MEET THE AUTHOR
TERRANCE MANNING JR.
This essay was the first thing I wrote out of
graduate school, without the trusted eyes of
an MFA workshop or thesis adviser—which
was both frightening and freeing.
Originally, I had this memory of chromies, of stealing and collecting them as a
kid, that I’d been playing with, trying to
figure out why it had stuck with me so long.
As I was writing into it, reliving the sight of
a pair of chromies or their smell or the feeling of them in my hands, I found myself interested in the value we assign
things, especially insignificant things, and the way that empowers us.
Mostly, I wanted to know why. I knew I wouldn’t stop until I answered
that question or at least came close to it. What I didn’t know was that
this essay would become my mother’s as much as my own. Or that I’d
save the document as “Mom’s Chap” for a year before finding a title that
represents us both, for different reasons.
I still don’t know, fully, what this essay is about. Maybe dreams, or
pain, or disappointment. Maybe it’s about escaping. But it’s also about
holding on to things—whether valve stem caps or memories—to try and
find strength from them. It’s also about my mother, who, despite our differences, was tougher and more complicated than I ever gave her credit
for. I hope others can find connection here, a little bit of their own stories. I’m just happy that someone (other than my wife) actually read this
and enjoyed it. And I’m happy, now, to let it go.
Terrance Manning Jr. is a graduate from Purdue’s MFA program in creative writing. Recent work has won the Narrative Spring Story Contest,
the Iowa Review Award for Fiction and Nonfiction, and the Crazyhorse
Prize in Nonfiction. Other work has appeared in Witness, Boulevard,
Southwest Review, Ninth Letter, River Teeth, and the Normal School,
among other magazines, and his fiction and nonfiction have received
special mentions in the Best American Essays and Best American Short
Stories. He lives and writes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.