Writing and Memory

Living as a Writer Series

Each time I visit my mother we pour through memorabilia my grandparents left behind. There is a huge trove of boxes from my father’s mother. Recently we found my great grandmother’s scrapbook of recipes, newspaper clippings, obituaries, birthday cards, letters and more. All bound and pasted into a book that was once something else. She just pasted over the printed pages. Her collection dates from before 1910 and goes through about 1923.

Later, we talked about my mother’s side of the family, and I realized I have nothing written or collected about her life other than pictures with no context. What was it like when her estranged father showed up at the door when she was a young child? Who were her friends? What was high-school like for her? She said she’d been thinking about how to write something like an autobiography but didn’t know how to start.

Memories occur out of order.

I told her to just write. When something hit her, just write it in a notebook. It didn’t have to be in order. Selfishly, I don’t care about the order, I just wanted the memories and context around events preserved. 

Memories are fleeting. They come somewhat randomly, triggered by nearly anything. The nature of memories is a theme in my upcoming novel. I’m fascinated by the shape and expression of memory. Which ones get remembered and which ones buried. One of my fears is losing those I cherish most.

Well, my mother has taken my advice and apparently has a lot of memories in her notebook. She asked me what she should do with them. She was thinking of typing them into a Word doc. It occurred to me that a blog would actually be a better place. Aside from the files not being tied to a computer that will one day die, or using cloud storage that someone will have to get access to, a blog allows her to share her memories with the family now, in real time, and we can comment and add to it.

Now I have to set up a blog for her and teach her how to access and use it, but I think she will like what it can do to share her memories now, when she can enjoy our reactions to them.

Which leads me to ask, have you shared the writing life with a non-writer?

#livingasawriter

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