I remember the weekends of playing dominos, feeding the ducks, and sneaking peanut M&Ms from his roll top desk in his office…the small things.
Growing up, we tried to visit Uncle Francis
and Aunt Alma on the weekends. To reach
their house, we would travel through a
tunnel. As a child, the tunnel symbolized
a wormhole into wonderland. Mom would
honk the horn, and my sister and I would
both smile, interrupting our debate on
who crossed the invisible center line in the
back of the forest green Volvo. Ridge
Route tunnel took us to their house,
their exceptional garden, the pond, and access to all the wonderful memories I cherish.
I reminded of an image of my uncle surveying Griffith Park Tunnel. Both are “‘a channel through the rock’ in search of what is truly precious” (Job 28:10). Perhaps, we both understood the tunnel as “a symbolic rebirth…spiritual rebirth or a coming of age (Chbosky).
In reflection, the small moments are what I have to hold on to. The tunnel, in this case, is an unforgettable rose embedded in my memory. I can see it. Feel it. Hear it. Smell it. I know it. When I wrote the book, The Sunshine Special, which is about Francis’s journey from Fort Worth, TX to Los Angeles, CA and back in 1920 by train…a physical journey and a coming of age travel narrative. I learned new and excited things about Francis, but I also found my memories impacting the writing as they impact my life.
Influenced by poetry such as Testimony by Charles Reznikoff and Paterson by William Carlos Williams, The Sunshine Special by Donovan Hufnagle uses nonliterary documents such as journals, letters, and newspaper articles to interrupt and “negotiate” with original verse. The poetic narrative follows a traveling eighteen-year-old in the summer of 1920 from Fort Worth to Los Angeles. Francis’s exploration of new frontiers is also his exploration into his own internal struggles with family and manhood. In his journal entries, he comments on landscapes, vegetation, and relationships as well as discovers his one and only true love. As Francis explores new areas and eventually explores Los Angeles, he finds himself wanting and willing to permanently move away from the family. Interrupting the verse are letters from his sister, juxtaposing his pleasure and encouraging him to return home.