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Forget the Memoir

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Everybody is writing memoirs lately.   It’s the literary style du jour in all of the magazines and reviews.  So I’m thinking, hey, my memories are as good as anybody’s, why not hop to it and make the big bucks?

One reason may be that my memories are certainly just fine, but getting them to show up on cue is a horse of a different color.  I can remember looking out the second floor window of the of the house we were living in when I was, oh three or four years old, and seeing a woodchuck run out from under the shed in back but I can’t remember  where I put any number of things in the house just yesterday…or five minutes ago, for that matter.  I ‘bout went nuts looking for my inside pair of glasses this morning—looked under things, moved stuff around, checked pockets, bags and purses, drawers (not my skivvies, that would be TOO weird), looked under, over, around—no glasses.  Walked into the bedroom and there they were, sitting on the dresser.  I’d suspect the cats,  but mine are the wrong style for them (not cat’s eye glasses, that is).

It’s the house, I sometimes suspect; the same house that opens up little holes for flying invaders.  Other people have cat doors, I have bat doors.  The last, late, unlamented bat has gone to his reward and we made two trips to the vet to make sure the cats had their booster shots for rabies.  Not I, said the Little Red Hen.  So far, we’re all doing fine.

Anyway, about the memoir….  The thing about writing one is, you either have to get every blinkin’ jot and tittle (Isn’t that a great expression?  A jot is derived from the Greek letter iota{the smallest Greek letter}, means the smallest amount and a tittle is a superscript{over the writing} dot found on the lower case letters i and j and is even mentioned in the New Testament, in some translations, in Matthew 5:18) just right or somebody who may have been part of the memory will challenge you on it and when literary types start feuding, things can get nasty quickly.  I miss my sister.  She could always remember a much more entertaining scenario (starring herself, usually) and tell it pretty convincingly.  I’m in no mood to get into that sort of an intellectual (loosely defined) spat/squabble/brouhaha/fracas.  Great quote I read once—maybe twice—from Emile Zola, “I am here to live out loud!”  But it’s hard to write that way without falling afoul of public decency.

And, besides, just sorting out the interesting bits from the long, boring narratives would have to be pretty tricky.  You never know what will tickle someone’s fancy (“You tickle my fancy and I’ll tickle yours”) or what will turn out to be totally appalling in retrospect. Times change and tastes with them.  The word “gay” had…and has… a perfectly unremarkable meaning,(Witness,   Cornelia   Otis Skinner’s once-upon-a-time best seller, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay which is probably sold nowadays under a plain brown wrapper) but now has another connotation altogether.  Nobody wants to hear about the day-to-day, ordinary stuff, they want excitement, intrigue, celebrity; all of the memoirists have next-door neighbors who are Nobel Prize winners or ex-FBI agents or award-winning poets or serial killers or something.  Their family members are climbers of Mt Everest or jungle explorers or gourmet cooks or secret owners of humungous diamonds that they dug up themselves.  Not as PTA president or thrift shop clerk among them.

I’m thinking that my best shot at anyone like that will be some former student who hits the big time.  They won’t have to swear that my class was the high point of their educational journey or that I inspired their interest in archaeology, which led to their discovery of the lost continent of Mu or that, having heard my take on some topic, they decided to prove that I was utterly wrong and probably deranged with it.  Not happenin’, folks.(Although I do have one in New York in “Show Biz”, I haven’t been called for any auditions)

I did set my eyes on three POTUS (Security-speak for President of the United States), in the flesh—not close enough to touch but live, anyway.  Dwight D. Eisenhower came through Wellington on a whistle-stop tour and I saw him on the back of the train (Stop counting back to see how long ago that was and how I could possibly have seen him from the cradle).  I saw Lyndon B. Johnson at the Cleveland airport at some campaign or other.  He was quite the hand-shaker but not mine.  And then there was the infamous (intended) stop in Garrettsville by Richard M. Nixon, when everyone for miles around—even some Democrats—was gathered downtown at the light, there were, supposedly, security snipers on the rooftops, the mayor and his wife were waiting on the specially-constructed platform, Boy Scouts ready to salute and…the motorcade slowed briefly then shot on through town, with scarcely a wave of acknowledgement.  Bummer!  Since then I’ve lost my taste for crowds.

So I think that the memoir format is out.  I’m going to have to go for straight fantasy—or is that an oxymoron like “Jumbo Shrimp”?

H.H. Munroe, writing as Saki, told of a cat named Tobermory who suddenly gained the power of speech and began commenting upon the goings-on at an English country manor.  The unfortunate feline was found dead after one particularly revelatory weekend.

Mine have learned to keep their mouths shut.  So far.  Maybe they’ll be the ones doing the memoirs; they already like to sit on the keyboard.