Pot O’ Gold at Rainbow’s End: TELLTALE SOULS Bio-Vignette No. 3

Little Dana waiting on the porch, again.

As promised, I’m bringing you another story excerpt from my guidebook, TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir: How to Tap Memory and Write Your Story Capturing Character & Spirit.  It begins on page 51 of Act Two in the section entitled “Taking yourself back in time.”

To find stories I’ve posted from the book, search “Bio-Vignette No. 1,” then simply scroll to read more telling tales.

Continue to delve into the memories that come up for you during reflective times, day dreaming, or when they pop up out of the blue as you go about your day. It’s your job to extract meaning from particularly revealing and intense mo­ments. The next exercise, a couple pages forward, involves answering deep ques­tions about the meaning behind memories. It’s both interesting and informative, but you may want to skip it for now and come back to it after your story is near completion.

My sister Dana found it worked better for her to look for the meaning later. I asked her to explain: “My biggest difficulty was starting. A struggle went on between my heart and my mind. I was analyzing and intellectualizing memories rather than just going with them. There was one memory that crept into my mind over and over again that seemed insignificant—trivial really—until I let my heart take over. After spending time with that seemingly trivial memory, it became the theme for my memoir about Mother. Had it not been persistent, and had I not sensed its significance, I would have let that memory get away. It was through the journey of writing that understanding came.”

 Pot O’ Gold

~Dana Johnson

I perched on the top of the red stone steps in front of our house, watching the final drops of rain dripping from the autumn leaves of the giant oak tree. My mother’s beautiful alto voice rose and fell softly, filtering through the walls of the house. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray…”

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, and as she sang, the rays of the sun glazed the clouds, spreading shadow and light in patterns across the lawn. It was then that I knew for sure my mom was special. She believed in the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow and in leprechauns and tooth fairies and Santa Claus, and now she had called out the sun.

The draw of the rainbow beckoned me. We had always gone together, as a family, to find the gold, but I was a big girl now and I felt sure I could find it on my own. After all, I could cross the street. I always looked both ways. So, I skipped happily along the sidewalk—never ever stepping on any cracks of course—humming my mother’s tune. I knew the gold was there, where the colors touched the earth. I walked for what every young child believes to be a very, very long time. So long, that finally I saw the sun edge into the western sky, and the rainbow began to melt. I knew I had to go back. Once again, I had not reached it in time. But it was okay because, as my mother always said, there would be more to come. “Be patient, Dana.”

I walked back to the house and climbed up to the porch listening for the sounds of Mother. Nothing. Tippy-toeing into the kitchen, I came across a note that read:

“Dear Dana,

We went to find the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow.

Will be back soon.

Love, Mother”

I was crushed. She had taken my brother and sister and gone to the end of the rainbow—without me.

The rain still softly dripped from the oak leaves and the top step on the porch still held me as I sat alone, my head resting in my hands, waiting. The tires of our car crunched the gravel as my mother parked it at the side of the house. My brother and sister tumbled out, and my mother’s soft blue eyes twinkled with glee as she scooped me into her arms and dropped three golden chocolate coins into my hand. My mother had really been there—right to the pot o’ gold. I wasn’t surprised, really. After all she knew where it was.


Encircled by the roses on the crematory grounds some forty years later, I reflect on my life’s journey, still trying not to step on the cracks, away from but always back to the essence of my mother’s gold. I turn slowly, with my sister and my husband in tow, raise my face to the sky, the sun, the oak trees, and catch her ashes in my hands, feel them settle on my body, trying to inhale all of her. She has made her final journey to the end of the rainbow without me. But it’s okay. She taught me how to find it before she left.

Dana Johnson: “Writing my story didn’t change my perceptions of Mother; I found it encapsulated her beauty.” Photo contributed by Dana.

To fully appreciate the impact images have on you and to begin your job of pulling meaning from remarkable memories and those you have not yet considered significant, ask yourself the following questions by writing out your responses to each question briefly, but mindfully:

1) Why did a certain memory enter my mind?

2) Has this memory come to me in the past?

3) If so, why do I think I revisit it on occasion?

4) Have I communicated with this memory?

5) Do I invite an interchange or dialogue with this memory?

6) What’s the reason certain memories make joyful, make me sad?

Use The Story Woman’s TELLTALE SOULS METHOD to move memory into memoir in a uniquely creative way.

To find stories I’ve posted from the book, search “Bio-Vignette No. 1,” then simply scroll to read more telling tales.

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