In choosing to write memoir, we write about what we supposedly know best - at least from our point of view. Like an astronomer looking through a telescope at a far away star, we must hone in on pieces of memory to recall impressions, influence and impact of family, friends, places and events, and why they were important.
When writing memoir and naming others, how much should we tell ? Must we consider how our story might effect another if told in an unflattering light? Especially of friend or family member? Or should good be mixed with bad, the delight and pain of being loved, and loving in return prevail ? Parent to child, child to parent, husband and wife, friend to friend. Must memoir always be filled with angst, and the tormented soul to be readable, marketable ? I hope not. Personally, I much prefer Clarence Day's Life With Father over Christina Crawford's Mommie Dearest.
I had an email this afternoon from the grand-daughter of my mother's dearest friend, now deceased for many years. Someone I admired, and thought a lot of. Patty asked if I would please re-post a blog I had written about her grandmother for 2 Lane Highway ( http://2lanehighway.blogspot.com ) in January, 2010. I titled it Patsy and Linda, and include it now as a small example of capturing memory to paper, to encourage all writers interested in memoir to begin writing - even if it's something short and simple.
Earlier this week while out taking my afternoon walk with Sam E. Beagle and Missy dog, I thought about a recent email from my childhood friend, Linda. She told me of her New Year's Eve trip to the neighborhood we grew up in ; A quiet, quaint cul de sac in the plain Jane suburb city of Bell. Hers was a bittersweet path to the past, not only because she revisited long gone days of youth, where we spent day after day roller skating, riding matching pink and white Schwinn bikes and playing with baby dolls, paper dolls and Barbie dolls , but because two days later it would mark the 21st anniversary of her mother's death.
We have a long history, Linda and me; Only 4 years old when we met, becoming instant play pals and life long friends.
From the start, our mothers were the very best of friends. In fact, I learned a lot about the meaning of friendship from observing my mom and Patsy - their joy in being together, their faithfulness and fidelity one to the other: Good times and bad times, through tears and laughter - no matter what, they stuck like glue .
In her email Linda wrote about turning onto Southhall Court , and for just a moment envisioned her mom standing at the brick wall like she did so many years ago. I recall a similar image of Patsy. It was the late 1950's and my family didn't have a phone, so if someone needed to reach my parents they'd dial Patsy's number. I can still hear Patsy hollering from her driveway, " Lenore , the phone's for you". To some , it may seem quirky and unsophisticated, but in truth it was friendly and familar. Endearing and sweet. A simpler place, and more neighborly time.
It was sitting on the hard concrete of Linda's driveway that her mom taught us how to play " Jacks", and the first time I ate a taco was when Patsy made homemade tacos - long before Taco Bell, Del Taco and a hundrend other taco stands on every southern California corner. To this day, Patsy's perfectly seasoned ground round taco's are the best I've ever had.
Patsy also taught me to crochet. And my brother, Walt remembers she and her husband Lawrance bought him his first pair of cowboy boots when he was only six years old (from those first boots to his present boots, cowboy boots still remain his favorite style of footwear). Patsy hosted both my wedding shower, and baby shower. It would be impossible to think about my growing up years, and highlights of my life without including Patsy. She loved me and my family, and we loved her. It was heartbreaking, and seemed unfair, unreal when Patsy died at the young age of 55. Younger than Linda and I are now.
As I walked along the wooded trail , I continued to think about Linda and Patsy , wishing Linda was nearby so I could give her a hug . I wanted to tell her how special I think her mother was, and how proud I am of her for carrying on through the challenges of her own life in such a strong, positive way; knowing her mother would be proud of her, too.
No loss ever compares to the loss of a loved one. While it's true the sun will continue to rise each and every morning , just as its done for thousands of years, nothing is never, ever quite the same after the death of one we loved so dear; A small part of us dies, too. It's only in the remembering we keep them near.
Memoir is the re-telling of the moments of our life, and the life of others. Sometimes with humor, satire, or sorrow. But always with care, and as much truth as we can give it.
*** NOTE: My brother passed away May 30, 2010. Like Patsy, Walt was only 55 years old. He was buried with his boots on.