Thanks for Reminding Me

BlushRemind: to cause a person to remember; to bring something to (someone else’s) mind.

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!


Anonymous said...

I have a whole story built up about how my husband and I got engaged. The fun, nice, cool sanitised version.
Hubby likes to remind me that what actually happened was that during the twelve weeks he put his life on hold and came to Australia to see if we could do the living together thing(intercontinental romance, after having met at the World Science Fiction convention three years before), I was sitting at his feet one afternoon, and he was brushing my hair. I was so content in that moment that I sighed: "Will you marry me?" and he said: "Okay."
This was NOT how it was meant to be. He was meant to ask me. And he did, a week later, at the Peninsula Hot Springs. Down on one knee, ring, everything the way it's supposed to go in fairy tales.
And that's the version I tell.
But every now and then, he trots out: "Well, then there's the week beforehand...", and I have to shush him up.

Cheryl said...

Sharon, last night, i was listening to Brandi Carlisle's The Story - and this line struck me --
"But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true, I was made for you"
It's the song my daughter and her new husband danced to at their wedding. Do you know the song?
I'm thinking about 2 members of my writing group who lost loved ones in the past couple months - a wife and a son - . When we lose those we love, we have fewer people to tell our stories to. and undoubtedly that makes it harder to write stories ;-(
I was annoyed at my husband the other day and when we talked it out - I told him that when i drive home from almost any errand or meeting , inside my head, i think of little stories that i want to tell him when i get home, and how i treasure that about our love for each other. He agreed (cause that's how we work ;-)

Sharon Lippincott said...

What a fun story from a woman who knows her own heart. My husband would probably have several chuckles with yours, because I told my mother we were engaged to get her off my back when she told me I was seeing an awful lot of him for someone I wasn't engaged to. And, like yours, he did formally propose, but not for four months. Unlike you, we had a long-distance courtship, via the United States Postal Service, back when stamps were 4¢ (yes, I'm older than dirt).

Isn't it great how one story leads to another? Thanks for sharing literally from halfway around the world.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Cheryl, how sad to hear of your losses. I had not heard that song or Brandi Carlisle. Thanks for the introduction. I do agree that if nobody at all was going to read my stories, I might spend less time writing them, but I would still write, because I like reading my own stories, and my back log reminds me of stories like the one above that I'd probably never remember again.

The song also points out the value of a writing community, and I'm double dip delighted that you have found and nurtured one up your way. Bravo! Enjoy and write on.

Amy said...

One of the advantages of a long term marriage or friendship is the ability to share and remind each other of past events and stories. What drives me crazy is when we remember things differently and can't reconcile the differences. Example: my husband grew a beard for a short time back in the late 1970s. It lasted about three weeks, and then he shaved it off. He insists that he shaved it while I sat in our apartment and that I knew he was doing it, so he was shocked when I was upset to see his shaved face. (He looked naked.) I remember that he came to pick me up at school (I was in law school), had done it without telling me, and that I was upset! Neither one of us will give ground on what we think happened.

PS about 20 years later, he grew the beard back and has had it ever since. And I still love it!

Sharon Lippincott said...

Intriguing story about the beard memories Amy. There's no way to explain these discrepancies nor to prove them either way. I'm guessing you've agreed to disagree and not discuss it further ─ unless one or the other has a surprise recollection of new "evidence" of right or wrong memory.

Amy said...

We do try not to discuss it! But there's a long list of similar disputes. And more all the time! I've reached the point (as has he) that we just shrug and let these things slide since we can't prove who is right (though, of course, I am!).