Moshe Had a Friend

Thanksgiving at my mom’s house in Milwaukee can be a little overwhelming; this year we had a relatively small group of 22, with 10 more showing up for dessert. A few years back, we had 60. Oy.

And of course with my recent major life changes, everyone is eager to hug me and ask “How are you?” in that good-naturedly timid tone, as if the very asking of the question might bring me to a heap of tears on the floor at their feet. So thanksgiving was even more exhausting yesterday, though I tried to soak up as much of the unconditional love of my family as possible, knowing that while I might be a bit annoyed at all the attention, I am incredibly lucky to have it.

Finding writing inspiration during trips like these can be nearly impossible. As always, I have brought little writing projects and tidbits to work on while in the airport, and have started reading a few books to keep my late-night mind wanderings at bay. But as most writers know, the best inspiration comes from the events and conversations going on around us in real life. We must always have a pen in hand, ready to perk our ears to the things going on around us for possible use in our creative work.

And as it turns out, we had several fully-formed character models in the house last night, ripe for the idea-plucking. We had the clearly-appointed entertainer, keeping us all laughing and making his presence known throughout the house. We had my mom, the grande dame of Mother Hens, busily cooking, baking, and hovering, and never sitting down to eat anything herself. There was the token small child, adorably running through the rooms, the overworked college students, the football watchers, and the gossips. I came here thinking I wouldn’t get any writing work done, not realizing that I could take notes from my own family members to get ideas for my new projects.

As my workshop group will tell you, one of my favorite things about writing is spotting titles. I have many a time bought and read a book based solely on the title, and often create poems or stories around a little nugget of a title that had stuck itself in my brain. It is one of the few parts of writing that comes easily to me, in a carefree and joyful way.

It is for this love of all things title-related, that the literary highlight of my trip came last night when two old family friends got together to reminisce about their high school cohorts. Trying to remember the name of one unfortunate young man who had been shot in the buttock at Rufus King High School here in Milwaukee, my friend Mike Huse said the words, “What was that guy’s name? Moshe had a friend, remember—what was his name?” He kept saying it over and over, “Moshe had a friend. Moshe had a friend.” I leaned over to my mom and whispered to her, “Now there’s a great title for something: Moshe Had a Friend.”

Now I just have to go and create a story around it, write it down, and add it to the collection of life-inspired pieces. Moshe will join the Pebble Man, Left-handed Ben, and the Homeless Gentleman in my imaginary world of characters with secret roots in my own personal history.

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