my Balm in Gilead, my parade I don’t want people raining on, and the actual rain that washes dust and bird poop off my car.

         As much as I hate the word “blog” because it sounds like a portmanteau of “blah” and “slog,” I’ll keep posting essays online because it feels equally right and ugly. I may be vomiting words that are unworthy of others’ attention, but filling pages in notebooks lets me process life’s joys and tragedies. I write for myself for sure, yet pressing the “Publish” button on a wordpress blog gives me a jolt of bravery that I think I’m addicted to.

Some of my journals for the last few years

Posted in Friendship

Soul Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

“Soul” Sister (a.k.a. Cousin Gina)

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Gina and I in Panama City, 1960

 

     We were walking along a Pensacola beach around 8 a.m., after coffee and before the rest of the folks got up. We aimed to walk to the distant pier and talked nonstop the whole way.  Like evenly-matched tennis players, we served and volleyed kid woes back and forth. “He sneaks out the house so often, we have to hide our car keys now.”  “Her grades have dropped ‘cause she skips all the time.” “His room reeks of pot.”  “I hear ya’!” 

     Somehow letting go of our tales of angst gives us a kind of inner release.  We offer the worry and fear up to the sun, the waves, the breeze, and we become free to laugh out loud. Gina and I totally “get” each other, and for two hours we feel better.  On the walk back to our beach-front rental, we even rush into the surf for a quick swim and more laughter as we jump and dive into the waves. Like a couple of kids!

     Gina is my first cousin and my “soul” sister.  Even though she lived an hour away from my hometown, we saw each other often growing-up.  We shared every Keller family reunion or big holiday party at Grandma’s house for sure.  Also, we had full weeks at a time during the summer when we visited each other’s homes or went to our Indian Village camp with Grandma and Stella.

     During the 1980’s we got married and raised our kids in different states.  We didn’t spend long visits together, yet later we grabbed summer getaways when we both became public school teachers. In 1998 and 2010 we even took trips to NYC to visit my sister Gayle and sightsee and reconnect.  Gina and I snap back together easily, no matter how long we have been apart.  We share our Cajun culture, our Keller connection, and our childhood memories, and our family tragedies. Gina is  a close cousin, a trusted friend, a wise woman, a spiritual guide, and my soul sister.  She has a wit like a whip, yet it’s made of purple yarn or silly string. Her sarcasm is swift, yet stingless.  And we share a deep, honest love of movies that began in 1968 when we were both enchanted by Funny Girl.  Walking from Grandma’s to the Saturday matinees at the Liberty and then returning to sneak cigarettes while Grandma napped were big teenage moments for me.  We also worked in the theater’s concession stand and played tennis, went swimming, and obsessed over cute boys to fill the lazy summer days with good times.

     Throughout the sad, sad times and the glory days, humor has helped hold us together.  Two years ago we shared a weekend in Galveston at her sister Dana’s beach house, and while attempting to take a selfie, Gina and I laughed so hard tears ran down our cheeks as we fought to keep the other bodily liquid from running down our legs!

     Now she and I even have similar living situations. My 89-year-old dad lives with me, and Gina lives with her 87-year-old mom (my dad’s sister). So Gina and I chat and commiserate and explain and laugh over phone calls.  We still “get” each other, and as we face family challenges, we share sorrows and successes and above all we laugh.  Gina is a devoted daughter, a mighty mother, and a strong Grandma GiGi.  Time with Gina is always honest and often hysterical. It can be gut-wrenching and still stay golden.  We connect easily, strongly, and soulfully.

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Gina, Gayle, me, Andrew, Yvette in Pensecola (2009)