Photo Fiction Inspiration: Cora’s Receipt

Years ago, when I saved this image of an old grocery store receipt, I intended to write a story around it. Here are several elements that caught my attention:

  • The date
  • Her name
  • The fourth item purchased
  • The running tab
  • The hole from the receipt spike
  • The match of the year to the receipt number

The finder of this receipt told of how she found a stack of them in an antique register. All of the receipts were Cora’s, and it was clear that Cora ran up a tab each week at the grocery store.

The “tablet” purchase intrigues me the most. Yes, it could be simple: Cora needed to replenish the household writing paper. But here is where my imagination takes off:

  • Story Idea #1: The tablet becomes another holder of Cora’s “secrets.” She hides her box of tablets — there are 13 — under an abandoned car she found on the property of a school for the blind. Cora befriended a girl who attends the school and shares what she hears during her nightly walks through the neighborhood, though she says they are “made up.” However, tonight Cora is meeting up with the blind girl at midnight to share a story that Cora must tell her is true.
  • Story Idea #2: Cora is in love with Charles, one of the Stroker sons, and writes letters to him that she never sends. She dreams that he will ask her why she buys tablets so often, and she can tell of her love for him. Meanwhile, Charles only talks about his dedication to God and how, unlike his brothers, he plans never to marry. When Cora walks into the store on Halloween, Charles tells her he is leaving tomorrow to join the Merchant Marines (he saw the Bogart movie) and help with the war effort. Charles is sixteen years old.
  • Story Idea #3: Cora is a teacher and has organized a Halloween Party for the only white family in her school. The family plans to leave due to racial hostility, and Cora hopes to talk them out of the move. The tablet is a gift Clara intends to give to a budding writer in the family, the first of them all to be educated past the sixth grade.
  • Story Idea #4: Cora is Clem Stroker’s daughter. She aims to start her own grocery store business since Dad won’t allow her to take the helm of the family store, even though she is the firstborn child. Cora writes out her ideas and plans to share them with her father before taking the train to Chicago in the morning. She does not know that her mother is dying and Dad, who will share the news with the family at breakfast, expects Cora to take charge of the household.

It’s amazing what the mind can do with a small amount of information. Maybe I’ll write a collection of stories from the image and not limit myself to only one. Stay tuned!

Weaving Childhood Memories into My Stories: Hair Pressing Time

School Picture Day is the annual Fall occurrence of best wear and toothy smiles in schools across the country. My school’s Picture Day happens next week, and the event is stirring up fond memories of my mother preparing her children for that day.

Other than Easter Sunday, the Lowe Kids never looked better during our elementary school grades than we did on Picture Day. Mom would make sure we were wearing our neatest and nicest. And on the evening before the day, she would “press” the girls’ hair with the hot comb and use foam curlers to set the curls overnight. When we left for school, Mom had her little girls ready to stand before the camera, with a send-off of “Don’t let that cameraman touch your hair!”

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“Your Blog Helps Me” — A Precious Message From a Reader

From July 2018:

“Hi, Darla —

Just wanted to say hi and say I’ve missed reading your blog. Or rather to ask if you have not been writing it. I rarely comment, but I love your writing and subject matters. I especially loved the post about your hero, your brother. It moved me (I keep it to re-read occasionally). I had an awful childhood, lousy youth, life-threatening automobile accident at 21 that changed my life, tried to commit suicide, and then was saved. Had a wonderful 36 years with my wonderful husband and suddenly lost him to multiple myeloma and horrible doctor care. Then I crashed and 16 years later I’m trying not to waste what little time I have left. Your blog helps me. Anyway, hope you are doing well and enjoying life.

All the best,
[Reader’s Name]”

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