Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Importance of Recording Memories, Life -by Jane Thompson

Last year, when I turned 80, I finished a 128-page memoir. I added pictures, had it printed and gave copies to all our seven children, some nieces and nephews and friends. It was exciting, and amazing, to me that I had actually done it. I had started writing in 2008 when I wrote two pages.

I had been motivated then, but I thought I had plenty of time, no hurry. So it was on the back burner —simmering. Then my sister died. I realized I was the oldest living person in the family, and no one else remembered my grandparents. I had to get busy.

I decided to focus on just what I remembered. But there were big holes in my knowledge. My father died when I was six and I knew almost nothing about him. That is where came to the rescue. Since I had not known my father at all, the headline from the San Francisco Chronicle, telling how he had been shot at the Fairmont Hotel in 1918 by a wife who preceded my mother, was shocking. Wow! That would grab the attention of those grandchildren and was a good way to begin my story.

I had fun writing about my elementary school days, when my sister and I roamed all over our town, Venice, California, or took the bus to Santa Monica to shop for Christmas gifts, to go to the movies or to find churches to visit. I wanted to share what we did for fun as kids seventy-or-so years ago.

I also needed to write about growing up with an alcoholic mother who came to our school falling down drunk more than once but was hospitalized for several years when I was in sixth grade.

Soon I realized I needed a writing buddy to review what I had written, offer suggestions and “crack the whip” when I let too much time elapse between inspirations. My husband did that for me.

Recently I asked book club friends if they had considered writing a memoir; only three told me they had. One friend wrote a family history but only at the last minute included a few pages about herself. Some of the others had considered doing it but felt they lacked the time. One had taken a class at the Senior Center where each member wrote about eight life events. One of my other friends said she had nothing to tell--she had lived an ordinary life. We all knew otherwise.

Neither the other memoirists nor I have lived celebrity lives, nor have we done heroic or amazing things, but we do have stories about people in different times or places that the next generation could enjoy or learn from, or ignore. Still, they will have the stories. I recommend writing your life.