My Other Best Writing Payoff #amwriting


[If you came here looking for the rotini recipe, I askidently published it when I meant to schedule it. It will reappear on June 22, 2016.]

About six years ago, I wrote about one of my best writing payoffs and said I’d write about the other one another time. I don’t think I ever did. I may have, but I don’t think so.

When my late mother-in-law was living and active, she held open house every Sunday for her six children and their spouses and children and grandchildren. Up until the last few years, she insisted on doing all the cooking. She had a colostomy and arthritis and didn’t sleep well, so she would get up in the wee hours of the morning and start cooking.

Sometimes she’d have cabbage and beans and cornbread, sometimes she’d have pot roast and green beans, sometimes she’d have pork chops and mashed potatoes and corn…. Whatever she felt like making is what she made. And always, always, always cake or pies.

Then we’d come in and give her hugs and kisses, and the young’uns would go play and squabble, and the older ones would go talk and squabble. She didn’t like it when anybody squabbled, so the loudest ones usually went out on the porch.

She was a smart lady, and she had worked for years in the “sick baby” ward of a major hospital, but she didn’t like to talk computers or politics, and there was a lot of both flying around then.

Before we left, we would have taken turns washing and drying the dishes.

Well, I wrote a short piece from her point of view, from her getting up to start cooking to her closing the door after us. I imagined what she might feel like and what might go through her mind while we were yakking and disagreeing and half-way taking the open house for granted and half-way realizing how wonderful it was.

When I showed it to her, I got my best writing payoff ever. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “How did you know?”

I said, “You told me. A bit at a time, a little here and a little there, and I put it all together.”

She said, “I didn’t think anybody was listening.”

Now, I’m asking you: Is there — could there ever be — a better payoff than that? I mean EVER? What more could any writer ever want than to be the voice of somebody who didn’t think anybody was listening?

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Put yourself in the place of someone who is taken for granted and imagine what that might be like. Take note of that person’s actions, reactions, facial expressions, tones of voice, and so on, and let those inform your imagination.






I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “My Other Best Writing Payoff #amwriting

  1. Joey

    June 20, 2016 at 10:13am

    Fantastic. Obviously your keen insight is remarkable, and I’m sure it felt good for her to be understood.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2016 at 11:18am

      I don’t think she ever understood how important she was to everybody, and how very much her example meant to generations. She would have said she was just ordinary, but she was a great person.

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  2. Jane

    June 20, 2016 at 10:50am

    Marian, I remember that piece. It was wonderful!
    Where is a link to it?

    For many years, my Mom would host the monthly birthday party. We had a large enough crowd that there was at least one birthday a month. Her house was the place to be. She’d make the cake, do the cooking and try to do the clean-up when I couldn’t get to it in time. She was an early bird, too. I wound up getting all the pots and pans and lids out before I left the night before so she could just get into cooking without digging them all out. I like to think it helped. Thanksgiving and Christmas, Bub would cook the turkey and haul it over, so my tiny little Mom would no longer have to wrestle the bird into the cooking bag.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    June 20, 2016 at 3:27pm

    What a lovely memory to have of her – and for her to see how she WAS appreciated.

    Although I must say it is often hard to help people like that, because they know how much work it is to coordinate ‘help,’ and prefer to do it themselves. And not lose their silverware. It would be better if they could learn to be the general, and delegate – but that’s not an easily-acquired skill.

    Monsoon or drought, having the family over or not (during the rest of the week).

    My grandmother managed something similar – but we lived in Mexico, and she had servants, so she could be both general and hostess and not go crazy. I miss her – and those Sunday dinners with all my cousins on that side.

    Her descendants used to try to do it themselves, but when the guest count for Christmas dinner was 64, they stopped trying to do potluck, and started having it catered by one of my aunts, for a fee, and waiters were hired.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2016 at 3:59pm

      I think Charlie’s family might be approaching that number! They keep saying they need to rent a hall, but that never happens. They all want Marilyn’s green beans and Terry’s chocolate eclair cake and Barbara’s broccoli casserole. And ALWAYS beans and cornbread! 🙂

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