... to leave something behind
A few years ago, for reasons I did not fully understand, I found myself wanting to write about things, events, happenings that I was prompted to remember. These were memories of my family of origin and of my own family. I have come to believe that these are thoughts I want to leave behind.
The subject matter was simply the thoughts that popped into my head. One of my first stories was the memory of sitting on the kitchen floor at age 4 or 5. While Ma was washing dishes, a little mouse appeared. I called this story “Escape” and later I wrote this story into a poem called “Feisty”. Another of my first stories was about Swan Street Park, the playground of my youth. This was “The Twenty Footer”, a special piece of fence that was erected in the late thirties. I wrote a “peek-a-boo” story, “Through the Window”. Then there was my old friend, “Cecil” that I wrote about with love and affection for his warmth when I was a boy.
More recently, my thoughts have carried me into early adult life with “Winthrop ‘54”, “Ten Warren Street”, and “Story of Martha”. I have been prompted, too, to write about medical problems that have been visited upon me like, “Oh’ What’s Happening to Me”, “Skin Cancer”, and “Whispering Ed.” In these I seem to want to explain malady as absurd, close to laughable.
As I have worked on these stories I’ve often been uneasy about lacking a framework or formula for putting these stories together. Crafting these stories has been a bit done through imitation. Three of my favorite writers in the world are John Steinbeck, Raymond Carver and Joseph Mitchell. Steinbeck wrote the “Grapes of Wrath” and he said that “East of Eden” was his best. Carver was a short story writer that crowned his achievement with “Cathedral”. Mitchell was known for his nonfiction and published his collection of articles in “Up in the Old Hotel” in 1993. It’s the simple clear language entwined with profundity that all three writers excel at. This is what I hope for in my own writing. I work at wanting to have an important story pleasingly told. Maybe that is what every writer hopes for?
Patricia Hampl, “I Could Tell you Stories” is a non-fiction writer, (as I am trying to be,) teaches memoir. Hampl uses memoir as the labeling device. I always had thought of memoir as the writings of writers. A memoirist is someone who is writing as a published writer, so I thought. I called my writing “recollections” as memoir seemed too grand.
Hampl says, “Memoirists wish to tell their mind, not their story.” Isn’t that great! Then, Hampl goes on, “It still comes as a shock to realize that I don’t write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know.” These jump off the page at me. Of course, that is exactly why I write!
For the past few years, not every year, I have copied ten pieces or so to send to my family and selected friends. I do this at Christmas time and cover them with colorful paper of the season. In the last ten years I have written about fifty pieces of different lengths of these happenings. I don’t expect deep commentary but I get enough of an impression that my writings are appreciated.
Melrose Mirror readers will find me in 'Who We Are.'
November 5, 2010