It started with a manuscript my mother put together on a word processor back in the early 90s. During her lunch hours, she tapped away at the keyboard, telling the story of her childhood. When she was a few months old, she had been adopted by a wealthy single lady who gave her an amazing, and at times quite demanding, early life.
The manuscript bounced around for a while, finally ending up in a box in my apartment. I read through the 100-page document and was astounded. The year was 2010.
Since then mom and I have been working to get her story published. Now we are nearly ready to get the first eight chapters in print. The effort has balanced out my obsession with Gilgamesh and been a revelation in itself.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I will take away from ADS&D is how quickly life changes. Though the broad outlines of life in America have remained intact, we have lived through several revolutions since the 1930s and 40s. And that is to say nothing of the life of my grandfather (he’s the handsome devil in white tie at left)–born in 1891, he decided at 6 to become an actor and then actually *did* it, performing on Broadway for several years in the 1920s. People back then lived their lives flat-out, and my grandfather was no exception. It is basically impossible for anyone today to live the way his generation did.
And then there are the practical benefits of doing this kind of research and writing. Self-discovery may be the most important of these, but so was the discovery of my grandfather’s photo, about a year ago, taken when he was 24. This is not the first photo we’ve found of him, but I think it is the best. And my mother, at 83, now carries it around with her in her wallet. That is a milestone, a very satisfying one.
Memoirs are important, and not just to a family. They tell the past in a way that few other genres can. AP