In March 2020 our lives changed. It happened so fast. We were enjoying having our grandchildren visit us in Florida. They rented a golf cart, biked around the island, went parasailing. But within two days our world fell apart. Our son and daughter-in-law were afraid their airport would close and they wouldn’t be able to get home. They packed up in a hurry and left. I was devastated. Then photos of empty grocery store shelves across the country appeared in social media and in newspapers. Fear of others, fear of going out overcame us. I made quick trips to Publix to stock up on non-perishables to take home with us. Paper goods and cleaning products were nowhere to be seen. Nothing like this had happened in our lifetime. Not since the 1918 Pandemic.
Years ago my husband and I heard a talk by historian David McCullough. He said, if you want to be remembered, keep a journal. We took his advice seriously. For the last nine months I’ve documented the Novel Covid-19 pandemic, at least as it has affected our lives. We are living history, and it’s important to capture how this event has changed your life, and will continue to do so. This is a great chapter for your memoirs. In time, we hope, the pandemic will be behind us. What you and your family went through during this year or more will be invaluable family history.
One paragraph in my memoir titled “2020” states:’ By Friday, March 20, social distancing announced. Manatee beaches closed with the hope that tourists and college age kids return home. Although beaches closed, if you can get to the beach, you can be on it with limited number of ten. Island emptying out. Counted only five planes coming into Sarasota airport. CT, NY, NJ closing all non-essential businesses.”
My brother, Skip and I ready for school
I have volunteered to facilitate the memoir writing group virtually through the library. BC (before Covid), our small group met at the library, and during one of those sessions I learned there are different definitions of memoirs. One train of thought is that a memoir is a written account of one theme running through a person’s life. Let’s say you loved drawing and painting since you were young. You followed your dream, your passion to be an artist, but there were bumps along the way. Maybe your parents thought it was a foolish waste of time, or refused to pay for art school. And then there are the blue ribbons you won for your artwork.
Another definition is: a narrative composed from personal experience. When I wrote my “memoirs” in a writing group during the early 2000s, I wrote individual chapters for each experience. What my home looked like, my best friend, Thanksgivings, and how other holidays were celebrated. I’ve decided to call my next group of memoir writing – Life Stories.
A woman in my library memoir writing group has titled her book “Before the Library Burns,” referring to the fact that when she is gone, her life experiences, if not written down and shared with family, will be lost forever. We can’t let that happen to our families.
Writing advice tells us to write what you know; start with yourself; start with action. Or, write down story topics: When/where you were born, your parents, special memories of your grandparents/aunts/uncles; your favorite toy; accomplishments you are most proud of; turning points in your life; family traditions/culture; holidays; pets; jobs; military service; education.
On this last point, from first to third grade I attended a rural two-room school. Our school “bus” was a station wagon. That’s an experience my children and grandchildren will never have. Nor will they feel what it was like to swim across Cayuga Lake at the age of twelve. Or, growing up in a restaurant. These are all stories I’ve captured for them in my first volume of memoirs.
Take each of the above suggestions, or think of your own, in no particular order and start writing. As you go through that process, more memories will come. Most of all, have fun.