To the ghost of kindreds past, present, future:
I salute your intrepid spirits navigating the seedy lots off Highway 99 and hurried pie buyers to inhabit a corner booth at Shari’s every Monday night for so many years.
Those full diner mugs topped off, the waitress taps the carafe of tepid liquid and says something like, I’ll just go ahead and leave this here. That coffee, the inebriant by which our stories wax wise. A writing prompt proposed. A tomato timer set to 20 minutes. The blank page. The ding of the timer. The initial dread of sharing those fresh words with a table full of writers—women I barely know.
That orange table becomes the launchpad, the safe space, the constant in our otherwise unwriterly lives. Three teachers, four new moms, an artist, a manager, all of us tired but caffeinated. We show up, arms bagged and loaded. Mystery novels, screenplays, memoirs, poetry. All of it we write. On friendship, motherhood, marriage, failure, family, feelings, fear.
Our experiences birth essays. Intrigue: metaphor. Dreams: fiction. Vulnerably vomits on screens and pages from 7 to 11 p.m. Our voices find us there under dim hanging lights. Flow, life, pen, and freedom.
Sticky menus pile up. Years circle forging tree rings of memories and piles of worded pages.
The oddly phallic print on our reserved corner booth never changes, but we do. New homes, husbands, children, jobs, towns. An MFA, contests won, an agent, world travel, professorships, accolades and promotions, ordination, viral fame. A magazine online. The writer girls from the corner booth become a team and family.
Like footprints in deep snow, we know where we’ve been when we look back. Now others may step in those prints, the path worn and tested.
I like to think that we leave ghosts in our wake, in those spots we allow our hearts to inhabit. Faint echoes laughing late over night pie plates. Condensation on tall water glasses drip leaving tearstains on tables, shimmerings of shared burdens made lighter. Twinkle lights glow above the Monday’s Pie Special blackboard. Christmas will always carry a Kindred glow.
Once home, I shake the snow off my boots from that once in a blue moon snow in Seattle. It’s warming up and the rain will sweep away any remnants by midday tomorrow. Stepping inside, a hit of warm air and fresh zucchini bread. The kindreds are coming over later. We will set the big table, and they will cover it with gifts and readings and tasty somethings and laughter and tears and stories. Always stories.
Thank you, dear ones. It has been a lovely journey that will truly never end.
STEPHANIE PLATTER is a teacher and writer who tends to recreate mini Shari’s experiences when she writes, tomato timer and all. And she will never give up coffee, or kindreds.