"About the Work" with Storey Clayton
In our "About the Work" series, Natalie Tombasco asks recent contributors for insight into their writing or for current sources of inspiration. Read Storey Clayton's essay "Glass Houses" in SER Vol. 40.2.
Glass is probably the most captivating material of human invention, once we realize that we didn’t invent fire. It is incredibly strong–until it isn’t, at which point it’s horribly fragile. Made of the finest grains, it breaks in a unique way every time. When whole, it allows us to see both outside and ourselves simultaneously. When shattered, it’s capable of inflicting significant pain.
For years, I didn’t want to write about my group home job. I spent so long replaying those last few hours, traumatized and ashamed, wondering if I could have done something differently. Recurring dreams aside, I’d gotten to a point of truce with the memory, the numbness of repetition wearing away my self-doubt. It helped that no lasting harm had come to the runaway kids, that no physical damage had befallen anything but my car. To write the past requires reliving it, watching yourself make all the same mistakes.
When I found out I was going to have a child, I soon realized that all my experience working with children had been at this job. I kept telling my wife, “Well, when I was at the group home . . .” I needed to unpack what I’d learned about parenting and process it properly before he was born. At first, all I could see were showers of broken glass in every memory, and in putting it back together, I remembered how broken we all were, how hypocritical it was to call these powerfully resilient children “severely emotionally disturbed.”
STOREY CLAYTON recently received an MFA in creative nonfiction from West Virginia University. He’s worked as a youth counselor, debate coach, strategic analyst, development director, rideshare driver, and poker player. His nonfiction has appeared in more than twenty literary journals, including upstreet, Pleiades, Lunch Ticket, Typehouse Literary Magazine, and Blue Earth Review. Learn more at storeyclayton.com.