Searing Memories

We all have them, those memories that are so vivid they blaze in our memories forever. We remember exactly where we were, what we were wearing, the time of day, and all the details — although we may not remember the specific date.

One of my searing memories takes me back to one wintry Saturday in eighth grade. The phone rang about eleven in the morning. It was a boy — calling me! History was made that day. I’ll save the details for my memoir, and tell you only that it was the hottest guy in our class, asking me to meet him at the ice rink that afternoon. No! This was too good to be true. Besides, my parents wouldn’t let me date until I was sixteen. Besides, he sounded just like my best girl friend, who had a rather husky voice, and I kept trying to get “her” to admit who she was.

When I called her immediately after hanging up, she assured me she hadn’t called. I believed her. The voice didn’t sound quite the same. When I got back to school on Monday, I was apparently invisible to Hunky Dude. Just as before, he never looked my way, even though our lockers were near each other. Had it really been him? Or was someone pulling my leg?

I’ll never know for sure, but I do know that I felt good about the way I played the game. I had a strong gut feeling that if it had been him, I was being set up for some awful humiliation at the rink. I can only guess what that might have been, but I didn’t need it and was blessedly spared. I felt strong and capable of taking care of myself. This searing memory is a turning point in my relationships with boys. The concept of actually having a boyfriend turned from the theoretical into the possible that day, even though I suspected it would be a good long while before anything tangible came along.

Searing memories, defining moments, turning points. In The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing I refer to them as watershed memories. It doesn’t matter what you call them, they are mileposts along our journey through life. We all have them. Some are joyful and mark advances. Some are traumatic, some may be quietly profound. All are significant and provide strong pillars for organizing related memories as you develop stories.

Taking time to list your watershed memories and arrange them along a timeline will  pay enormous dividends are you organize your life story or memoir, whether you are just beginning to write, or grappling with final organization.

Write now: review your list of watershed or turning point memories if you have one, and make an inventory of stories that remain to be written. If you don’t have a list, start one. Add to it as more occur to you. 

Photo Credit: Simon Harriyott


Karen Walker said...

Oh, I love this little tidbit, Sharon. How lucky you got such a powerful lesson at such a young age.

Sharon Lippincott said...

I don't think I really "got" the lesson until much later, but this was a good start. The ironic thing is that I could so easily have been swept off my feet. If I'd agreed to the arrangement, I could have just gone ice skating without mentioning my plans to meet him -- or convinced them it wasn't a real date, and the story might have turned out much differently. I like this ending best of all the ones I've imagined.