Our new task, in one of the writing groups I’m part of, is to write a memoir segment. The challenge, I’m led to believe, is to write something that anyone else beside ourselves might be intrigued to read. As we left it at the end of our session, everybody and their uncle are writing memoirs these days, often before they’ve barely begun to live!
I, however, am definitely knocking on the door of ‘older person.’ That doesn’t mean I feel less vibrant, I hope, just slower. I wrote a piece, an epistolary effort, that poured out. Facility of writing doesn’t necessarily mean good writing, however. Often it’s just something that the writer needs to get off their chest. Having finished that one, I thought I’d aim for something a bit more whimsical, ‘off-the-wall’ sort of thing, a different take on life. This morning I sat down early and generated words getting close to the maximum again, but words that felt a lot more light-hearted, and perhaps even more enlightening.
After all, you don’t have to be famous to write a memoir; there might even be some members of your family who’d be interested in reading what you have to say. What we might think of as the casual memoir community has grown dramatically over the past decades. But I think, though one’s memoir may contain some sense of bitterness, betrayal, self-doubt and recriminations, on the whole it’s got to be better to be saying sayonara with a skip into sunshine, à al Morecombe and Wise.
My piece started off with a memory of my first ’employment’ in a laboratory, as the chemistry technician during my senior year of high school. I think the role was honorific, more of a chance to poke about with some of the equipment that wasn’t usually available to regular students. Fun though. For whatever reason, for my first assignment I was asked to heat up some ethanol. I must have got it right, because I was allowed to continue having fun for the rest of the year. It turns out that I was possibly happier, during those days, than I’d remembered. At least it’s fair to say that the story I’ve revealed in the writing is of days happier than not.
I wonder what, if I get to include our current adventures in any memoir that I actually do create, I shall make of this past year’s efforts consciously to seek out joy. Perhaps I’ll compile these efforts into a volume or so, add them to the groaning bookshelf of ‘my oeuvre’ and laugh at my own pretentiousness. Or perhaps I’ll be delighted to read how I tried to reflect on the exercise of joyfulness searches. If I can just manage to stretch into the realm of a smile, I think the end result will be the more worthwhile.
As for those early days in the high school chemistry laboratory, it’s a wonder, to be perfectly frank, that I didn’t blow the place up! That really would have been an exciting start to a memoir. I’ll have to be satisfied with a sort of wry whimsy, I think.
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