Memoir Writers: Remember Family Rules; Create New Rules

by Matilda Butler on March 17, 2015

catnav-interviews-active-3Post #208 – Memoir Writing – Matilda Butler

Back on Aloha Time

I’m once more happily ensconced in Hawaii, leaving Oregon’s wet weather behind for a couple of months while I write, walk, and wade. Today I had lunch at a favorite local restaurant…local as in “can walk there.” It’s right on the beach. And I mean that. My toes sink into the warm sand while I eat my favorite Da Hale salad composed of locally grown mixed greens, garden fresh tomato wedges, cucumber spears, Maui onion slices, and cubes of pan fried tofu. All the ingredients are topped with a light, slightly spicy chili lime vinaigrette and beautifully presented in a white porcelain slant bowl.

Since the tropical winds can decide to move any food that gets in their way, I’ve grown accustomed to positioning the high side of the slant toward the wind, creating a bit of a shelter for the easily blown lettuce leaves. Sheltered, that is, until I can get them.

Today, on my way out of the restaurant, I noticed a cluster of signs on one of the walls. I’d never paid attention before but judging by their sun-bleached appearance, they have been hanging in the weather for several years. One of them struck me as a fun way to remember the past and plan for the future. It was called Beach Rules.

memoir writing prompt about family rules, life rulesBEACH RULES

1. Soak up the sun

2. Ride the waves

3. Breathe* salty air

4. Feel the breeze

5. Build sand castles

6. Rest

7. Relax

8. Reflect

9. Collect sea shells

10. Bare feet required

*I think the developer of these Beach Rules had been breathing too much salty air (or something else), as the person wrote “Breath salty air.” I just couldn’t let that go in my typed list and corrected it.

Memoir Writing Prompts for Life Rules

1. The Past. When we were young, I’m sure we all had what we might call House Rules. Rules tend to be on the negative side (No running in the kitchen — rule instated in my home after I nearly sliced my arm off on the metal stand under the pressure cooker — vividly recalled since the whole episode meant an arm wrapped in a large terry cloth bath town and a fast paced drive to the emergency room). Although sometimes House Rules might be positive (Always eat popcorn, apples and cheese for Sunday night dinner — regular fare with our children and a rule they still talk about as they now raise their own children).

So think about your childhood in terms of House Rules. Write your list. I am sure you can come up with at least 10. Maybe there were more. This is a fun, concise way to pull out memories from your childhood.

Next think about the rules you had once you had your own household. Make a second list of the House Rules you created.

Then compare the two lists — the one set of rules your parents created and the set of rules you created. If you want to dig deeper consider the ways in which your rules were a reaction to your parents’. Perhaps you had an exact opposite rule than your parents had established. Or, perhaps some of the items are on both lists, showing a different reaction to the way your parents raised you. This can bring about some insights that just might be worth examining.

#2. The Future. With your past firmly in mind, move ahead to the future. Rules are just as important to our adult lives as they are to our lives as children or as parents of children. Rules can apply in our day-to-day lives or they can be specific to situations or occasions. For example, how about some Birthday Rules:

1. Sleep late

2. Take a long walk

3. Soak in a hot bathtub reading a good book until the water turns cold

4. Eat dinner by candlelight (even if alone)

5. Plan the year to come

6. Meditate

Well, you get the idea. For this part of the writing prompt, think of several specific occasions that will happen in your life this coming year. Write rules for each. Be sure to post them in a visible place a day or two ahead of time so that you have them firmly in mind and are ready as soon as the day dawns (and it just might help have your family understand the rules).

Sunset from our lanai

Sunset from our lanai

Hope you find that this writing prompt helps your creativity and assists in shaping and creating the life you want.

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