Post #48 – Women’s Memoirs, Author Conversations – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
Yesterday, we took our house guests to Salinas for the day. Our schedule included an early lunch at First Awakenings, our favorite restaurant there, a visit to The National Steinbeck Center, and a tour of Wild Things Inc. with its featured elephant rescue program.
Lunch and elephants were the two featured parts of the day and The National Steinbeck Center was sandwiched in primarily as a time filler before the afternoon animal tour. We have been to The National Steinbeck Center numerous times and we’ve even taken these visitors there. And, as with all good museums, there is always something to learn.
As I wandered through the familiar exhibits, I kept looking for that nugget that would be my “take away.” I was thinking about a new perspective or a new writing idea. Because the exhibits are so creatively managed I thought I might even get an idea for a future workshop or presentation. You probably know what I mean. A little trigger that would catapult me into a new set of thoughts.
As I exited the main exhibit hall, I was disappointed — no lightbulbs, no fireworks, no aha, nothing. We had about 10 more minutes before we needed to drive to Wild Things so I wandered into a new room that features Salinas Valley agriculture. Billed as Valley of the World, I first looked at a quilt showing Salinas crops that help feed the world — lettuce (Salinas is not called The Salad Bowl for nothing), strawberries, tomatoes, artichokes, grapes, broccoli, and more. There were posters showing the evolution of crate labels from naturalism to advertising to commercial art.
And what about my insight? That came when I stood watching a video of interviews with workers who have contributed to the growth of Salinas over the past 100 years. I was struck by what was missing. One person described how his family, his grandparents, moved from the Philippines to Hawaii and then on to California. He said he didn’t know why they didn’t stay in Hawaii, he just knew that they moved to California several years before his father was born. Another man spoke about his parents leaving Italy for California. He didn’t know the year they moved to Salinas. The stories continued in this vein. It was interesting to see how many cultures have made a contribution to the farming in Salinas, but none of these descendants knew the details. They didn’t know what motivated their families to move or when they moved or what they found when they arrived or why they stayed.
Where were the family histories? Why had they been lost? You and I know the answer. No one wrote the stories for the next generations. Not only did the family no longer know the details but visitors to the Center were left with shadow narratives, elusive, thin.
Be sure that your family knows your stories. If you haven’t started writing your memoir, begin today.
Today? “But I’m really busy.” “It’s already late.” I know. Just sit at your computer and wrote one small story right now. You might only write 250 words. Maybe only a sentence. But put something down today on paper or on your computer. Create a paper or electronic file folder called “My Memories.” It you don’t call it a memoir perhaps you won’t think it is as difficult a task.
Imagine that someday your child or grandchild may be asked about why they live where they do or what their parents or grandparents did. Give them some lovely narratives to tell. Pass on your words. Don’t have them stand before the camera and say “I don’t know.”
Because this post was made possible through an exhibit about food, perhaps you’ll write a food story. Don’t forget we have a new fall memoir writing contest featuring food and holidays. Start right now and you’ll have a story and recipe to share with your family as well as a contest entry. Click here for more information about our new contest.
I’d love to get your thoughts below in the Comments field. What do you wish you knew about your grandparents? What do you value knowing the most?