Tag Archive for: Memories

Christmas Memories

I’m at a loss for words. I have no idea what to talk about once a month, let alone every day. So I decided that I”ll just ramble on and perhaps a blog will come out of this.

So what’s going on? It’s Christmas and the hustle and bustle of the city can be contagious. Everyone smiles, say their manners and just have a real good attitude.

The buildings and plaza are ensconced in trees and decorations and tourists and some natives take pictures to post on social media.

The stores play Christmas music to entice you to spend, spend, and spend. Do you realize that you can walk into a store during the holidays and when you hear the music, it changes your demeanor? I know it does mine. Hearing “Jingle Bells,” “All I Want For Christmas,” “The Christmas Song” all bring back joyous memories and opens that wallet. But that’s okay, because I feel happy and in good spirits.

It’s also the time you sit around you television and watch those movies that you grew up on. Who doesn’t recall “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “White Christmas,” or “Charlie Brown Christmas.” Again, just thinking about it reminds me of my youth when all my sisters and my mother were together just waiting for the day that we can open our presents.

After all the presents were opened, and the paper cleared, the family headed to the nearest relative house for the Christmas Dinner and as the years go by, you wait for your chance to finally sit and eat at the adult table. As everyone bowed their heads, we thought of the past year and of our future to start all over again until the next Christmas season rolls around.

Christmas: a wonderful time and full of memories.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday to one and all (to those who celebrate).


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Reaching Way Back

Maggie’s post about her memories stirred up old ones of my own.

I only remember back to 5 years old with lots about kindergarten, giant blocks and playing store. I don’t remember learning anything. I had a wonderful friend named Sheila Ainsworth and sometimes I went there after school. I think the reason I was because my mom had a baby about that time and stayed in the hospital a long time–10 days, back then. My dad would pick me up after work. Of course the baby was my little sister and my days of being a spoiled only child were over.

Sheila had a two-story playhouse in her back yard that once belonged to Shirley Temple. I don’t remember much more about her or her mother, but I certainly remember that playhouse.

We lived in my grandmother’s house in South Pasadena. My grandparents had another house in Bakersfield and I remember going there on the train by myself to visit them. I had a note around my neck that said where I was to get off. The train was crowded, lots of service men. That was back when you boarded the train at the Los Angeles station and it went all the way to Bakersfield–through all the tunnels in Tehachapi. (Only freight trains do that now.) My grandpa worked for the railroad so I’m sure the conducter had his instructions.

My parents bought a house in Los Angeles, close to Glendale (and not far from So. Pasadena) and my grandparents moved back to the house we’d been in. I loved my grandmother. She always wore a dress and her long hair braided and pinned up. She belonged to Eastern Star and had many evening gowns. (Some she let me try on even though they were yards too long.) I know she belonged to bridge clubs and entertained them at her house too. My grandfather always wore suits. He did take his jacket off sometimes. He drove a Hudson–and my dad said he drove it like a train, never looking to one side or the other.

Several summers, my grandparents spent two weeks at the beach renting several rooms at a hotel. We mom and my sister and I stayed with them for a few days each year. They always had an umbrella in the sand and sat on a blanket. And yes, grandmother still wore a dress, and silk stockings and my grandfather his suit.  Of course we kids played in the sand and the ocean–and wore bathing suits.

My grandma always bought me two dresses for my birthday. My mom would say, “Marilyn, don’t beg your grandmother for anything. Only choose one dress.” It never worked out that way because when I tried on dresses, it was grandma that couldn’t choose. She always liked two and no matter how I protested, she’d buy them both. When she brought me home and I came in with two dresses, my mom would bawl me out no matter what Grandma or I would say.

Grandma never learned to drive, so when we went anywhere with her, grandpa was the driver. I remember her telling me to be sure and learn how to drive so I wouldn’t have to be dependent on anyone. Good advice.

My grandparents have been gone for a long time, but as time goes on and I’ve grown nearly as old as she was when she passed away, I look in the mirror and see the resemblance to my grandmother.

And by the way, I remember my great-grandmother too. I am fortunate because my sister and my cousin have no recollection of her. She passed away when I was twelve. She was a widow and ran a boarding house. She was tiny and looked a lot like my grandma except she had snow white hair.

Thank you, Maggie, for being the trigger that brought back all these memories.

Me at 5.

Marilyn

Flaws and all

by: Joelle Charbonneau
Last Friday was the three year anniversary of my father’s passing. That day and the events that followed feel as though they happened a decade or more ago. And yet, it feels like only yesterday that I talked to him.

I miss our talks. We didn’t talk about anything particularly deep or earth

shattering. He was my first phone call if I had a problem with a

faucet, a window screen or a water heater. He might not know how to fix it himself, but he always had a guy who did know.

Dad and I also talked about sports. Baseball, basketball, football, golf. Dad loved them all. Every March we filled out our NCAA brackets and compared notes of the various teams in the tournament. During the opening days of the field of 64, Dad and I would call each other to report upsets or exciting moments. I haven’t filled out a bracket sheet since he died.
My father was always proud of me no matter what I did. He wasn’t always the biggest fan of theater, but he came to all of my shows. While I’ll never know if he would have read my books (the first one went under contract 9 months after he died), I am certain he would have told anyone and everyone that they were the best books ever. As far as cheerleaders go, Dad was one of the best.
Of course, like anyone, Dad had his less than perfect moments. I’ve heard people say that the longer someone is gone, the more the survivors tend to remember only the good things about that person. The other stuff fades. I guess I’m not most people because the longer my father is gone, the more I want to remember the stuff that used to annoy me. Without that stuff, Dad wouldn’t have been Dad.

Dad wasn’t always the easiest to get along with. (Not that I am, but that is another story for another day.) He was stubborn. When he got mad he never told you why he was upset. Instead, he stopped talking all together. And he always had a list of things that needed to get done no matter what plans anyone else in the house might have. We used to get so frustrated when my father nixed doing something fun on the weekend because he had to paint the gutters, wax the car, mow the lawn or any number of other things that could have technically waited until tomorrow. For my father, tomorrow was never soon enough.

Like the best characters in our books, my father had flaws. Without those flaws our family might have spent more time going to the movies or on vacation, but those flaws made him who he was. At time those flaws made me want to tear out my hair, but now, thinking about them makes me smile. When I write, I try to remember that it is the flaws that often make a character relatable and endearing. The things that irritate the other characters around them are the things that make the reader laugh or nod their head in understanding. How many times have you found yourself reading something and think, “Yeah, my mom does that.” or “That sounds just like my Aunt Edna.” No one is perfect. Not in real life or on the page. If they were – well that would just be boring.

So in honor of my dad, I thought today would be a great day to remember both the wonderful things and the flaws about the people we miss the most. Let’s share the moments that made them the people that we loved. Together we will all smile and more important we will all remember.

So You Want to Write About Your Life?

Top Writing Tips from Memoirist Theo Pauline Nestor

I’ve been writing about myself or wanting to write about myself since before I can remember. When I finally got into a creative writing program in my 30s, there was no “Creative Nonfiction” track or even a class on memoir writing, so I wrote highly autobiographical stories for my fiction class; but as Dave Eggers once said about fiction writing, I felt like I was “driving with a clown suit on.” After graduate school, I was a mother of two, mostly at home. I discovered a new magazine called Brain, Child, which was filled with creative nonfiction written by mothers. I soon started writing for this magazine and discovered that my true genre is memoir and have been writing that ever since. In 2008, my first full-length memoir, How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed, was published by Crown.

When I’m not writing, I’m teaching a class called “Writing the Memoir” at the University of Washington and coaching individual writers. Many of the students who come to the class come with just a hazy idea that they want to write about their lives, and I love guiding them through the process of discovering what exactly they want and need to write about.

Here’s my best advice for getting started on memoir writing:

  • Read great memoirs—both those that are bestsellers and those that are critically acclaimed. If you want to write a memoir, you need to have a good sense of how they’re structured. If you want to sell a memoir, focus on reading popular memoirs published in the last five years. A few of the memoirs I recommend: The Kiss by Kathryn Harrison, Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Lit by Mary Karr.
  • Carry a notebook, just a small one. I actually didn’t set out to write a memoir about my divorce, but I had this notebook in my purse, and I was so miserable that I started pulling it out and writing down random thoughts to keep myself from going crazy. The very first note I wrote down was about a woman in my attorney’s waiting room with hair so thin I could see her scalp and a big stack of legal papers on her lap. This brings me to my next point…
  • Get in the habit of taking your observations seriously. One of the differences between would-be writers and actual writers is that writers follow their own thoughts “as if” they were the thoughts of a great thinker. Memoir writing is a collection of your insights and portrayals of your ordinary life. So when you have an observation or insight, take it seriously even if it seems to be about the most mundane topics—the patterns of shoppers in your local grocery store, your neighbor’s habit of watering the sidewalk with his sprinkler.
  • Get some good books about writing. In my opinion, there aren’t enough of these. But, I have a few that I fully recommend. For encouragement as a writer (and don’t kid yourself, we all need this): Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. For a good sound understanding of a memoir’s structure and some great getting-started exercises: Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer. I also recommend Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington.
  • Take a class or hire a coach. Many universities offer night classes in memoir writing and many writers, such as myself, coach writers over the phone or in person.

To learn more about my coaching, visit me at theopaulinenestor.com.

Theo Pauline Nestor’s fiction and non-fiction have been published in a number of places including Brain, Child, Alligator Juniper, msn.com, austinmama.com, happenmag.com and The New York Times. HOW TO SLEEP ALONE IN A KING SIZE BED was a Kirkus Reviews Top Pick for Reading Groups.

Thank you, Theo, for visiting The Stiletto Gang!

Slippery Things

Sometimes you lose them forever. Sometimes you just misplace them. Sometimes they aren’t real.

Memories are slippery, amorphous creatures that wiggle through our fingers and disappear under the bed with all the glowing eyed monsters, single rogue socks, and books that are never where you left them.

Unlike other people who profess to remember early life experiences, I’ve never been convinced that I have “real” memories of my life before age four. I have photographs implanted in my mind of events – images that come from actual photographs, home movies, or relatives’ retelling of events. But real memories at ages two or three? I don’t think so. Not me.

Drive-in movie theaters populated the landscape when I was a preschooler. I have a distinct memory of a long car trip from California to Oklahoma. My family was moving home, back to Oklahoma, pulling a trailer, with only enough money for gas and not much else. My dad drove straight through. I lay on a mattress in the packed backseat (remember when cars were big enough you could put mattresses in the backseat?). Level with the windows, I had a 360 degree view of the sky. I remember a string of drive-in movie screens that I could see from my makeshift bed.

I know the trip was real. I know we drove at night. And I also know that no one took photographs and told me about the drive-in movie screens. The adults would have had no reason to talk to me about the flickering images seen from the highway. No one but a bored preschooler would have been fascinated by the quick peeks at scenes from movies as we passed by.

It’s strange to think that my first real memory might have been scenes from B movies. Images moving on a screen without sounds or endings.

That night I discovered the power – I could make up my own stories.

Other people claim to have memories of events at a much earlier age. Maybe they’re real memories. Maybe as a toddler I was just so self-absorbed that I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on around me. To some extent I’ve always lived in my head. From my enthrallment with my grandmother’s stories of talking mice families living in her house, to my discovery of entire worlds hidden in books, to the miraculous glory of movies, I had found a way to leave the here and now. I could be anyone, travel anywhere, and change anything that I wanted – whenever I wanted.

In my mind, I could rewrite the endings to those books, television shows, and movies so that the main characters not only rode off into the sunset together, but had lives afterward. I added scenes that happened after the credits rolled, after the last page was turned. In my mind I wrote the epilogue, the years after Shane came back, the rebuilding of Tara, and the marriage of Candy and Jeremy long after the cancellation of Here Comes the Brides.

About five years ago, with the encouragement of Marian, my co-author and friend, I began putting scenes on paper. The words I heard in my head became dialogue between people I created. The people did what I told them to do.

It was magic. It was powerful.

It was another form of what I’d always done.

Or at least that’s my memory of it.

Evelyn David