Post #167 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
Is it ever too early for a Cyber Monday Deal? We don’t think so. Starting Monday, Nov 19th, watch here — WomensMemoirs.com — to learn about a very special, limited-time offer. You won’t want to miss this…and to ensure you don’t forget, take a second and sign up for our Weekly Blog Digest. That way we can send you a reminder. The sign-up form is in the column to your right. This is the biggest offering Women’s Memoirs has ever made. If you love memoir, like we do, you won’t want to miss this.
Giving Life Stories to Your Family
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, as I watched families sort through ruined homes and water soaked belongings, I felt a terrible loss. Yes, I sensed the disruption in lives and the loss of “things,” but it was the loss of family photos and memory touchstones that weighed on me.
Photos are one way that we record family stories. Yet all too often they are lost or destroyed not only by major disasters but also by the passage of time and the dimming of recollections. I recall sitting with my mother one early fall day three years before she died. I sat with a composition book in front of me and my favorite fountain pen in my right hand. Slowly we looked through a stack of old family photos that had been stored in the attic while I made notes. When I asked about one, Mother said, “I don’t know who that is. I think his name was Bert but I’m not sure who’s son he was.” We finally tossed that photograph believing it didn’t add to our understanding or knowledge of the family.
And that was just a matter of trying to put a name with a photo. What about the stories of Bert? What made him laugh? What did he most love doing in the summer when he was 10 years old? What shaped his goals and dreams? What did he wish for his children, or did he even have children? His stories are lost forever. They cannot be found on a genealogy chart. They will not be whispered by the winter winds. They will not blow in on the icy tentacles of a blizzard. We’ll never read or hear his narrative.
So what can we do? The past is gone but we can look at the present and plan for the future. We need to write our stories and even help others write their stories. These stories are our gift to the next generation, the stuff that answers are made of — “What was great grandma like?” “Why did she work when you were small?” “Why did we end up living in California?” “Why do you make black-eyed peas on New Years Day?”
Memoir Writing and Saving Your Family Stories: A Case in Point
One of my favorite people is Betty Auchard. She has published two memoirs* and is at work on her third one. She’s one of those funny, energetic, happy, engaged individuals you are just bound to both like and admire. Betty has one of the stories that will appear in our Memories Sweet and Savory series of ebooks. Because we were emailing about some of the final photos and details, she also sent me two photos that she had just taken.
In this photo, Betty shares the visual image of four generations of women. Betty as great-grandmother is on the right, her granddaughter is next, then her daughter, and finally her great granddaughter Jenna. Just imagine the stories that Jenna will want to know in the future.
Meanwhile, in this photo one gets the idea for a great family story to tell — a story that might even become the source for today’s writing prompt.
Memoir Writing Prompt
In this photo, Jenna, celebrating her second birthday, has slipped out of her shoes to put on a pair, clearly much too big for her. For the moment, the story belongs to Jenna. But what does this make you think about? What story is brought forth? Did you like to walk around in your mother’s shoes? Was there one specific pair? What did they look like? Why do you think you liked to put on those shoes? Did you mother think it was previous or did she tell you to take them off and put them back where you found them? Did you become an Imelda Marcos with your love of shoes? Well, maybe you can’t match her 3000 pairs, but perhaps you have 100 or more.
As a teenager, I loved distinctive shoes. I had one pair covered with red bandana fabric and that sported navy patent heels. Another pair were white except for a one-inch high rose on the toe of each shoe. I remember having twelve pairs of shoes. That was considered a real extravagance. Each pair made me feel special and that’s probably why I remember them so well. Today my shoe buying behavior is quite different. I’m happy with three active pairs of black flats. If I find a pair that is particularly comfortable, I go back to the store and purchase a second pair, keeping them in reserve until the first pair wear out. My most recent pair are black Crocs and cost $14.95 on sale. I’ve worn them almost every day since September 8. Not exactly Imelda.
Do you have a shoe story? If not, don’t worry. Just find a family photo — it might be just taken, like the ones that Betty Auchard sent me, or it might be one you discover in an old shoe box. It doesn’t matter. Just look until you find one that inspires you to share a story with your family. Then write, write, write.
Make sure your family stories are not lost.
Home for the Friendless: Finding hope love and family is Betty’s second memoir. In the link to the left as well as the earlier link for Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood, I’ve chosen the Kindle versions to list. Both are available in print formats as well.
Thanks Betty for sharing your stories with all of us and for letting Women’s Memoirs use two of your most recent family pictures to help us get out the word that sharing family stories is the most important legacy we have to give to our families.