If They'd Just Listen To Me

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Here's what I'm thinking about this morning as regards the novel and the sixties:

When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed at night, after saying my prayers with my mother listening, after reading under the covers with a flashlight, after listening to my parents' television in the bedroom next to me sing out "Heeeeeere's Johnny!"... after all that, I drifted to sleep to a letter I composed in my head, to Nikita Khruschev. It was 1962, and in school I was ducking and covering under my desk, practicing for an air raid, afraid of the Russians and rockets and war.

The idea of peace seemed so simple to me. I was sure that if I could just sit down with Chairman Khruschev and President Kennedy in a room together all by ourselves, I could explain to them how easy it was to understand that we shouldn't hurt one another, because we all had mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and... well, we all liked meatloaf and potatoes and we all liked to play kickball or baseball or lie on our backs in the grass and spy rabbits or cars or George Washington in the clouds.

I'd lie in bed, staring at the pink canopy in shadow above me, and marvel at how I could see this and they could not. I also thought I must possess some sort of mystical, magical something that allowed me to see this -- it was so clear! And yet I never talked about this to anyone. It was just something I knew, and yet at the same time I felt wildly unsure of saying it out loud to anyone... I mean, who was I to know such a thing, after all? I was nine years old.

In October 1962, Americans gathered around television sets and listened to JFK tell them about the threat of attack from Russia using missles from Cuba, and I fell asleep composing my letter to President Kennedy, asking him to allow me some time to speak with Chairman Khruschev.

I never wrote that letter... but maybe, in my novel, Franny does. That's what I'm thinking about this morning.

Have you ever had that thought, "if they'd just listen to me, I could explain it"? What did you want to explain? And to whom? Write a page about it in your journal or writer's notebook. Try to make it about one clear moment in time. See what comes up. You never know where it might take you:

"If they'd just listen to me, I could explain it, I could help." Were you scared? Were you angry? Were you... what? Write from your head, your heart, and your gut, the three places that story comes from: what you know and remember, what you feel, and what you can imagine. Then -- share it with someone. A story becomes complete when it is shared.

photo from the U.S. State Dept. in the JFK Library and Museum, Boston

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