Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Our Memoir Writing Class

Our Memoir Writing Class My story: April 16, 2003

Each time we received a newsletter from the Senior Center, the memoir class was listed. I always enjoyed writing letters, so I thought this may be something similar and worth trying. I’ll never forget the first day I went to class in, October 1999.

As I entered the building, a tall gentleman carrying a brief case was entering also. My first thought was, I bet he is going to be the instructor. The ladies at the reception desk were very friendly and were giving him a lot of attention. When it came to my turn they simply directed me to join the class upstairs. I entered a large room with and a group of people sitting around an oblong table. Thinking the instructor would sit at the head of the table I choose a seat on the side of the table. There was an empty chair next to a man named Fred. I asked if the seat was taken and Fred answered,” No”. He was too polite to tell me that was where the instructor usually sat. Here I am, getting off to bad start. When the instructor, Al Morey arrived with his brief case, he had to look for another seat. If this had been any other class, my simple mistake would have caused a stir, but the mistake had no affect on in this class.

I soon learned this was a very special group of people and things like this didn’t bother them. Once in a craft class, on my first day I sat in an empty seat and learned very quickly I had to move, because someone had a claim on it. The memoir writing class was friendly and polite. Each one read or told an interesting story. It was fascinating. When it came to me I was asked to introduce myself and if I had any stories to tell. I explained I wasn’t ready, but I would work on it. Now it was time to use my memory. The class likes to hear about travel and personal experiences. Some read beautiful poetry. Writing about the past has been good for me. There have been many happy times and a few sad ones to remember and they are all very important. At first I was concerned that my sisters and other relatives would disagree with my description of the past. I scuffed that off because your memoirs are the way you remember things not the way someone else remembers them. I learned that wasn’t a problem.

I remembered the questions our children and grandchildren have asked about the past. There were many things to write about. Many of my stories were about the depression. After getting to know the group better and enjoying their sense humor we often had a good laugh. On time I announced to the class, today my story wasn’t going to be about the depression. I could hear someone say softly, “Thank God”.

I have learned a lot from trying to write. It’s like self-teaching. After writing something and then reading it, I can tell I have been speaking incorrectly for a long time. I don’t know how much I’ll improve on that, but when it’s written, it can be improved. Even some of my spelling is getting better. The dictionary has become a great friend. It’s a pleasure to get something right and has become a very personal thing.

The members of our class have become close friends. I have told them that we have revealed more about our life in our stories in our class then probably anywhere else. Sometimes we go out to lunch after class and continue to enjoy each other’s company. Some of our members have passed away and this has saddened us. We know we will never see them again. But there is something wonderful about having known them. In a way, it is as if one of us deceases, the others can still celebrate their life. Maybe that’s what memoir writing is all about? It instills memories within us because of the stories they wrote and the conversations we had. It’s difficult to morn a form of immortality!

Audrey Kaminski

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When we go to the funeral home for a wake, I always try to think of a memory I have of the deceased that I can share with the survivor(s), and after I tell them the memory, I add that I don't believe their loved one is totally gone as long as there are great memories of them in other people's minds. I think many survivor's fear their loved one will be forgotten, so maybe that helps a little.