By Mary Popham (Contributor)
Writers are often asked, “Where do you get your story ideas?” And the answers are as varied as imaginations or memories, the subconscious or dreams. One favorite of my own stories began with a dream. I am having two women friends in for dinner. Both are very late. I am going ahead with the cooking. The main dish is their choice: wild rice with hollandaise sauce, and on top are two sunny-side up fresh eggs with big yellow yolks. The resulting story was about two sisters becoming pregnant; one seeks an abortion and fails; one decides to keep the baby and has a miscarriage.
Another story developed because of an honest discussion between my good friend and me. She confided a strange occurrence. She has a good marriage and was not looking for an “adventure,” however, when she, her husband and friends walked into a restaurant the man who greeted them looked deeply into her eyes. He made only an innocent, polite remark something like, “Glad to have you with us, today,” but that moment was a magical time. My friend said she felt as if she knew this fellow and could have fallen in love with him and been happy forever. “Isn’t that strange?” she asked me.
But it did not sound strange to me, for twenty some-odd years ago, I had felt the same kind of attraction she described. I was attending one of the highlights of the season, a holiday party at 1400 Willow, given by a patron of the Louisville arts. Tables were set with white cloths, red candles, fresh flowers and exquisite china and dinnerware. Fifty or so guests, celebrities in the Louisville’s Who’s Who World of Entertainment, would have received a charming invitation that read, “I will be inconsolable if you cannot be there!” and “You wouldn’t want to break my heart by not coming, would you?”
After a lovely buffet, my hostess steered me toward her friends. Although I know next to nothing about sports, she introduced me to one of the world’s most talented and best-known athletes, Pee Wee Reese. The famous shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers was twenty-four years older than me and a little bit taller. I’m sure he was happily married and so was I. However, he held my hand with both of his and looked into my eyes with an intensity I’ll never forget, as if he was seeing my soul, and I, his. His greeting was kind, generous for a man who must have been required to shake hands with hundreds of strangers. Yet, the power of our meeting has stayed with me and I’ve often wondered if we had known, or would know each other, in another time, another life. I like to think so, for I believe in dreams, in memory, in magic, and that’s where stories come from.
Mary Popham’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays and book reviews have appeared in the Courier-Journal; Appalachian Heritage and The Louisville Review. She holds an MFA from Spalding University. In November, 2013 her essay “The Kindnesses We Give Each Other” was published in This I Believe: Kentucky; and in October 2013, her novel Back Home in Landing Run was published by MotesBooks. She is currently writing a collection of short fiction.