June 13, 2008
My mother has just noticed that I am a writer.
She noticed that I was an ‘author’ a long time ago. And has told everyone that she met, from that moment on. At first, this was flattering, since everyone kind of wants to know that their mother is proud of them.
But at this point in life, Mom has an extremely short memory. And not always the best sense of place. So there is a tendency to tell people the same thing over and over again. And to share the good news about my career at inappropriate moments. I’m glad to know she’s happy. But I’d kind of prefer that she not put me center stage in a conversation with a grieving widow at the funeral.
There are a lot of people in my home town, who probably expect me to show up for the next class reunion, transporting my enormous ego by semi-truck.
I swear to God, folks. If you’ve heard the story before? It’s just my Mom, talking. There’s not a whole lot I can do.
But lately, Mom has been thinking about me as a writer. And we are entering the territory dreaded by all writers. The land of “I’ve got this story…”
She called today, and said she’d come up with a great idea. For me. For a story. She said it could be called…
“Memories” (long pause) “of the Heart’s” (another long pause) “Whatchamacallit.”
And then she proceeded to tell me part of the story of her childhood. Her brother was born. In a blizzard.
Now, when someone comes up with a title like this, you kind of suspect that, maybe, we are not bringing as much focus to the project as we might need. And there is also the fact that the majority of lives do not have the necessary dramatic structure to make a good book.
I think this is the real reason that so many memiorists get caught lying through their teeth. It is a lot more interesting to tell everyone that you were raised by wolves, for instance, than that you had a moderately normal childhood in an extremely abnormal period of European history.
Personally, I am getting around the boring memoir problem by raising two sons capable of responding with a humorous punchline to almost any situation. You have to start them young. But it can be done. Then later, you just have to wind them up, let them go, and start typing.
But mom has not been making the long term plans necessary for a good memoir. In our conversation, she segued without a bridge from talking her childhood, to talking about her honeymoon.
Mom has never actually read any of my books. Her idea of a honeymoon story is “We went to Stevens Point. On the train.” And that’s about it.
My honeymoon stories are generally rated NC17. And the thought that I might someday be punching up the prose on my parent’s honeymoon?
I have to go shower in bleach. And then take an aspirin and a cocktail. And call my therapist.
Have a nice weekend, everybody.