Monday, July 23, 2012

Said the Spider to the Fly...

This weekend, I was at the League of Vermont Writers event and somebody asked me a question which sparked a memory which sparked an anecdote, and what the hell, this is my blog, I can share it with you here. (Strap in, it might go long!)  The question was, "Can we query you over again if you say no the first time? Do you really remember stuff you've read?" Well....

Miz Rachel in 1949 - age 53
When I was growing up, I spent a good amount of time visiting my Great-Grandmother, Miz Rachel (aka Momie). She lived deep in the heart of Southwest Louisiana, in Maurice, a tiny village named after my Great-great-great Grandfather.

She was old. How old? Well, she was born in the 1800s. She graduated college during WWI. She taught first grade for 40 years or so, and retired more than a decade before I was even born. So... yeah. OLD. She passed away in 2005, aged 108.

Now Miz Rachel lived by herself on a farm from the time she became a widow in the 1960's until almost the very end of her life. Even in her 80's, 90's, and early 100's, she tended the huge garden by herself. When a water moccasin came along, she'd happily cut it to ribbons with an axe, then knock back a glass of Creme de Menthe or Cold Duck. If something worse came along, she had a loaded shotgun under her bed. Miz Rachel did NOT screw around.  (ETA: My relatives in the comments insist I amend "axe" to "shovel" - whatever, just don't cross the old dame!)

Momie's House, Maurice LA. 
She also talked a lot. If you didn't visit, she'd say in a guilt-inducing manner, "Don't worry, my plants are my family, and my flowers are my friends." If you DID visit, she'd say, "Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly!" She knew the entire history of the region and every family in it, and she would regale you with stories, songs in French, snippets of Shakespeare, and show you the shroud she wanted to be buried in, all in the same breath, if you gave her half a chance.

(She also was fond of waking us up early when she got bored by blasting the Rosary on television, or jabbing her grandchildren with her finger and remarking about their weight, then saying "I eat to live, I don't live to eat!" ... but that's another story.)
"Although she credits God and clean living, if nonstop chatting somehow prolongs a person's life, then Villien's key to longevity becomes evident as soon as introductions are made."

Every time any family member would visit, we'd take Momie out for a night on the town at someplace like Don's Seafood Hut. (Delicious stuffed crab at Don's, if you ever get the chance). Every time (and I mean EVERY time) we took her out, wherever we went in the region, elderly people would totter up to her and say something like,

"MIZ RACHEL!  You taught me FIRST GRADE, 50 years ago!"

And she would say, "JOHNNY BOUDREAUX (or whatever) -- I'd know you anywhere."

"How'd you recognize me, Miz Rachel? I'm a little older..."

"Oh," she'd say, with a glint in her eye, "I only remember the very good ones... and the very bad ones."

Then she'd leave it up to Johnny to figure out which he was. (But of course, she remembered pretty much everyone ever, in fact.)

So what does all this have to do with me, or you? Well, first of all, I am turning into Momie, since I can't shut up. Only instead of cutting out clippings, I tweet incessantly. Our houses even look alike!

And, when it comes to querying writers, well... while Momie had a shockingly good memory for faces, I have a shockingly good memory for things I've read. But still, I only remember the very good ones... and the very bad ones. (And yep, probably yours as well.)

Oh and I keep an archive. So. If you've done a significant amount of revising, and it's been 6 months or more, it's fine. But don't try and lie about it.

Welcome to my parlor!