A Pin on My Memory Map

My regular blog readers have seen me post a number of short stories written for creative writing groups or as part of the Idaho Commission on the Arts “IdaPost” pen pal program, which I have participated in since its inception three years ago. For the latter, the staff at the Arts Commission randomly matches writing participants up as pen pals for the duration of the annual program, and the current Idaho Writer in Residence sends participants a prompt every few weeks. The pen pals swap their stories or poems resulting from the prompt and at the end of the program participants can submit their favorite pieces for publication in the IdaPost Zine. The third writing prompt asked us to draw a map of a place that holds alot of memories and then choose on point on that map to craft your story around. (For the first and second prompts, see the posts labeled “Gazing In” and “Auditory Learner”).

A Pin on My Memory Map

© 2023 Carolyn Fenzl

Although I forget to remember Nanny’s and Pop’s home most of the time, my family visited my grandparents on special occasions, holidays, and summer vacations and something formative or significant happened in each room of that house. But only one room made me an explorer, a trespasser, an architect, and ultimately a conqueror.

Their living room was formal, and the furniture and drapery wasn’t suitable for the grimy hands of children. Yet Nanny and Pop had raised 4 girls, surely not without incident, in that home. The room was the home’s show piece, seen as you stepped over the threshold of the front door. The décor implied an air of wealth that impressed visiting neighbors and acquaintances not privy to the more remote lived-in parts of the home. Even as a child, I remember thinking the room was a time capsule – plush with thick carpeting, heavy draperies, and ornate antique furniture – complete with rules passed down from children to grandchildren. Don’t ever sit on, touch, or soil anything. In fact, the children should just avert their eyes and walk right past to the den or kitchen. Yet that room holds my fondest memory of time spent at their home.

I usually only saw my cousins when we visited my grandparents, and looked up to my older cousins for a variety of reasons but mostly for keeping me entertained when I was bored. And cousin Robbie didn’t disappoint one rainy summer afternoon when he showed me how to build card houses. Expertly crafting towers of cards on tables and linoleum floors, I was very impressed by his teenage wealth of skill. But I was younger and less adept with chubbier fingers, so I could never get the base floor started on hard surfaces.

Naturally, on an inadequately supervised day, I took the pack of cards Robbie had given me and tucked myself into the corner edge of the formal living room. Kneeling on the floor beside the couch I managed to wedge cards between the wall and carpet, and into the thick carpet pile itself in a way that made them easily stand up without falling over. Not only did I start a cardhouse bottom floor, but I built up and up eventually stopping only because I thought the top floors would become unsteady and collapse. The need to show everyone my accomplishment became urgent and made me forget that I built my wonderful cardhouse in the forbidden area.

Yet, when I dragged Pop over to see my delicate little tower, he told me I did a great job. Salt of the earth Pop never reminded me about the rules instituted by impeccably styled, exacting Nanny. Looking back, I realize he must have spoken with her about loosening the rules in their older years because, every visit after that, I built my flimsy houses of cards in that sturdy room without any glances or words of disapproval. I was already on a life track of breaking down barriers with Pop as my wingman!


  1. Barbara Ptaszek says:

    Nice story and nice memory. Your story sent me back to my own grandparent memories and I enjoyed looking back to them. Thanks.

    1. Hi Barbara, I’m so glad my story inspired you to remember as well! Thank you for reading my little memory essay!

  2. Aunt Janice says:

    I loved what you wrote honey. Wish I could have included this in the book I wrote for my grandchildren. And I wish I could share that book with you. Great job!! I love you xoxoxoxo

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Much love!

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