Dear Alice

July 8, 2020           

Dear Alice,

Today would be your 112th birthday. They tell me that
I look like you, though I could never find my face in dad’s 
wedding photo-the cat-eye glasses, three strings of pearls, 
Sunday white gloves clasped in one hand, and that 1962 wave 
in your silver hair. You died when I was 3-months old, too young 
to know you except in family stories, the currency of connection
I wonder what you would think of COVID and the visit I had 
with my dad-your oldest son-during the early days of the pandemic? 
You would have been 10 and 11 through the 1918 flu epidemic, 
the same age as my daughter during this year of divisive un-leadership 
and the scorn for science and intellect. Though my Facebook contacts 
are unfriending and blocking the Fox News watchers like my family, 
estrangement is not an option for me at the end of the world
Uncle Ed sent me a photo of a younger you—seeing my face in your 
high school graduation photo triggers something I needed
to carry on with the caring, the feeling of belonging, even as 
the atheist liberal sheep in this family. I focus on feeding and cleaning
tasks that an over-educated daughter can do, like you did for your parents 
delaying your marriage and kids. My dad said you always prepared 
nutritious food, and enough of it, though you weren’t known as a good cook. 
I look for more than a physical resemblance as I bake your sugar cookies 
and buttercreams, too. When I lead a Girl Scout Troop and do community service
I focus on the commonalities, the family values of doing, caring, and acting,
reframe nostalgia as a better path like common core math, I forgive them, 
which really means forgiving myself for feeling like I’m never enough.

Sandra L. Faulkner

What is the significance of this work to you?

I began this project after spending 11 days with my elderly parents in early March when COVID lockdowns began in the US. I was terrified that I had brought them COVID, at the same time that I was grateful for the time I spent with them. I made the trip from Ohio to Georgia with the thought this could be the last time I ever saw them, because they are not in good health; my mother is 81 and has a heart condition, and my father is 79 and has COPD. During the visit, I cooked and cleaned for them and listened to family stories. This work is a way to tell family stories in language that best represents my experiences of family stories—poetry, recipes, and images. I am calling this collection, “Buttered Nostalgia.” 

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

These pieces are meant to look like recipe cards given that many of my family memories concern cooking and eating. They are also a restorying of the family photo album and scrapbook. I wanted to include photos with text to push the limits of each genre. I explore the following questions in this project: How can images expand text? What does text add to our experiences with image? How does the use of multi-media expand our understanding of photography and poetry?

What was your process for creating this work?

I began with photos and used them as a prompt for writing poems. Then, I used photoshop to manipulate the images and add the poems on top of the images. Looking at the images helped me access memories, and the process of writing poems from the images was a kind of ekphrastic exercise. It was a back and forth process. The manipulation of color and form was a way to amplify the emotion contained in the poems. 

Sandra L. Faulkner is Professor of Communication at Bowling Green State University. Her interests include qualitative methodology, poetic inquiry, and the relationships among culture, identities, and sexualities in close relationships. Her poetry and images have appeared in Literary Mama, Ithaca Lit, Gulf Stream, Writer’s Resist, Rise Up Review, and elsewhere. She authored four poetry chapbooks, Hello Kitty Goes to College (dancing girl press), Knit Four, Make One (Kattywompus), Postkarten aus Deutschland, and Trigger Warning (Qualitative Inquiry), and a memoir in poetry, Knit Four, Frog One (Brill, 2014). She authored over 60 book chapters and articles, which have appeared in such journals as Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies. She is also the author/editor of 10 books including Real Women Run: Running as Feminist Embodiment; Poetic Inquiry: Craft, Method, & Practice (Routledge); Poetic Inquiry as Social Justice and Political Response (Vernon, co-edited with Abigail Cloud); Scientists and Poets #Resist (Brill coedited with Andrea England). She received the 2013 Knower Outstanding Article Award from the National Communication Association, the 2016 Norman K. Denzin Qualitative Research Award, and the 2020 H.L. “Bud” Goodall, Jr. and Nick “Gory” Trujillo “It’s a Way of Life” Award in Narrative Ethnography.