Memories are the stuff of great stories, warm feelings, and learning opportunities. And when those memories are collected into book form, the reading is a real treat. Yes, David Niven’s Moon’s A Balloon comes to mind, as does Len Goodman’s Better Late than Never. Have you read any good memoirs? There are thousands out there, and I find they emotionally draw you in, no matter how well or poorly they are written.
I couldn’t resist, therefore, a wonderful memoir where I was mentioned in it. Over the past few days, I’ve enjoyed reading Growing up in the 1950s by three of my eldest siblings. It is a private publication, so you won’t find it on bookshelves at your local Barnes and Noble, but I was able to purchase a copy by ordering from my sister and picking up this “photo album” at a local Costco. Talk about total joy. I loved reading about life in my home before I was hardly a twinkle in anyone’s eye.
One of my sisters, Linda Gidley, was kind enough to share a few minutes with me talking about the work.
“This project helped us get together and talk about Mom and Dad,” said Linda. While the siblings had often done so in the past, I think enough time had elapsed (my parents died in the early 1970s) that they could take on this big project with kinder eyes. Another observation Linda made, “We met regularly and it was definitely a positive experience.”
The reason this was important to me, is that these women, now approaching retirement years with a vigor you don’t expect, live hundreds of miles from each other, have an entire spectrum of political viewpoints, and childhood memories that many people cannot or will not face. Our parents were alcoholics and unprepared to do more than delegate the raising of siblings to these three strong women–while they were hardly more than babies themselves. The responsibility was apparently both the girls’ joy and tremendous burden. In writing the memoir they had to face a lot of memories I’d rather forget, but they worked through them and wrote a story each of them can easily share with grandchildren.
As my mom had nine children, describing the birth of one of those children was a fitting start to the book. “I liked that start too,” said Linda. “It showed a healthy memory of some of the trauma we lived through.”
In writing a memoir with multiple authors the big phrase, said Linda, is “gentle compromise. You can’t just say, ‘well okay. You insist on this, so we’ll go with it.’ You need to be able to say, ‘okay, let’s put it that way.’ Of course, if there’s some memory that’s hard to believe, you need to either prove it or leave it out.”
One sister claimed to go to school right across from a nuclear missile site and the other two authors rolled their eyes over what surely must be an inaccurate memory. Then Linda looked up the situation on Google, and sure enough, the silo was mentioned. That story stayed in the memoir.
These three women are very special people in their own right. I remember them being labeled (behind their backs) as “the big three.” Detroit may have been referring to the car industry, but the rest of us knew where the real power rested in our family. We were at once drawn to their charisma and power of being older and wiser, and scared to death of the retributions for infraction of rules they passed down from our parents.
For the memoir, they worked together and with a more gentle spirit towards the world they wrote about. Again, their maturity shone. If I had written this book, I think a certain lack of discretion may have made my effort less kind. But there you have it. Their wisdom shines again.
Perhaps there are memories you can capture–with the help and hard work of family or friends. I’m hoping the next set of three siblings in my family might take on the task of writing about life in the 1960s. Could be cool.
What will you write today? Best to you in all of your creative efforts. And thank you to three wonderful women for a great trip down memory lane.+