I just finished a round of folding laundry — part of the benefits of being three-quarters writer and one-quarter house-spouse. The place we’re renting has little storage space, so our dishtowels go into this narrow cabinet that hangs on the wall. It used to hold wall maps on rollers, one on top of the other. Its current purpose is much less glamorous.
In order to make the most of the space — and to serve my obsessive tendencies — I fold the towels in half and then roll them up. This task always leads me to think of books set in the civil war where the women on both sides of the fight would have gatherings for the purpose of rolling bandages.
I always wondered just where those bandages came from. I know that later in the war, when the numbers of wounded were astronomical, the women had to make their own out of household linens. But, what about those first batches? Wasn’t there a company to make bandages? If so, why couldn’t they roll them?
That train of thought led me, of course, to Scarlett O’hara and her tendency to help The Cause only to suit her own needs and then — oddly enough — to the eighties movie, Irreconcilable Differences starring Ryan O’Neal, Drew Barrymore and Shelly –bear with me as I mentally go through the list; Winters? Duvall? — Long (I had to go look it up). Ryan O’Neil is a struggling director, his wife a former collaborator turned dejected housewife. They have a cute kid — Drew. Ryan gets eventual fame and leaves his wife in the dust. The divorce ensues and then (largely due to the vast majority of his blood not being in the correct organ) his career tanks. Meanwhile, the kid’s being ignored and finally decides to divorce her parents — hence the title.
There’s this one part of the movie where the husband (this is right before the tanking) decides to direct a musical version of Gone With the Wind, starring his flavor-of-the-week girlfriend (Sharon Stone). They’re shooting this scene with dead soldiers strewn throughout Atlanta’s streets and the Scarlett character, tortured by the sight before her, flings off her big straw hat and starts to belt out, “This — civil war — aint gonna get — me down!”
After that, poor Ryan’s career is rightly shot and he moves into a crappy apartment that’s quickly littered with empty pizza boxes and takeout Chinese cartons. His former wife, however, pulls herself out of her post-divorce rut and writes a book. It launches her to mega-stardom. Soon, she has posters of her book covers all over the walls and telephone calls from agents announcing her number one spot on the bestseller list.
So, that’s what my brain was doing while I was folding towels. I’m always fascinated by its ability to jump from subject to subject in such a short space of time. In three minutes I took a circutous route from the drudgery of housework to the subject of writing. But, that shouldn’t be a surprise. It always somehow comes back to writing for me.
I really wish I could find a clip of Sharon Stone doing that song. It’s brilliant in its gracelessness.