Memoirs should never be written under a pen name. At least that is what I have been told. I’ve also been told that we need to “own” our story – therefore, our name must appear as the writer. Otherwise it could be taken as frivolous fiction. But here’s the thing: I plan to publish my memoir Homeless Bound under the pen name M.Z. Bull. Obviously, it’s not for the sake of anonymity. Rather, it comes as a request from the grandson I happen to be raising who was shocked to see my name in large white letters on the proof copy. “You can’t do that,” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said.
“What’s embarrassing?” I asked.
He pointed to the author’s name.
I have nothing to hide. If you turn the book over and are surprised to see a familiar face, you may already know I have lived in my northern California home for over fifty years. Marjorie Witt has appeared as herself in Story Circle Journal, Street Spirit (Justice News & Homeless Blues in the Bay Area), talkingsoup.com and here, in this blog. So where does M.Z. Bull come from? I think you might already know.
One of my most liked recent posts on social media was the before and after photos of the day I “KonMari’d” my closet. It elicited all sorts of comments like “amazing,” and “I’ve been meaning to do that.” But, the most prevalent comment was “I’m doing that too.” If they didn’t read the book, Netflix got their attention. How could anyone not know about it? Everyone is talking about it, or maybe I should say “wise cracking” about it. Like the this morning at Target. A slightly overweight lady holds up a bikini she might have been able to wear decades ago. Her friend asks, “does it bring you joy?” The wise woman giggles and puts the tiny triangles back on the rack.
Back to my closet. I broke a couple of rules. I didn’t run around the house and gather every article of clothing out of every closet, drawer, hamper, dryer, and floor. Instead I went through my drawers first, tossing the things that don’t bring me joy (mostly workout clothes from 20 years ago when I was still mountain climbing). The keepers were neatly folded the Marie Kondo way, except I folded my T-shirts with the graphics on the outside so I’d be sure not to wear my “I find myself to be exorbitantly superannuated for this feculence” shirt to work again.
The big job was the closet. Well, two closets actually. My full closet and the half of my husband’s closet that stored my off season clothes. And six suitcases of six decades of I-might-need-this-again-someday stuff. You know what I mean, the argyle sweater knitted in high school, running shirts, vacation shirts, Halloween costumes, and the wedding dress (yes, I put it back in the suitcase… you just never know). The three foot mountain covering the entire queen sized bed was daunting to me but a new playground for the felines.
Three hours later I hauled six cardboard boxes down to the curb for the re-use pickup and three garbage bags of unmentionables and threadbare rags for the big dump pickup. For once I’d get my money’s worth out of our garbage service.
My spring-summer wardrobe now hangs in eye-pleasing, color coordinated order, with easy accessibility. My husband is pleased to find he can now claim two thirds of his closet with my fall-winter wardrobe squeezed into the other third. Maybe if those suitcases in his closet stay empty, we can use them for what they’re meant for (just a hint that I’m ready to travel in case he’s reading this).
The stack of hangers left on my bed could support an entirely new wardrobe. What to do with those? Keeping extra hangers in my closet would be a danger I’m not willing to risk. So I get this brilliant idea – if I put them in JJ’s closet, he could hang up all his t-shirts, jeans and jackets that now carpet his bedroom. I leave a neat row of empty colorful plastic hangers on the rod. I don’t say a word when he comes home from school. I wait. Quietly. In my office. He opens his door. Slams it shut. I hear his backpack land on the floor. “WTF” echoes into his barren closet. He rushes into my office. “Grandma, someone stole all my shirts.”