6/20/09

Stories, Written Down




This May, my aunt asked if I would help her type up and re-organize the handwritten life story of her 88-year-old mother. I was immediately curious and happy to be of assistance. I’ve spent much of the past two weeks typing these pages, piecing memories together that sometimes jumped around from one section to another one. It was fascinating. M. was born in 1921 in Nebraska, lived without indoor plumbing or electricity into her mid-20s, raised eight children of her own while working hard as a farm wife, married a man who was one of 14 children.

Seeing this story written down also makes me think of Facebook and the emails I’ve been exchanging with high school and college classmates about where the last decade has taken them. I still have somewhat mixed feelings about FB; as I mentioned a while ago, the magazine Real Simple had an article about it that spelled out exactly how I feel. I was reluctant to join at first, but I have to admit that I’m enjoying it now, although I have purposefully limited the amount of time I spend looking for old friends. I do find sparks of affection welling up for these people who once shared my life and feel relieved to know where they are, to know that they are doing ok. That said, it is also somewhat disorienting to have so many different slivers of my life coming together on one screen. There’s also the reality that it is impossible for my friends to truly understand who I am now, and likewise for me to know how they’ve changed, without real, face-to-face interaction. FB also stirs up a feeling that I often have, a wish that I could gather everyone I love into one town and not have all my friends and loved ones scattered so far away. It provokes a desire to sit down for coffee in real life with them, rather then sending paragraphs through cyberspace. Having been out of touch for years with most of these people, and now so easily seeing updates on their lives online, also makes me feel as though I’ve stepped into another dimension of reality!

Speaking of stories, I had another birthday last week. These are some of my birthday peonies, which conveniently arrive in groceries right on time. (It’s too hot down here for them to grow.) I need to focus on writing the next chapter in the story of my life, reinterpreting the last chapters, and hopefully making it a story worth reading!

What chapters are you writing right now?

9 comments:

Marfa said...

Happy belated birthday, my friend! I have written down some, kept a sporadic journal, but this year, I've written more than ever before, I think. Even just 2 minutes a day is great! I read my grandfather's memoirs of his first few years in the Navy (he missed the birth of his firstborn) and it was wonderful. I also recently read one that one of my great grandmothers wrote and it was fascinating...she met Abraham Lincoln, sat and talked with him!

Emily said...

Happy Birthday.

I relate so much to this post!
*I've just recently joined FB.
*I have mixed feelings about FB.
*I am writing down the history of who I am, who I believe myself to be, where I have come from, etc...
*And I just bought peonies at the grocery store. They were pulled in tight, like bright pink fists and then fell open into the most lovely layers of light pink frosting. I had to resist the urge to taste them.

Good luck with the coming chapters...

DebD said...

Happy Birthday!! I feel the same way about FB... it seems to still only represent a sliver of my life.

I love peonies too!

elk said...

happy birthday...i am so happy that you are getting some of the story of your family while your elders are willing and able to share....i do not have facebook...my daughters are of the age (17/21) that they have grown up with it and I do not want to seem like I am in their business...does that make sense? plus I barely have moments for blogging and photography

i received your amazing ATC's by the way ....so cool !

elizabeth said...

What beautiful photographs.

HAPPY Birthday! Many many more years!

I have been thinking about this in a sense; I am reading short essays by Canadian (and some British) authors about writing and why they write. Right now I have a paper journal which is mainly church related (sermons, etc), a MS Word document journal and my blog.

Facebook is a strange thing and I do not even post pictures on it...

Enjoyed your post.

Mimi said...

Happy Late Birthday! What a lovely gift - I think of you every time I see peonies.

Meadowlark Days said...

I loved all of your comments - would love to hear more about the stories from your lives and your families - Martha, what treasures from your grandparents! Emily, beautiful description of peonies...ahhh. Elizabeth, what is the title of the book of essays you are reading?

Letters From Midlife said...

That's a great opportunity to help your aunt write her life story. I've always kept journals but I haven't written down childhood memories. I probably should do that.

KatCollects said...

Happy belated Birthday, and the peonies are beautiful. I have started journaling since my Son left for basic training, the story of my life is changing as his does : ) I hope you have a relaxing weekend.
Hugs,
Kathy