I’ve fought it for a few years now. Bravely. Valiantly. Or so I thought. But yesterday I caved, like a tortilla dancefloor at the hippo ballet.
You may now refer to me as @annEbeman, my Twitter username– or my Twitter persona, if you will. The word persona comes from the Latin for mask. A persona is a facet of your entire self. Which mask are you wearing today? Which hat?
“The persona issues from an awareness of natural traits, of behavior. You construct a character out of what you know to be your propensities, your limitations, your inclinations, your habits, and you play with it,” Creative nonfiction writer/editor/teacher/guru Philip Lopate has said. “Writing a piece of nonfiction is a conscious act, it’s an artifice, however naked or transparent you want to be. You may as well accept that guilt and go at it. Roll up your sleeves and say, ‘Okay, I’m constructing a persona here. I want to create the appearance of total frankness, but I know that I’m being highly selective.’ The selection has to do with what events or parts you choose to highlight.”
With that in mind, I propose:
Recall a photo from childhood, or dig one out of an old album. Write a paragraph about it using the voice and sensibility of who you were when the photo was taken. Then, write a paragraph about it through the voice and sensibility of who you are now, a paragraph from the viewpoint of you as an adult, ruminating about it. Finally, write a third paragraph that combines the perspectives of the first two: a paragraph that speaks in both the Voice of Innocence and the Voice of Experience.
Child’s voice: My first time on horseback. I’m scared. Where’s Daddy? There he is. I can tell from his blue criss-cross shirt and his black-rimmed eyeglasses. His glasses-face seems far away. I’m up high. I feel very far from the ground and exposed and alone. Why isn’t Daddy closer? How will he catch me if I fall? Now I’m galloping far, far away from everyone I love.
Adult voice: What I realize now is that there was someone behind me on that horse, a professional rider. He held the reins and controlled what must have been a very slow trot across a very short distance. In his favorite blue plaid shirt, my father was probably standing two feet away, and we (invisible rider, horse, and me) probably rode once around a ring. Slowly. I also realize that I don’t remember my mother in this scenario, yet my parents were rarely apart, especially during family vacations. Where was she? Had she snapped the photo?
Combo: My first time riding a horse. I must have been three, tiny blond pigtails spurting from my toddler head. I remember feeling very far from the ground and exposed and alone. Where’s Daddy? His glasses-face seems far away. How will he catch me if I fall? The photo shows me in a calm moment, holding a handful of horse mane, studying it. A leather-skinned man in a wide-rimmed hat sits behind me, holding the reins. I hadn’t known he was there. How could I? I never saw him. It occurs to me I don’t remember my mother in this scene, yet my parents were rarely apart, especially during family vacations. Was she there too? Had she snapped the photo? Out of the photo’s frame, wearing his favorite blue plaid shirt, my father must have stood not two feet away, and we– invisible cowboy, horse, and pigtailed child– would have ridden around a ring. Slowly. At the time, it felt as if I were galloping far, far away from everything I knew, everyone I loved. Was the wind in my hair mere imagination, too?