Telling Your Story, Part 4…How Can You Start?

Memories! Get Started.

        “I’ve always wanted to write my story, but I’m just too busy!”

         How many times have we used the “too busy” excuse for putting off something that needs doing? And how many times have we heard, “We can always find time for the things we really want to do?”

        If you’re one of those people who would love to pass down their family or personal stories to their children and grandchildren, here are a few practical ways to start:

         Jot memories on scraps of paper as they come to mind and drop them into a folder. Or do this on a computer. You could set up folders for “What I know about my ancestors,” “My birth and earliest years,” “Grade school memories,” “Family life,” “High school and college,” or whatever you find important in your life. When your folders are well-filled, your book is also well-begun.

        Set aside small but regular blocks of time to work on your stories. It’s satisfying and surprising to see you can accomplish in daily half-hour sessions. Or maybe you can reserve Saturdays or at least a couple of hours on your days off.

        Keep a continuing notebook where you write notes and stories for later revision.

        Tape or video record your memories, then transcribe and organize them.

        You needn’t tell everything. Many people think a personal history should start at the beginning and go to the end. But that makes for tedious reading. Carefully choose your incidents to help develop a theme—your struggles to accomplish your dreams, the people and events that made you who you are, or the lessons you want to pass on to your readers. You’ll leave out way more than you tell.

        My own memoir, A Logger’s Daughter: Growing Up in Washington’s Woods, is a series of wide-ranging essays that together tell stories of growing up and lessons learned, each with an overarching theme. The theme of one essay called “Small Wonders” is that God provides for all His creatures, human or otherwise, and that each depends on others for life itself. Each incident I wrote about contributed to my love and respect for nature.

        Methods of writing memoirs are as individual as the people who write them. Find a method that fits into your schedule and begin. When you’re finished, you might find that you’ve written a memoir that will find a place in the hearts of thousands of readers who don’t even know you! For sure, your family down through generations will appreciate your efforts.

Rainy Memorial Day Picnic

Joan and Marcella at Gold Basin on a sunny day last year

Here in our corner of Northwest Washington, it was a memorable Memorial Day weekend for a lot of people. It started when a freakish accident sent part of Mt. Vernon’s I-5 bridge tumbling into the Skagit River. Three people rode their vehicles with it into the swift, frigid current, but were rescued without serious injury. Hundreds watched astounded from the river banks while the rest of us gaped at our TV sets.

We heard that two of the people in the river had been on their way to Verlot for a camping holiday. Many people suddenly changed their plans for the weekend rather than face a long, complicated, jammed-up detour around the collapse.

In our little town further south, the only threats to my holiday hopes were that hubby and partner-in-fun Hank was off on a solo trip. And the skies threatened rain. Oh, well. I could take flowers to the Granite Falls cemetery, rain or shine.

Long-time friend Marcella, who’s living at Verlot where we both grew up, is turning 84. I’d called to suggest an impromptu picnic celebration to follow my cemetery visit. Marcella’s still game for anything and quickly agreed.

I assembled flower bouquets from our garden to decorate the graves, and another bouquet to give with a thank-you card to veteran Amelia, who is Marcella’s granddaughter. Amelia is a beautiful young woman whose life has been on hold since she returned from the war suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Marcella helped raise her and still looks after her. I packed our lunch and put in a plastic tablecloth and plastic to sit on, just in case.

By the time I reached Granite Falls, drizzle kept the wipers busy. Drizzle continued on the drive up into the mountains. No problem…we could eat our lunch in the house. But as I bumped up their long driveway, I saw Marcella and Amelia waiting on the porch. They hurried to the truck, ready to picnic. Maybe we could find a shelter in one of the parks further up the road.

We circled thru Gold Basin park. My friend pointed out where a row of houses once stood in the early 1900s. Her mother had grown up there because her grandfather worked in a nearby lumber mill. She remembered walking there as a child and her mom pointing out the site of her old home. Marcella discovered an ancient caulked logging boot half buried in the moss and wanted to take it home to plant flowers in. Her mom said, “Leave it there. Your grandfather wore that boot.”

The trees dripped. Most camping spaces were empty. Anyone brave enough to go camping in the rain had already headed home. We chose a peaceful spot walled in by evergreens and vine maples, spread an oilcloth on a wet picnic table and pieces of plastic on the benches, and sat down to enjoy egg salad sandwiches, potato chips, and fruit. We had such a good time visiting we didn’t notice the paper bag holding store-bought cookies turning soggy. Fortunately, it had a waterproof lining, so we finished up with still-crispy cookies and coffee. I looked at the three of us sitting there, two elderly ladies and a young one, laughing and ignoring raindrops plopping on our heads, and thought, “One is never too old to try something new!”

Memorial Day…a time to make new memories, as well as to honor old ones.

Camera Moment

Springtime in Alaska! It was 1973 and my children were young. Their grandparents were making their first visit to the far north, the Chena River ran clear and cold, and the mosquitoes wouldn’t be bad for a few more weeks.

Mom took this blurry slide photo which I just recently rediscovered. My father is about to share his fishing expertise with his excited grandson, whose idea of fishing was to make no more than one cast in any one spot. Lenora was far more interested in the blooming fireweed than in trying her luck. I’m behind her with fishnet and camera bag. I can’t believe I was ever that slender.

It’s a moment frozen in time, a lovely memory forgotten until that old box of slides was resurrected.

Thanks, Mom. I hope some day my own snapshooting will bring back special memories for my family as yours did for me.

A Sonnet to Sunny

   As Memorial Day draws near, we remember dear ones who have gone before. There’s sadness at the separation, but memories of their unique qualities and their love bring great joy, as well.

 Our friend Dr. Jerry Rusher wrote this lovely poem for his wife Wanda, who went home to heaven two years ago. He and Wanda loved to hike, and the inspiration for the poem came one  morning as they watched the sun birth a rainbow in the mist of a mountain waterfall.

A Sonnet to Sunny
Dewdrops forming on the grass
Lie hidden to the watching eye,
Yet how they gleam like beads of glass,
When the sun climbs in the sky.
A cascade falls in shadows dim,
While a mist obscures the air
‘Til rays of light come bursting in,
And lo! There shines a rainbow fair.
My sunny one, you’re like the dew,
Or the misty waterfall,
As the Son comes shining through.
This quivering heart becomes enthralled,
To see reflected in your eyes 
The tender love of Jesus Christ.
                                                                                by Jerry Rusher