I labored through my third memoir assignment last night. I left this one to the last minute, and so the night hours found me at my desk, shivering in the dark and the cold that reflects off its plate glass top as I raced to beat my midnight deadline.
The first assignment was about a memory, the second about a place. This week we wrote about a significant person. As usual, the assignment to write about someone significant in my life wiped my mind completely blank of all the people I know. Obviously my closest family were still there, and perhaps one or two other very significant people. But writing about them seemed too easy, too obvious. I remember best the people I have interacted with most in the most recent past, but that seemed like time was simply prejudicing them as more important.
Finally, I made some lists. I started in toddlerhood and made lists of the most major and the minor people who clearly came to mind and who seemed to have made a lasting impact on me in a quickly recalled way. They are fairly tight lists and obviously there are literally hundreds or thousands more people with whom I've interacted in my life who matter in some way. But I liked the results. I came away with a clearer view of my life's story. And I had the insight that actually the people I've interacted with in the last ten years have had the most profound impact on me.
I ended up writing about my friend T, who started out giving me my first post-teaching job, as her private tutor, and became one of my closest friends through many ups and downs in our lives.
I like this memoir stuff. I like it a lot. It's fascinating and simultaneously super-easy and complexly challenging. I'd love to read some more memoirs and look more carefully at how their authors have made these choices I've been making.