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?