Monday, March 11, 2013

Who is going to write your story?

Andrea, 5, and Debbie, 10,  playing in the sandbox at the farm.

Debbie about age 9 reading a book--her favorite pastime.

Every time I visit my friend, she pulls out her photos. She shows her childhood home in Kansas, gorgeous portraits from high school days, and her four daughters in bouffant 1960s Easter dresses that she sewed.   

Every time I ask if I can label the photos and jot down the memories.

Every time she says, “Some other time.”

I recently met another lady who is pushing 100.  Hard.  In two months.  She says she has “seen it all.” But do her children and grandchildren know the story she told about shelling enough peas to can them in loads of two-quart jars? 

This story was one of many that flew recently at the Nampa Senior Center, and here are snippets of others:

--One man’s father delivered mail on horseback in North Dakota, year-round.

--A woman said she could cook anything on a wood burning stove. (Modern children don’t even know what such a kitchen range looks like!)

--One woman was a six-week-old baby on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941.  Another had just given birth to her second child.   

--When asked what she did for fun in her youth, a woman said, “I worked in peach orchards with other teenagers!”

I hope everyone at the center that day plans to record his or her stories.

Author Lee Nelson says he wrote his personal history because he thought, 

“What if I died without writing my story and one of my sisters attempted to write it? Both of the sisters who might try such a project are intelligent, college-educated adults.  Having known me all my life, either would be able to produce a beautiful piece of work. And while they were doing it, I would be turning in my grave. No matter how good and noble the intent would be, they would get it wrong. They could not help but get it wrong. They would not be able to tell my story the way I remember it, nor in the way I want it told—not even close.”

Who do you want to write YOUR story? As my mother used to say, “If you want something done right, do it yourself!”

As I prepare to teach a class on this topic at the Nampa Rec Center this week, two pointers come to mind:

--Most of us freeze up when faced with a blank paper or laptop screen. So, write a prompt such as these on a card: memories of my grandparents, my first job, first grade, fun I had as a child (or teenager), why a certain heirloom is special, what I was doing on—choose one—Pearl Harbor Day, the day Sputnik was launched, the day JFK was assassinated. Carry the card with you and jot down thoughts that come, then write that part of your story.

--Write your story as if you’re talking to a friend; your high school English teacher will never see it! There’s no need for big words or flowery language.

Nobody knows your story like you do. Your posterity will never know it if you don’t start writing!

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