When I was very young, my rural hometown had a small movie theater, but it wasn’t there long.
A few years later, someone temporarily set up a revival tent and sold tickets to watch old movies. It seems to me that the tickets cost a quarter. The tent was golden yellow, and it looked just like the one that my grandmother’s church used for tent revivals. No doubt, my experiences in those old revival tents helped cultivate my flair for the dramatic, and my writing is filled with drama. I am a storyteller. I inherited that quality from my dad.
Full, But Hazy Autumn Moon
by Jacki Kellum
Tonight, the moon is perched high in the sky, directly above the garden–just outside my back door.
Tonight, when I first got downstairs and looked out the sunroom window, my first thought was that it must be the moments just before dawn.
Everything around was fairly brightly lit and I could faintly see the plants that were brave enough to have continued blooming after the cool, October air had tucked their neighbors into bed. They had a soft, muted, and faintly-colored glow.
As I looked around, I thought: Tonight, the moonlight is bright, but this is not one of those hot-light nights like the ones when I used to walk home from church, well after sunset, and the hum of the locusts was so loud that the air seemed to rattle a song.
And tonight is not one of those nights when ladies in the church would beat around their faces with cardboard fans that had Jesus painted on them. The fans flapped about their heads like hummingbird wings.
Yes, Lord, tonight’s moonlight is not like that when I used to go to the tent revivals with my grandmother and stood up and sat down, singing Shall We Gather at the River. Bare light bulbs were strung across the top of the tent and dangled.
Tonight’s light is not like that of the summer nights when my neighborhood’s children and I would dart about the yard, playing tag and hide and seek, We would run until the sweat could be wrung from our clothes. On those nights, nothing brought more relief than crescents of ice, cold watermelon, homemade ice cream, and tart lemonade poured from large, sweaty jars into rainbow-colored glasses that clinked when they met my teeth. The glasses tasted like aluminum.
No, tonight there is no hot, blaring, bugle-like, jazz-singing, summer moon.
Tonight, there is a soft, hazy, autumn moon–a cornstarch moon–kissed by honey, hanging in the dark.
©Jacki Kellum October 28, 2015
I began this post by telling you that when I was a child, I sometimes went to tent revival meetings with my grandmother. In the piece of free verse poetry that immediately precedes this paragraph, I allow you to step into the old revival tents of my childhood. Writers are cautioned to “show” and not “tell” with their words. In Full, But Hazy, Autumn Moon, I show you snippets of my childhood summer nights, some of which included attending tent revival meetings with my grandmother.
In recent years, the word “dramatic” has gotten some bad press. People accuse others of being too dramatic and they call some “Drama Queens.” When I saw that today’s writing prompt was “dramatic,” I recoiled for a minute. Would people expect me to write about the pitfalls of being too dramatic or about the drama queens who have ruined our lives since seventh grade?
But wait! I was one of those seventh-grade drama queens. I probably still am. Why should I apologize for that? The ability to be dramatic is necessary for me to create. It is a hallmark of my profession.
“Drama is very important in life: You have to come on with a bang. You never want to go out with a whimper. Everything can have drama if it’s done right. Even a pancake.” – Julia Child
Several times before, I have tried to explain the difference between writing an autobiography and writing memoir. I could capsulize my thoughts about the two types of writing by saying that autobiography is a listing of all of the facts–it is telling; memoir writing is a dramatic showing.
“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.” – Alfred Hitchcock
As I said before, when I was a child, my little rural hometown had a movie theater for only a short period of time. I didn’t have a place to go watch other people perform, and I had to learn to distil drama from the everyday bits of my life. As a child, I did not have a lot of things, and I have often thought that this is one reason that became an artist and a writer.
Many people look back at their childhoods and are saddened because of what they did not have. This will sound incredible, but I am actually thankful for the very same thing.
“For what I have received may the Lord make me truly thankful. And more truly for what I have not received.” – Storm Jameson
©Jacki Kellum July 31, 2016