Unexploded Moment

From the back of the canoe, I can feel his eyes rolling. He’d made the mistake of asking me what the first two exploded moments were and I told him. He was mute about Exploded Moment 1 which was a story so old it would run in black and white on TV. Really? I could feel him thinking, you are still writing about a guy you knew before we met? 33 years ago?

He paddles. I paddle. He asks what the second exploded moment was. At this point, he hasn’t actually asked what an exploded moment is and it occurs to me that he thinks he might be like fireworks, like something that was so stupendous that it lit up the sky and made people ooh and aah. But it’s not that, an exploded moment is a literary device to make the details of a moment bloom and flower. Make 60 seconds come alive with detail and nuance. Take a tiny time and make every thing about it palpable.

I didn’t explain this. I told him that Exploded Moment 2 was about my mother. I tried to explain the scene to him, catching my mother looking at her mastectomy. He right away looked like he wanted to find a newspaper and put it over his head.

“I’m kind of done with your mother.”

I understand this because I have written a lot about my mother. Really a lot. But “I’m kind of done with your mother” seemed overly harsh to me, like really. How would you like it, I thought, if I said that about your mother? Besides this was a new story, an exploded moment. Electric.

The eye rolling every so slight, behind me all the while, him paddling in back, me paddling in front.

“You need to find a new exploded moment. Like one of these lily pads.”


So I worked on that, thinking that there was some way to explode a lily pad moment and I took about fifty pictures with my iPhone, holding it in my teeth or between my knees in order to paddle closer to an especially consequential lily pad.

IMG_2966But right away, it was clear that serenity and exploded moments are probably mutually exclusive, that unless we capsized or clubbed each other with our paddles, the drama that seemed important for an exploded moment just didn’t exist. I had to reach into my past. Way into my past. Back to black and white TV and very old clothes.

So we kept paddling amidst the lily pads, past a beaver’s lodge and then out on to the open water of Grand Sable Lake.  Nothing about our little paddle among the lily pads was the least bit remarkable, nothing skimmed over that needed to be described in amazing detail, no sweaty feelings, nothing perplexing. I didn’t feel anything complex that had to be sorted out in order for me to make sense of the past. Neither my old boyfriend or my mother came along for the ride.

There were no fireworks, no layers to peel back. Just the lily pads and the never-ending challenge of finding the right one.  It was lovely, a relief. Because, you know, exploded moments can be so exhausting.


3 Comments on “Unexploded Moment

  1. “I’m kind of done with your mother.” Ouch. You handled that much better than I would have:). It would have been an explosive moment, versus exploded!

  2. I’m trying to learn to listen (and read) without reflecting back or echoing. Apparently those are bad things because your experience needs no validation by my experience, yadda yadda. But it’s really hard not to offer echoes up as a way to say YES, and to show you someone is reading and hearing, the time my mom made me look at her scar right after the operation. She was a nurse: we didn’t pussyfoot about physical things. But that’s not here or there. After you brought it up I started trying to learn about exploded moments. They are about connecting experience, and we are programmed to remember the bad stuff unless we can retrain ourselves. Anyway, back to the lily pad. I think you could explode it using imagination, what’s underneath, what’s above, and that would lead to those experiential details and connections. This evening I will learn why I should not respond as I just have, but for now I can plead ignorance. And good intentions.

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