Thank goodness we have people to bring to mind things we have virtually forgotten, even when they turn our faces beet red. I just found this 15-year-old story scrap in a log of posts to the Lifestory Yahoo Group. It illustrates both the power of collective memory and the value of keeping a scrap bag of story pieces.
The other day my honey told a story that totally cracked me up. When I finally quit laughing, I said, "Well, I guess nobody can accuse me of taking after my mother when it comes to having a sense of humor."
My mother is widely considered to have lacked a sense of humor until the last few years of her life when her brain began melting down. Then a childlike sense of humor emerged, and she laughed at the drop of a hat, even at the silliest things.
"Your grandmother had a sense of humor, why wouldn't your mother?"
"My grandmother had a sense of humor? You've GOT to be kidding!"
My grandmother was born ornery, and she was occasionally downright mean. Actually I do remember her giggling at things when we were alone. She had a cute tinkly laugh. But I don't recall ever hearing her laugh around other people. As the oldest grandchild, I enjoyed special status, and I saw a side of her others missed.
"What about the time before our wedding when you were showing off your honeymoon nightgown and negligee?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't remember how embarrassed you were when she laughed and told you how nice it would look pulled up over your head?"
I nearly fell on the floor. Until he mentioned it, I’d forgotten all about that, including telling him about it. I never ever would have recalled that story on my own. So much for not remembering that Grandmother did laugh in public. All the women in the family were gathered around, and I had to have been the color of a ripe tomato when she said that. Embarrassing as it was back then, today it seems hysterically funny. Impossible as it seems, I'm ten years older now than my grandmother was when she said it. Maternal generations in my family were short.
My honey is helpful that way, remembering things I forgot decades ago, and I help him out the same way. He remembers large chunks of what I've forgotten, and other relatives remember things beyond that. Lifestory writing is even better when it's a team sport! Unless your memories collide in a combative way, and that can get tricky. But that’s a subject for another post.
In a different vein, I recall half a dozen stories from that summer of our wedding: The Breakfast Fiasco, Can You Bring a Gun To My Wedding?, The Case of the Missing Room Reservation, Dashed Expectations, and a couple more yet to be written. Perhaps I shall polish these and piece them together as a sort of paper patchwork memory quilt, much like I’ve already done with Adventures of a Chilehead.
Finding that scrap was a good reminder of the value of saving bits and pieces of story, even if they lack the conflict or other elements of full-fledged stories. Short anecdotes can be thought-provoking or fun to review later, and often come in handy. You might want to finish them later as full-featured stories. Or you can tuck one into a larger story or an email or a blog post, or even post it on Facebook.
When I posted stories to that group, mostly a handful of paragraphs and fewer than 500 words, to post in that online group, I pasted each one into a Word document for safekeeping – which turned out to be an excellent idea because the group suddenly went poof! I have over 500 stories and anecdotes in those archive documents. Each was quick and easy to write, usually prompted by previous posts.
Follow my example. When you write a new story in an email, copy it and save it in an ongoing document as I did with this one. Those accounts form a sort of journal, and your scrap bag of stories will grow. Who knows? In five years you may find that you’ve written a book, one email at a time.
Do you have examples of long-buried memories someone else reminded you of? I’d love to hear about them in comments!