Thank you, Miss Bertorello

This is my 19th blog and I have decided to celebrate it. Two months ago, when I (re-)started this experiment, I fully expected to do it two or three times and then lose . . . interest? nerve? direction? time? What I didn’’t expect, was how much fun it would be. How satisfying.

It has already become a part of my daily routine, my recurring thoughts. I look forward to the late evenings when the house goes quiet, the chance of interruption diminishes, the dogs are snoring. I click on Floatsome and catch up with my best friend’’s current thoughts. I think about the day. I get an idea – or more accurately, an idea gets me. I start typing. And I see where the words take me.

Today they are taking me into the deep deep past. Because I realized that the actual physical exercise of writing – – touching letter keys on the laptop –-  is only that: a physical exercise. The actual writing has been going on in my head for a while already . . . The words are already aligned and ready to spill. Sometimes they have been in the making the whole day – after a thought-provoking or relate-able experience sets my mind off in search of the perfect phrasing. Sometimes the words have been in the making for years – some significant memory that has replayed itself over and over in my mind, each time only slightly varied in the exact verbal formulation, because, as it turns out, I don’t remember in scenes, or sights, or smells. I remember in voices and words.

As I continue on back into the past to find the source of my writing, I land in my Junior year of High School. 35 years ago. My creative writing teacher, Miss Bertorello is handing back our semester project journals. I am a bit nervous, because I didn’’t follow her instructions about the number of entries, the lengths, the types of writing we should include. . . I open my journal up and find a single sentence of commentary:

“If I could write like you, I would be starting my first novel. A++++++++++++”

Was it those words that set me off? Or did it go back even further? To my first boyfriend, Scott, wobbling for a split second on his bike and ending up in a casket. That final straw in what I would later name the “Death March” that had invaded and occupied my life from the age of 8 onward. It began when my father suddenly died in his sleep one night and culminated during that phone call Up North at age 15 when the news of Scott was spewed all over me. In between, in intervals of 6 to 9 months, came the deaths of my best friend’’s dad, then her grandmother’’s, then her mother’s, then my grandfather’’s and my aunt’’s . . . But it was Scott that sprung the coils.

Miss Bertorello spent many an hour reading my grapplings with all of this and she did it without question or comment on the events themselves. That freed me to let it all spill out onto paper. She read about holding hands on the way to 31 Flavors and stolen moments alone in Pickle Alley after we managed to ditch the rest of the pack. She read about my first kiss, my first break-up, about Scott’’s disgusting and uncool handkerchiefs, his red uncombed hair, the barbarity of his open casket and the incompetence of the funeral home employees who tried to mask his head injuries with clownish make-up. She read about the girl who criticized me for wearing a beige skirt to the funeral. She read about how the house he lived in across the street became hollowed and abandoned and scary despite the fact that his family continued to live there.


I started this blog entry with the idea of celebrating. I am having so much fun, I said! And look where I am now. Time to bring this back up and into the light.

Here, now, a thousand years later and a zillion miles away, I still love Scott. And I still love Miss Bertorello. They live inside me.

And a zillion days from now, I hope, no, I know, I will live inside other people.

Whether they read me or not.


2 thoughts on “Thank you, Miss Bertorello

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