First-person narratives are my favorite form of writing. I’ve included a few published examples below.
HUMOR ESSAY: “Raccoon, this is your warning”
(published in The Globe and Mail on Aug. 13/09) — Canada’s national newspaper ranked this first-person, tongue-in-cheek piece the most popular of the day, based on reader response
Here’s the link:
HUMOR ESSAY: A man or a horse?
Equine therapy: humor (Alive magazine) – Can you find a man by getting to know a horse?!
FAMILY ESSAY: “Colourful little car was a ticket to a wonderful fantasy world”
This article as it appeared in The Vancouver Sun, Sept. 20, 2002)
BY HEATHER CONN
I got my first taste of road-trip adventures in my dad’s bright-red 1960 MGA sports car. As a thrill-seeking four-year-old, I rarely rode in the passenger seat. Instead, I squeezed into the narrow storage area behind the seats, where I lay lengthwise and looked out the back window, watching the road’s white centre lines flash by.
Safe in my own private compartment, I could watch the world rush by from over my father’s shoulder, where he sat with a seat belt made from the buckle and straps of a parachute harness.
My father usually kept the driver’s-side window down, so the wind rushed in and blew through my hair, giving me that sense of freedom that motorcyclists love so much. (Decades later, my different car-savvy boyfriends disparaged the “gutless” pace of a British-made MG, likening its engine to the proverbial sewing machine. But to my young heart, that car was a symbol of fast, break-free power.)
I loved how low to the ground the MGA stood, and my dad proudly demonstrated how we could drive right under certain horizontal parking barriers with space to spare. (He tested this out slowly, inching towards and then under the impeding lever, rather than barge at it head-on.)
On the occasional short jaunt, we’d take along my German shepherd Whiskey, who sat in the passenger seat and licked my ice cream cone during Toronto’s humid summers. My dad’s miniature grey fan, which sat on the dash and plugged into the cigarette lighter, provided only a small bit of cool relief.
For me, a far greater sense of “coolness” came from the nods and honks we’d get from other MGA owners, whose greetings and acknowledgement made me feel like a special member of a private club. (One year, my dad’s vanity licence plate read MGA 960, the latter for 1960. I felt a kinship with this identity, since the car was only a year younger than me. In essence, we grew up together.)
As the youngest of four daughters, I felt it was a treat when dad invited me to accompany him to the Formula I car races at Mosport in southern Ontario. As we zoomed our way to the track in the MGA, I would pretend I was at the wheel of a sleek, competitive racer, hurtling towards the checkered flag.
One time, on the way back from Mosport, we veered into a whollop of a corner and I heard my father say with remarkable calmness: “The brakes just went.” I didn’t know what that meant, but quickly grasped that it was serious. Still in the curve, my dad engaged the parking brake and explained we would have to use this for safety for the remaining hour-love drive home.
Over the years, my dad’s cherished MGA grew rusty and always seemed to need parts, but he didn’t want to let it go. Instead, he gave it to a reconditioning garage for a total makeover and eagerly awaited its transformation. As months passed, my father bragged: “They’ll make it look like it just came off the assembly line” and told us kids how mechanics would lovingly recreate the vehicle’s various original features. I absorbed his enthusiasm.
After about a year, the garage finally called for my father to pick up the car. I went with him, excited to see a part of my childhood magically restored. We walked through the dark garage, past rows of vintage cars in varying states of decay, and I waited to see a bright red paint job shine out from the mix. But we saw no such thing.
When we found the MGA, I was stunned. It was only a stripped-bare metal body, a grey shell left unpainted with no wheels, no windows, no chassis – nothing. After so much time and so much of my father’s money, my childhood chariot was reduced to this! My father said nothing. The garage had apparently gone bankrupt and barely survived subsequent new ownerships; the company’s shaky finances had swallowed my dad’s funds for the project. The MGA had sat for months, untouched.
I never saw that little red roadster again.
ESSAY ON WRITING CRAFT: Dharma by the Dozen
My essay Dharma by the Dozen: The Art of Spiritual Writing identifies 12 characteristics found in the best writing on this topic. It addresses the work of Peter Matthiessen, Thich Nhat Hanh, Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott, Andrew Harvey, and Pema Chodron. If you would like a copy, please contact me.